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Oncology Nursing

In general, the term “oncology” refers to the medical field related to cancer. Oncology nurses are specialized nurses who provide care for chronically or critically ill cancer patients. In the field of nursing, oncology nurses are relatively recent additions. In the 1970s, advancements in the treatment of cancer led to cancer patients living for much longer, but with many more health needs. Stemming from the increasing number of cancer patients who needed long-term care, nurses began to train in and specialize in treating these patients. This need eventually evolved into the field of oncology nursing.

Specialties within a Specialized Field

Within the field of oncology nursing, nurses tend to narrow their focus even further by specializing in a particular type of cancer or treatment. Some of the common specializations of oncology nurses include:

Chemotherapy
Radiation Therapy
Surgical Oncology
Bone Marrow Transplants
Particular types of cancer – breast cancer, pediatric cancer care, leukemia, head and neck oncology
Prevention and Early Detection
Palliative and Hospice Care

 

 

Role of an Oncology Nurse

Like other nurses, oncology nurses work in a variety of settings, from hospitals and small clinics to private doctor's offices and hospice centers. In hospitals, the typical model of in-patient hospital care is that of a medical team caring for a given medical patient. This multidisciplinary team will include doctors, various specialist doctors, other therapists such as physical therapists and respiratory therapists (depending upon the particular situation of the patient), nurses, and nurse assistants. Of this team, it is typically the nurse and his or her assistants who spend the most time providing direct care to the patient. As such, it is often the oncology nurse who acts as a coordinator of the patient's care. It is the oncology nurse, too, who most often educates the patient and his or her family about his health condition. Oncology nurses who specialize in early detection and prevention of cancer are the health care professionals who screen patients in the community and offer cancer education.

What Schooling is Required for Oncology Nursing?

As a minimum, oncology nurses must be registered nurses (RNs). Registered nurses complete various levels of schooling, gaining an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Most employers of oncology nurses prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Registered nurses who wish to become oncology nurses then require further education depending upon the type of oncology nursing they wish to practice. This can be as simple as on-the-job experience, but a variety of oncology nursing certificates are also available for those wishing to prove their commitment to the field and thereby advance their careers.

Certifications for oncology nurses include the OCN (oncology certified nurse), AOCN (advanced oncology certified nurse), and CPON (certified pediatric oncology nurse). These certifications are not always necessary in order for an RN to get a job in an oncology unit, but the certificates signify to patients and employers a higher level of education and commitment to the oncology nursing field.

For an RN who wishes to specialize in oncology, the best thing to do is to get a job in an oncology unit. Depending upon the health care organization, the RN might be sent to continuing education courses or gain additional education from the hospital itself. Because cancer treatments are evolving and changing so rapidly in today's high-tech health care world, it is standard for RNs to have to continue their education throughout their careers – not unlike most other registered nurses.

Those who wish to be at the peak of the nursing food chain should consider acquiring their master's degree and becoming a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners have the highest level of education and receive the highest pay within the nursing field.

 

Job Prospects for Oncology Nurses

Registered nurses generally earn between $35,000 per year to start. Oncology nurses with a high level of experience and education can earn anywhere from $60,000 to $125,000 per year.

Nursing jobs are typically recession-proof: regardless of the current economic state, people get sick, and they get sick in all parts of the world. Not only that, but in most parts of the western world, there has been a shortage of nurses for sometime. Combining this general truth for the nursing field, together with the aging baby-boom generation who are currently starting to contract serious, long-term health problems such as cancer, the job prospects for oncology nurses are very good.

 

 

 


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