There are several different areas of nursing you can choose to pursue. Whether you are a new graduate or a seasoned nurse, you may be considering your options. Oncology nursing may be a perfect fit for new nurses or those looking for something different.
What Does Oncology Nursing Involve?
Oncology nurses work with patients with all types of cancer. Depending on your facility, oncology nurses may work with adults and pediatric patients. Oncology nurses perform patient assessments and often administer medications, such as chemotherapy. They will need to understand safe handling of chemo drugs and known what side effects to watch for. Nurses also help patients manage side effects from treatment and educate patients on their cancer.
Oncology nurses work in outpatient clinics, infusion centers, home health agencies, and hospitals. They can move into case management, clinical education and cancer research. Oncology nurses often work hand in hand with oncologists, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers.
Requirements and Certifications
Requirements for oncology nurses vary greatly. Some healthcare facilities require a nurse has a few years of medical, surgical nursing experience. Other facilities may train a new graduate to work in oncology.
In addition to experience, voluntary oncology certification is available through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. They offer several different nursing certifications including Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Breast Care Nurse, and Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse. Although an oncology certification may not be mandatory in order to get a job, it does show a certain level of knowledge and expertise in the field.
One advantage of oncology nursing is getting to know the patients and families you are treating. Often you will see patients many times over the course of their illness. This allows you an opportunity to be involved in their care over time. Some nurses enjoy providing ongoing care. If you work in an infusion center, you’ll likely see the same patients at some point when they come in for their chemotherapy.
In addition, it’s not uncommon for cancer patients to be hospitalized during the course of their treatment. Patients may be readmitted for surgery and complications from treatment and chemotherapy. This allows you to care for the patient over the course of their treatment, which some people may find rewarding.
Another advantage is you may get an opportunity to help patients and their families through one of the most difficult times in their lives. It is rewarding to know you helped someone through a challenging physical and emotional period in their life.
Although the field of oncology nursing can be interesting and rewarding, it can also be stressful. Patients can develop bad reactions to medications and life threatening complications from treatment.
Even with the best of care, some patients will not survive their illness. While it can be difficult to see any patient die, it can be tougher the longer you know the patient. You may see a patient with cancer repeatedly over the course of months or even years, which can make their passing emotionally difficult.