What is an Oncology Nurse?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Apr 24, 2023
A nurse sits with a senior Cancer patient as they discus her recent symptoms and side effects of treatment. The patient is dressed casually in a blue sweater and head scarf. The nurse is recording the patients responses on her clipboard and focused on her writing. Both are wearing medical masks to protect them from viruses.

Jump to Sections

  1. What is an Oncology Nurse?
  2. What Does an Oncology Nurse Do?
  3. How to Become an Oncology Nurse – 4 Steps

As the nursing field continues to evolve, there is an increasing need for nurses with specialized knowledge and training. One path nursing students can take is oncology nursing, which is a challenging and rewarding specialty. 

Oncology nurses play an essential role in caring for patients with cancer, providing emotional support, educating patients and their families, and advocating for their rights. 

If you’re considering becoming an oncology nurse, or are simply curious about what an oncology nurse does, read on.

What is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer. They work in various settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practices. 

Their duties vary depending on the setting, but generally include administering chemotherapy, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and providing emotional support to patients and their families.

Patient education is one of the most critical aspects of an oncology nurse’s job. They’re responsible for educating patients and their families about cancer, its treatment, and the potential side effects of treatment. 

Oncology nurses must be knowledgeable about the latest research and treatment options and be able to communicate that information in a way that patients and their families easily understand.

What Does an Oncology Nurse Do?

Oncology nurses work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement a patient’s treatment plan. 

They are responsible for administering chemotherapy, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and managing the side effects of treatment. They also provide emotional support to patients and their families, helping them cope with cancer treatment’s physical and emotional challenges.

To learn more about different nursing specialties, read here.

Oncology nurses may also be responsible for conducting cancer screenings and assisting in cancer research studies. They play an important role in educating the public about cancer prevention and early detection, and may participate in community outreach programs to promote cancer awareness.

Another important aspect of an oncology nurse’s job is patient advocacy. They work to ensure that their patients’ rights are protected and that their voices are heard. They may also act as a liaison between patients and their families and the healthcare team, helping to coordinate care and communication.

How to Become an Oncology Nurse – 4 Steps

If you are considering becoming an oncology nurse, here are the steps you can take to prepare for this rewarding career. 

  1. Earn an undergraduate degree — an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is highly recommended.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain your nursing license. Oncology nurses are required to have an RN license to practice.
  3. Gain nursing experience, especially in the oncology field.
  4. Although it’s not always required for an oncology nurse role, you should consider getting an oncology nurse certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).

In addition to education and certification, several personal qualities are important for success as an oncology nurse. These include compassion, patience, and the ability to communicate effectively with patients and their families. 

Oncology nursing can be emotionally challenging, and a strong support system and self-care practices are important.

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With features like practice questions, study guides, and progress tracking, a digital prep tool can help you stay organized and focused as you work toward your goals. 

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