Oncology nursing involves working with cancer patients who are either chronically or critically ill, primarily in hospitals. Oncology nurses provide and supervise care for their patients by monitoring their patients’ physical conditions, prescribing medications, and formulating system management strategies. They may work with children or adolescents with cancer or blood disorders, or adults or seniors.
At the most basic level, oncology involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Oncology means “mass” or “bulk,” in reference to tumors. However, oncology spans a huge range of study and is ever-broadening to face both failures and successes. Many oncologists — doctors who specialize in oncology — choose to work in a particular branch of it, like blood diseases or bone cancer, while others specialize in radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatments. Oncology nurses may look after patients with low white cell counts who are in protective isolation, take in patients for day therapy who regularly come in for chemotherapy, perform supportive therapy, vascular access maintenance, diagnostic procedures, or education and support. Or they may work in outpatients departments to coordinate appointments and schedule therapy, surgery, or radiotherapy.
Oncology nursing also involves research into cancer, including its causes and possible cures. A wide-open field for scientists to study, there are a variety of research opportunities. Oncology nurses might work at facilities that specialize in cancer treatment, like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which is primarily an institution for cancer research.
Because they have many duties, an oncology nurse should be competent in many areas, like vascular access devices, venipuncture, intravenous cannulation, chemotherapy management, and pain management. A big part of oncology nursing is educating patients and their families on the complex issues related to the cancer process and treatment procedures.
In the past 25 years, oncology nursing has come a long way with new huge improvements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. An oncologist nurse may be certified as an Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner, or an Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist.
If you want to start a career in oncology nursing, you need a nursing degree. Consider an online LPN to BSN degree or an online RN to BSN degree if you’re already a nurse. Otherwise, compare these programs from the University of Phoenix:
» Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
» Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)