Oncology Nursing Career

Oncology nurses provide nursing care at many levels for patients who are critically ill with cancer or recovering from cancer treatments. Because there are many types of cancer that can affect any member of the population, these nurses could be providing care for any age group. They are an important part of the healthcare team in a field that can be very emotional, and yet can also be rewarding because it is such personal and valuable nursing work. These nurses are an important line of communication and support for the patients and their families, not only administering care, medication, and chemotherapy, but also providing information on treatments, guidance, and support.

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Oncology Nursing Certification and Education Requirements

Becoming an oncology nurse requires first becoming a registered nurse, or RN, with either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science degree (BSN) in nursing. Earning your BSN is preferable as you will be more qualified when you pursue your specialized career in oncology nursing. With additional work experience and education, you can then take an exam for oncology nursing certification. While certification is voluntary, it is becoming increasingly important for specialized nurses. Cancer treatments are becoming more and more specialized and complex, and oncology nurses need to be trained to be up-to-date and effectively care for their patients. Certification also reassures their patients that they are in competent hands. Additionally, certification can also create opportunities for advancement as your career progresses.

Certification in oncology nursing is given by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). Certification is highly beneficial for your career and is recognized by the Oncology Nursing Society. There are many options in certification for those pursuing this field. Certification exams are offered to become an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), an Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS), an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP), a Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN) or a Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON). Once you are certified, there are also professional organizations that bring together oncology nurses from different occupations and levels of nursing, such as the Oncology Nursing Society. Because cancer care is changing constantly, keeping updated on research and developments in the field is very important for oncology nurses, and the ONS can help keep you abreast of changes and continuing education opportunities.

Oncology Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

The outlook for oncology nursing is very good, as it is with all nursing specializations as the country faces impending nursing shortages. The growing aging population will have a particularly strong effect on the demand for oncology nurses, as 77% of cancers are diagnosed in people over age 55, according to the American Cancer Society. The average salary for an oncology nurse is $61,463, per salary.com. This can vary dramatically though based on professional experience, employer, and location, and is often well above $75,000 in larger cities. This can be a very emotionally challenging career, but also an enriching one for the compassionate nurse who is interested in advanced training and keeping up with an ever-changing field of medicine.

(Sources: http://oncc.org, salaryexpert.com)

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