An oncology nurse provides specialist care and emotional support to patients undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. Oncology nurses work under the guidance of qualified doctors and also carry out research activities and administrative duties, such as patient charting and medical reports. Oncology nurses also assist medical specialists with the administration of radiation chemotherapies. As of June 2010, the average salary for an oncology nurse was £37,700, according to the Simply Hired website.
Oncology nurse candidates are required to complete a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited university before undertaking specialist training. Candidates can also complete a two-year associate degree or a two- to three-year diploma. Nursing degree programs offer a range of key skills for nurses undertaking a career in any specialist path, such as diagnostics, first aid administration and medical assessments of patients. Some colleges run internship programs, which offer students the chance to learn about core aspects of the nursing profession from practicing nurses.
Oncology nurse candidates will need to learn particular cancer care skills either through coursework conducted during their BSN degrees, clinical practice or further education, as stated on the All Nursing schools website. Bachelor's degree graduates often find work placements in hospital emergency rooms or in the general care division of health care centres after completing their studies. Candidates should search online or contact the career office during the final college of semester for help securing positions.
Once sufficient experience has been gained in a work placement, oncology nurse candidates can apply for certification. Certification for oncology nurses is provided by the Oncology Nurse Certification Corporation (ONCC). Certified nurses earn significantly more than those who are uncertified. Some states require oncology nurses to be certified before being permitted to practice. Other states merely recommend it, but finding work is likely to be more difficult without accreditation. To improve their skills further, nurses can also undertake a two-day class on chemotherapy offered by the Oncology Nursing Society, as indicated on the Degree Directory website.
Once qualified as an oncology nurse, candidates can go on to become oncology nurse practitioners. These are advanced practice nurses (APNs) who have attained a master's degree in nursing. An oncology nurse practitioner can work in more senior nursing roles including educator, senior research coordinator and consultancy. Oncology nurse practitioners provide guidance to nursing teams and liaise with the families of cancer patients to discuss care administration.
Oncology nurse practitioners need to complete a master of science in nursing (MSN). This degree is usually attained through a two-year course of graduate study. Once completed, graduates can register with the state board as an advanced practice nurse (APN). Oncology nurse practitioners require a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in oncology before becoming eligible to take the certified exam to practice as an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner.
Some oncology nurses occupy specialist roles caring for children cancer patients. Nurses in this role can gain certification as paediatric oncology nurses. Oncology nurses can also specialise in key areas such as bone marrow transplants and in sedative care for terminal cancer patients.