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Oncology Nursing

What is Oncology Nursing?

Oncology nursing is a specialization that focuses on caring for patients who have cancer or have a high risk of developing cancer. Johnson & Johnson describes oncology nursing as challenging and rewarding, and that no 2 patients are the same. Daily tasks performed by these nurses include monitoring patients' conditions, administering chemotherapy and other medications, maintaining health records, and educating patients on cancer prevention. These nurses must be especially empathetic and compassionate, as many cancer patients are fearful and even angry about their diagnosis. Oncology nurses must provide support for cancer patients and their families.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements?

In order to become an oncology nurse, one must be a registered nurse. This requires completing a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree program. After graduation, the individual must pass the NCLEX-RN and apply for a nursing license.

After working as a registered nurse for at least a year (one in the past three years), and gaining at least 1,000 hours of experience in an oncology setting in the past 2.5 years, an individual can apply to take the certification exam through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). The ONCC also requires a minimum of 10 continuing nursing education contact hours to have been completed within 3 years of applying. The main certification credential is OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse), but there are also a number of other specialized oncology-related certifications, including pediatric hematology and breast care.

What is the Average Salary for an Oncology Nurse?

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that in 2012 the median salary for registered nurses was $65,470. Another estimate by Johnson & Johnson states that oncology nurses make $44,000 to $57,000, which is lower than the BLS average for all RNs.

What is the Job Outlook?

Though the employment outlook specifically for oncology nurses is unknown, the outlook for registered nurses is positive. The BLS predicts 19% job growth from 2012-2022.