Oncology nurses are health professionals who are specially trained to provide cancer care and administer chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They are an important force in helping cancer patients, providing consistent information and guidance throughout the treatment plan. Oncology nurses must gain particularly extensive clinical experience before becoming certified, and they have the privilege of helping to relieve patients' pain and build special relationships with their patients. To become a certified oncology nurse, you will need to take the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) exam issued by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
Certification as a cancer nurse will vary from state to state, but the requirements are quite similar. Before you get into oncology, it's a good idea to take note of the nursing skills you'll use most often, such as assessing a person's needs both in hospitals and in outpatient offices, helping with medications, mitigating symptoms, helping explain what is happening, and caring for their patients' families while they receive treatment. Cancer nurses need to focus on the details, as chemotherapy medications are weight-based and patient-specific. As people at the forefront of cancer care, cancer nurses are always finding new ways to support their patients.
If you're currently a nurse or want to be a nurse, oncology can be a wonderful and rewarding field to work in. A cancer nurse's salary will depend on where you work, your nursing specialization, your nursing education and certifications, and of course, your nursing experience. Arriola recommends that recent graduates consider taking the Cancer Nursing Society's introductory course, Cancer Basics, to demonstrate their interest in this nursing specialty.