In general, nurses are looking for ways to grow in their field, face the challenge of new research, treatments and technologies.
Oncologyhas all of this to offer. Oncology is revolutionizing medicine with treatments such as hormone therapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and more available oral therapies. So why oncology? For me, it boils down to three reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, the subspecialty of oncology is incredibly rewarding. The relationships you develop with patients and their families are unlike any other subspecialty. When a patient has a cancer diagnosis, the oncologist acts as a treating provider and a guardian for other providers. We see the patient and their family members regularly.
As guardians, our role is similar to that of primary care physicians, but it is much more intense due to the severity of the disease and the frequency with which we treat our patients in a short time. It is always a privilege to witness the resilience and strength of my patients and their families in the midst of the devastation of a cancer diagnosis and its implications. Most cancer patients need radiation therapy at some point, so choosing clinical oncology means you'll be there for the entire journey. Once I started planning radiation therapy, I realized that I really enjoyed the practical, three-dimensional thinking needed to attack tumors but preserve normal tissue. I must admit that I also like the science behind radiobiology, physics and technology a little.
Atiq, MD, medical oncologist and physician featured in the AMA “Shadow Me Specialty Series”, offering advice directly from doctors about life in their specialties. It is important to note that pediatric oncology carries an additional emotional challenge of helping young children and their families. All oncology training programs follow a structured curriculum and offer training in the basic sciences of cancer and the management of malignancies. It's not uncommon for thousands of oncologists to return home on a Tuesday night in early June and change their treatment plans for Wednesday morning. With May being designated as Oncology Nursing Month, it's a great time for nursing students to learn more about how to become cancer nurses and connect with oncologists who have taken the major leap into specialty.
To qualify, you must spend at least one year working as a registered nurse, work 1,000 hours in an oncology setting, and pass an exam. Unlike my previous life where I practiced hematology and general oncology for adults, I now focus on head, neck and lung cancers. General advice includes obtaining a good foundation in general medicine and surgery during the Foundation Program, obtaining a place in a basic medical training (CMT) rotation (possibly including a placement in medical or clinical oncology or palliative medicine), conducting a clinical audit, spending some time figuring out how do cancer services work in the UK and pass the CPRM exam. Unlike other subspecialties such as cardiology, oncologists have not yet found answers to all or even most of the most common diagnoses. Surgeons specializing in cancer operations may call themselves oncologists, for example “gyneoncology”.
The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers various certification options that you can seek to stand out in a hiring group and expand your knowledge of cancer care. Consider your ideas to help determine if a career in medical oncology might be right for you. Since oncology nurses often work with very sick patients, they should be especially careful not to take work home.