An oncology certified nurse career can be one of the most difficult medical career paths; it can also be one of the most emotionally fulfilling. Oncology nurses deal with patients who are being treated for cancer, usually in a hospital setting. They work with oncologists, doctors whose specialty is treating cancer. There are two main factors that make the job so stressful. One is that many cancer patients die during or not long after treatment, and seeing this happen repeatedly can be emotionally wrenching. Some are diagnosed as being untreatable. Death by cancer can be very painful for patient and their loved ones; dealing with all the suffering takes an emotional toll on nurses. The other factor is the terrible side effects of chemotherapy, which is the standard treatment for cancer. Many nurses simply can’t deal with the terrible toll that both cancer, and cancer treatment has on patients. Those who can, however, make a real and unforgettable difference in people’s lives, and that aspect of an oncology certified nurse career makes it so rewarding.
Much of the role of oncology nurse involves administering chemotherapy, but that is just the beginning. Oncology nurses also teach patients and their families about cancer and chemotherapy, and what they can expect from the process. Most cancer patients spend far more time with their nurses than with the oncologist, and in most cases, a real bond develops between patient, nurse, and family members. The emotional strength that oncology nurses provide plays no small role in recovery from cancer and chemotherapy. Although most cancer patients are middle-aged or older, they can come from all age groups, and an oncology certified nurse will work with patients all over the age spectrum – from toddlers to people in their nineties. Empathy and an ability to relate well with people are essential skills for an oncology certified nurse career.
Oncology certified nurses are registered nurses who have chosen to specialize in dealing with patients undergoing treatment for cancer. In order to become a registered nurse, it’s necessary to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program. After earning the RN title, the prospective oncology nurse will then need to acquire the skills necessary to work with cancer patients. This can be done on the job, or with continuing education, or a combination of both (the most common route). The final step is passing the rigorous Oncology Certified Nurse exam, or OCN. Some oncology nurses go on to take their careers even further, and become an oncology nurse practitioners, which requires earning a master’s of nursing degree, along with further certification testing.
As of this writing, the median salary for an oncology certified nurse career is approximately $63,000 a year. Some earn less, while a substantial minority earn quite a bit more than that. As with most occupations, higher pay follows seniority, and many oncology nurses supplement their incomes by working overtime. Salaries should continue to increase over the coming years, as should job openings. The United States is facing a critical shortage of nurses, and that problem is only going to get worse in the near future, as there simply aren’t enough online nursing schools to produce the number of nurses needed for all nursing categories. (Click here for more information.) An oncology certified nursing career should be a great occupational choice for the foreseeable future.