Stethescope commonly worn by an oncology nurse and ribbon representing the cancer symbol

As the number of patients with cancer continues to rise, researchers and healthcare providers struggle to find a cure. This year, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. It is currently the second leading cause of death in America. Based on data from 2013 to 2015, approximately 38.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.

Though a cure has yet to be discovered, major progress has been made against cancer. Advances in medicine – such as immunotherapy and surgical fiber-optic technology – have caused the overall cancer death rate in the United States to fall by 25 percent from 1990 to 2014. The death rate for many individual cancers has also decreased.

Where a cancer is treated can be just as important as how it is treated. Cancer treatment facilities need to provide state-of-the-art therapy and exceptional care.

Newly diagnosed patients face a long road to recovery, one full of setbacks and difficulties. Doctors, nurses and staff play a critical role in their recovery.

What is an Oncology Nurse?

An oncology nurse supervises the treatment of and provides care for patients who have cancer. Responsibilities go beyond direct patient care since they work with physicians and other healthcare team members to meet patient needs. They can serve as researchers, managers, consultants, and patient educators.

Here are some common responsibilities and duties of oncology nurses:

  • Develop individualized care plans
  • Administer chemotherapy
  • Provide pre-chemotherapy screening
  • Assess patients’ physical and emotional states
  • Conduct cancer research to enhance treatment for specific patients
  • Offer supportive resources to patients and their families
  • Monitor patients’ progress and responses to treatment and medication

Oncology nurses are required to be registered nurses. The median annual wage for registered nurses is $68,450, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The highest 10 percent earn more than $102,990 and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $47,120.

The employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16 percent by 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS notes that registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing will have better job prospects than those without one.

Overall, job opportunities for registered nurses are expected to be good. However, the supply of new nurses entering the labor market has increased in recent years. This increase has resulted in competition for jobs in some areas of the country. Generally, registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) will have better job prospects than those without one.


Becoming an Oncology Nurse

Because oncology nurses play a critical role in treating and advocating for patients, these healthcare professionals need to possess the right knowledge and skills. As the Oncology Nursing Society notes, “from high-risk surgeries to complex chemotherapy regimens, the nurse usually is the first and last professional to ensure that safe standards are implemented for patients with cancer.”

Clinical knowledge regarding specialty care services is expected for this position. Depending on the facility, some oncology nurses are expected to coach both clinical and non-clinical personnel regarding care and diagnostics services. Knowledge of healthcare programs, including electronic healthcare records and medical coding, would benefit someone looking to enter this field.

A bachelor’s degree is often required for this specialty, and this is especially true at hospitals. Many require all new nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. In addition to traditional nursing licensure, many in this field become Oncology Certified Nurses (OCN). Certification trains a nurse for that specific branch of nursing, which helps both in the care for the patient and job prospects for the nurse.

Step into the Field

By earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue specialties like oncology nursing or enter into leadership positions such as a nurse case manager. Husson University’s RN to BSN online program is designed to provide you with an evidence-based education that allows you to deliver the best patient-centric care possible. The online format gives you the flexibility you need to continue working while you take your career to the next level.