What is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology is a field of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and an oncology nurse cares for patients with cancer and those at risk for developing it. An oncology nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in oncology. He or she works as part of a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals to provide the best possible care to patients who have cancer. He or she works with a range of patients, from infants and children to older adults. An oncology nurse also works in various settings, including inpatient hospital units, bone marrow transplant specialty wards, outpatient clinics, and in patient homes. An oncology nurse has specific duties, qualifications, and career outlook.

Oncology Nurse Duties

One of the major duties of the oncology nurse is assessing patients. An oncology nurse must first evaluate patients by checking their medical history, taking their vital signs, noting side effects of treatment, and documenting any current symptoms. An oncology nurse assesses patients before, during, and after chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments. He or she also plays a big part in coordinating care of patients, such as ordering tests and making recommendations on treatment methods. He or she administers chemotherapy and other medications to patients and closely watches for side effects. He or she also keeps track of laboratory, pathology, and imaging results and collaborates with other medical professionals regarding the results. An oncology nurse must clearly document all procedures and treatment performed on cancer patients and keep updated medical records to make sure all patients receive exceptional care. The oncology nurse is also responsible for assisting with the education of cancer patients and caregivers about the disease, treatments, and side effects.

Oncology Nurse Qualifications

An oncology nurse must first become a registered nurse by completing a registered nursing diploma, associate degree, or bachelors degree. He or she must have a solid understanding of the pathology of cancer, types of treatments, and expected side effects. While many oncology nurses learn on the job and by attending seminars, conferences, and other continuing education methods, some oncology nurses obtain certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. The corporation offers various certification options, including Oncology Certified Nurse and Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse. Some oncology nurses specialize in a certain area, such as chemotherapy, palliative care, bone marrow transplant, radiation, and pediatric oncology. An oncology nurse must have an array of abilities to provide excellent care to patients suffering from a debilitating and life-threatening disease. He or she must demonstrate compassion and sensitivity to the needs of patients and their families. He or she must also keep patients calm in difficult situations.

Career Outlook for an Oncology Nurse

Like all nursing specialties, the demand for oncology nurses is projected to significantly rise over the next decade. As more and more individuals from the baby boom generation are diagnosed with cancer, an increased amount of oncology nurses will be needed to help care for those patients.

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An oncology nurse is a vital part of the health care team that cares for patients suffering from cancer. He or she strives to provide the best medical care for patients and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible. Oncology is one of the most challenging and rewarding nursing fields and an oncology nurse will consistently find that no two days are alike on the job.