“You have cancer.” Three of the scariest words a person can hear, but words that millions of people have heard and will continue to hear over the next years and decades. While the American Cancer Society’s 2023 report shows that cancer mortality rates have dropped by 33% since 1991, significant spikes in breast, prostate, and uterine cancers are hindering this progress. More than 1.9 million new cancer cases are expected to be reported in 2023. With an increasing demand for healthcare workers, hospitals are seeing a slow yet steady surge in oncology doctors and nurses stepping up to provide quality care to those battling all stages of cancer.
As an oncology nurse, you will not only directly impact the lives of others, but you’ll also be joining a rapidly growing field that sadly will continue to see immense opportunities in the short- and long term. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects nursing careers to increase at a higher rate than other healthcare professions in the next 10 years, making now the perfect time to explore oncology nursing.
In honor of Cancer Prevention Month, you can learn more about the different kinds of oncology nurses and the impact their selfless efforts—and yours—could have on our ongoing fight to prevent and treat cancer.
What is an Oncology Nurse?
What distinguishes oncology nurses from other specialties is their focus on treating cancer patients. Oncology nurses:
- Play a large role in almost every aspect of a cancer patient’s treatment, from diagnosis to symptom management to recovery and prevention
- Work with patients of all ages, from children to the elderly, which requires strong adaptive skills
- Possess exemplary communication skills since they are responsible for corresponding with the patient’s family to keep them at ease and informed
Many oncology nurses are employed by hospitals, although they can also work for ambulatory centers, home care agencies, and specialty medical facilities.
What are the Different Oncology Specialties?
The medical oncology field has three main divisions: medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology. These three specialties perform slightly different tasks, but all ultimately work cohesively to provide cancer patients with well-rounded, high-quality care from their valuable expertise:
- Medical Oncologist: These healthcare professionals focus on targeted cancer therapy like chemotherapy, developing and monitoring treatment on a patient-by-patient basis. Medical oncologists serve as the leader of the oncology team, performing the most patient-facing and post-operative tasks.
- Surgical Oncologist: Surgical oncologists undergo additional training in surgery and oncology to prepare them for their hands-on responsibilities. These healthcare professionals specialize in the surgical removal of cancerous tumors, requiring them to have strong attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure. They are also tasked with performing biopsies to help diagnose cancer.
- Radiation Oncologist: A major component of cancer treatment is radiation and palliative therapy. Palliative therapy is centered around the idea of mitigating suffering and maximizing the quality of life for those with serious illnesses, often utilizing radiation technology as a result. Radiation oncologists apply their expertise in radiation technology to slow tumor growth and accurately identify opportunities for beneficial treatment.
A career as an oncology nurse means you will work closely with all members of the oncology team. Understanding how each member plays a part in providing and executing treatment plans will prepare you to be the best nurse you can be.
How Can I Become an Oncology Nurse
Joining such an in-demand and impactful career will not only transform your life but directly impact the lives of others. Take the first step toward changing the trajectory of lives in your community and become an oncology nurse.
Earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the first step toward becoming an oncology nurse. Herzing University offers several BSN programs, including an LPN (License in Practical Nursing) to BSN bridge option, and an option for students who have a bachelor's degree in another field.
Once you graduate from nursing school, you’ll have to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to demonstrate your proficiency in nursing. After doing so, you can start applying for jobs as an oncology nurse. Earning additional certifications within the oncology specialty will only strengthen your skills and position you as a more desirable candidate for hiring managers. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers an exam that when passed certifies you as an oncology-certified nurse.
Make a difference your community deserves by becoming an oncology nurse. Learn more about Herzing’s variety of nursing program pathways and get started now.