How to Become an Oncology Nurse: Salary, Job Description and Outlook

Oncology nurse and patientAn oncology nurse provides nursing care to patients with cancer and to those with an increased risk for developing cancer. The oncology nurse monitors the patient’s physical condition and administers medications, including chemotherapy, among other nursing functions. An oncology nurse educates and takes care of patients at high risk for developing cancer and to those who are in remission from the disease.

Oncology nurses monitor patient conditions, track symptoms, administer medications and assist with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Tasks vary widely from day to day and even from patient to patient. While the role is demanding emotionally and physically, it is one of the most rewarding jobs in medicine.

Table of Contents
How to Become an Oncology Nurse
Oncology Nursing on YouTube
Education Requirements
Oncology Nurse Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
Pediatric Oncology Nurses on YouTube
Oncology Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Oncology Nurse Recertification
Even More Oncology Nursing on YouTube
Professional Organizations
Relevant Publications
Apps for Oncology Nurses
Oncology Nurse Potential Career Path

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Median Salary $67,426
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary information:

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

To become an oncology nurse, the individual:

  • Must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in oncology
  • May pursue voluntary certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

Oncology Nurses on YouTube

This video discusses the roles of oncology nurses and the incredible community of the Oncology Nursing Society.

Education Requirements

To become an oncology nurse, the individual will already have graduated nursing school and passed board examinations, and already be a registered nurse (RN). RNs interested in working in oncology nursing may take advanced courses in cancer care.

An oncology nurse may pursue additional training to become an advanced practice oncology nurse or an oncology nurse practitioner.

Oncology Nurse Job Description

An oncology nurse evaluates patient conditions and care plans, implements nursing care and documents care given, and assists physicians during patient examinations and procedures. The oncology nurse provides supportive nursing care to patients, as well as the administration of chemotherapy, fluid and electrolyte replacement, and other oncology treatments.

The oncology nurse also assists in designing and implementing various treatment strategies, provides counseling on cancer prevention and educates patients on ways to live with cancer. This nurse also maintains patient health records.

Frequently, oncology nurses focus on an area of specialization such as those listed below.

  • Cancer genetic counseling
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gynecological oncology
  • Palliative care
  • Surgical oncology
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Breast oncology
  • Prevention and early detection of cancer
  • Radiation oncology

Personality Traits:

  • Compassionate
  • Technical aptitude
  • Patient
  • Optimistic

An oncology nurse usually reports to a nurse manager or the head of a cancer unit or other department.

Career Options

Typical workplaces for an oncology nurse include:

  • Hospital
  • Physician’s office
  • Outpatient Care facility

No job outlook estimates for oncology nurses exist but the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for registered nurses to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of oncology nurses will likely rise at least as quickly due to the increased number of cancer treatments available. Furthermore, number of people over the age of 65 is expected to grow rapidly, and the rate of cancer is higher in this demographic.

Pediatric Oncology Nurses on YouTube

Here’s a video of pediatric oncology nurses as they discuss what pediatric hematology/oncology nursing means to them and the rewarding feeling of assisting children who have cancer.

Oncology Nurse Certification

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers board certification in oncology nursing. Certification is voluntary and shows the holder has special expertise and training in providing nursing care for cancer patients.

To be eligible for certification, the candidate must have worked as a registered nurse (RN) for at least one year within the past three years. The applicant must have gained at least 1,000 hours experience in an oncology setting within the previous 2.5 years. ONCC also requires at least 10 hours of continuing nursing education within three years of application.

The main certification is the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) but ONCC offers numerous oncology-related certifications, such as:

  • Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)
  • Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN)
  • Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON)

Oncology Nurse Cost of Certification

Certification for Oncology Nurses is available from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.

Certifications Available:

  • Oncology Certified Nurse
  • Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON)
  • Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN)
  • Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS)

Costs for All Listed Certifications:

  • Non-member: $406
  • ONS/APHON Member: $286
  • Non-member (Age: 65+): $305
  • ONS/APHON Member (Age: 65+): $215

Oncology Nurse Recertification

Recertification must be done every 4 years. Nurses seeking recertification must have a current, active, unencumbered RN license. Renewal available through:

  • Practice hours + Oncology Nursing Certification Points Renewal Option (ONC-PRO)
  • Practice hours + successful testing
  • ONC-PRO + successful testing

Even More Oncology Nurses on YouTube

In this video, Michelle Turner, a Nurse Practitioner in the Department of Medical Oncology, discusses the role she plays in the treatment process and what patients can likely see from their first visit to the Cancer Center.

Professional Organizations

Relevant Publications

Apps for Oncology Nurses

AASCO JournalsASCO Journals: Free (iOS) / Free (Android)
This app displays articles from the Journal of Oncology Practice and the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the latest information in Oncology news and research.
Oncology Nurse AdvisorOncology Nurse Advisor: Free (iOS) / Free (Android)
This app allows for users to explore the latest trends and articles surrounding Oncology nursing. This app also allows uers to receive continuing education (CE) credits while participating in the various activities on the app itself.

Oncology Nurse Career Path

Nurses who thrive in the oncology nursing field can move into management roles with additional education, including the role of Oncology Nurse Practitioner.