A hematology nurse works with patients suffering from blood disorders and cancer. The specialty is closely linked to oncology nursing, and hematology nurses work closely with fellow nurses, hematologists and physicians. Special skills and advanced knowledge are vital in this specialty, as is empathy and compassion. Regardless, if a hematology nurse chooses to focus on adults or pediatric patients, many will be facing terminal illnesses or life-threatening diseases such as hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, lymphoma and leukemia.
A rundown on hematology nurse duties is outlined by the University of Mary and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hematology nurses will:
•Diagnose and treat blood diseases
•Educate patient’s family on the patient’s condition
•Advice on how to manage condition physically and cope with it mentally
•Record medical histories
•Keep track of symptoms
•Set up treatment plans or contribute to existing programs
•Assist physicians with examinations and documentation
•Help with blood transfusions
•Assist with diagnostic testing and analysis of results
•Research patient treatments
•Operate and monitor medical equipment
•Request lab work (advanced practice hematology nurse duty)
•Prescribe medication (advanced practice hematology nurse duty)
Necessary traits and skills
Numerous traits and skills are integral for the position, as noted by the University of Mary and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of the traits may be innate while others are skills that can be learned and developed.
•Empathy and compassion. Due to the sensitive nature of the patients’ conditions, a hematology nurse must have empathy and compassion for the patient and their family. A caring and sympathetic nature is vital for effective treatment and patient relations.
•Communication abilities. Written and oral communication skills are integral for communicating necessary information to colleagues, the patient and the patient’s families. In addition to communicating technical, medical and complex information, the nurse must be able to provide guidance, reassurance and comfort.
•Critical-thinking skills. Critical-thinking comes into play when nurses must make decisions regarding changes in a patient’s health, symptoms and treatment plans.
•Strong attention to detail. Keeping track of patient medical histories, symptoms and treatment plans require acute attention to paperwork. Monitoring medical equipment, administering and overseeing medication and treatments also require a keen detail orientation.
•Organization. Organizational skills are critical for keeping track of various patients and their care.
•Emotional stability. The amount of human suffering, emergency situations and life-threatening diseases hematology nurses must face are particularly high. Emotional stability allows the nurse to cope with these and other stresses of the position while maintaining a professionalism and competency.
Becoming a hematology nurse requires a solid educational base that starts with a Registered Nurse Diploma and is supplemented by an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The University of Mary additionally recommends Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) Certification or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The more extensive the education, the more duties and responsibilities a hematology nurse may be able to handle, thereby advancing his or her salary level and career.
Upon completion of the ASN or BSN degree, the next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which licenses registered nurses in the state in which they plan to practice. OCN certification comes from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, or ONCC, and it offers various credentials for those pursuing a career in the field. Options include the basic oncology certified nurse, or OCN, to the advanced oncology certified nurse, or AOCN. An even more advanced certification, the advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner, or AOCNP, requires a Master of Science in Nursing.
In addition to the formal educational requirements, oncology nursing experience is generally part of the background to prepare for this career. That experience can come in the form of hands-on clinical practice, administration, consultation, education or research experience. The learning does not stop after the initial degrees, certifications and nursing experience is complete. Hematology nurses engage in continued education and training throughout their careers to stay current with the latest developments in the field.