A growing number of nursing programs offer the ability to specialize in oncology, in addition to earning a nursing license and degree. The formal certification process requires applicants to meet a strict set of requirements to prove that they have received the necessary education and practicum experiences to serve as a specialist to patients with cancer.
According to the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC), by the year 2030 more than 75% of people aged 55 or over will comprise the cancer patient population. There is an increasing need for nurses specifically in oncology to treat these patients. On average, nurse with an oncology certification will earn at least $9,000 more annually than their counterparts. To provide an estimate of annual salary, oncology certified nurses make between $47,000 and $85,000 each year.
For an oncology nurse, their primary role is to assist the doctor in providing care to cancer patients. The duties of an oncology nurse differ from a traditional nurse in the medication and treatment methods used. Oncology nurses may assist in preparing for chemotherapy, radiation and in some cases may even be required to perform a blood transfusion. Other standard duties for the oncology nurse include administering antibiotics and chemotherapy related medication.
The ONCC lists the basic necessities to become an oncology certified nurse as follows:
•At least one year of experience as a registered nurse (RN) within the past three years at the time of submitting an application
•A current Registered Nurse license
•A minimum of 1,000 clinical experience in hours in oncology within 2.5 years of application
•At least 10 contact hours of oncology nursing training in the form of an elective or continuing education within three years of submitting an application
Though these are the minimum requirements for oncology certification as a nurse, much more intensive requirements do exist, including opportunities at the graduate level, which require substantive clinical practicum experience.
Why Nurses Should Pursue Oncology Certification
For an employer, certification is the only viable means to prove your experience and training and also justify higher pay and the ability to work autonomously. Though a patient may not know the difference between an oncology certified nurse, they will benefit from the specialized care they receive from a nurse trained to treat their condition.
Exams such as the Oncology Nursing Certification (OCN) test are required to obtain certification once the nurse has completed their oncology training. After this, candidates may notate that they are an OCN in addition RN, to indicate they have been trained in oncology nursing. The OCN certification must be renewed before it expires every four years.
Though nurses are one of the most valued members of the healthcare staff, their skill and expertise is especially important in the field of oncology nursing.