What is an Oncology Nurse?

An oncology nurse is a registered nurse specializing in cancer prevention and management.

These specialists provide medical aid and treatment to existing and potential cancer patients.

They use their education, training, and expertise to prevent, treat, and reduce this disease.

They also educate patients and families about how cancer works and how to best prepare or deal with cancer.

As a result, oncology nurses are essential for improving healthcare practices and reducing or eliminating cancer threats.

What Do Oncology Nurses Do?

Oncology nurses perform numerous responsibilities and duties daily to ensure patients receive adequate care.

It includes updating medical records, administering medication, and monitoring patients’ treatment response and recovery.

They also participate in surgery and different procedures and assist with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatment.

Besides that, oncology nurses educate patients and families about cancer, treatment options, and management strategies.

They help educate families on how to care for their loved ones and provide home treatment and primary care.

As a result, these experts must be highly compassionate and understanding.

Oncology Nurse Duties:

  • Take vital assessments
  • Administer medications
  • Conduct screenings
  • Assist with surgery and other procedures
  • Help with cancer treatments (i.e., chemotherapy)
  • Monitor and evaluate patients’ health status and response
  • Develop and implement care plans
  • Educate patients/families on prevention, treatment, and management
  • Provide emotional support
  • Collaborate with healthcare specialists

Oncology nurses provide care throughout a patient’s entire process.

It includes supporting patients from their first screening to treatment and recovery or death.

Oncology nursing is a challenging and emotional career for those who pursue this discipline.

However, the rewards of saving a patient’s life significantly outweigh some of the difficulties oncology nurses face.


On a deeper level of specialty training in oncology, nurses may focus on more specific types of cancer or a particular demographic.

It includes breast, colon, child, or geriatric patients at risk for developing cancer.

Oncology nurses must also take continuing education regularly to maintain their licenses.

It ensures they stay updated on education, practices, and policies and understand the latest cancer procedures and treatments.

Oncology Nurse Specializations:

  • Biotherapy
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Breast oncology
  • Cancer genetic counseling
  • Chemotherapy/Infusion
  • Genetic counseling
  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Head and neck oncology
  • Hematology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care
  • Radiation oncology
  • Surgical oncology
  • Symptom management

Where Do Oncology Nurses Work?

Oncology nurses work in a wide variety of healthcare settings.

It includes hospitals, cancer wards, hospice centers, specialty healthcare clinics, and cancer treatment facilities.

They also work in academic institutions, research centers, and home care agencies.

Oncology Nurse Work Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Cancer wards
  • Hospice centers
  • Specialty healthcare clinics
  • Cancer treatment facilities
  • Research centers
  • Academic institutions
  • Home care agencies

As a result, oncology nurses work in a broad assortment of education, research, advocacy, and direct patient care environments.

Essentially, these specialists operate wherever cancer treatment, analysis, instruction, and information may be required.

How To Become An Oncology Nurse

There are several steps aspiring oncology nurses must complete work in this rewarding profession.

This section breaks down the steps into five essential components.

It includes earning an  ADN/BSN, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, obtaining work experience, and getting certified.

1. Earn your BSN

Individuals who want to become oncology nurses must first obtain a nursing degree.

As a result, you must pass the necessary nursing school prerequisites at an accredited university and maintain a good GPA.

Most healthcare settings prefer registered nurses with a BSN, which takes approximately four years to obtain.

Therefore, you’ll need to spend four years in an accredited nursing program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

You’ll need to complete the state-approved NCLEX-RN exam successfully at the end of the nursing program.

This exam tests your knowledge and competency as a nursing student to ensure you provide adequate care in the field.

Passing the exam is also necessary to obtain your nursing license.

Numerous online resources and tools exist to help students prepare for the NCLEX-RN.

There are also a variety of NCLEX-RN study books that mimic the exam and provide valuable information and feedback.

3. Obtain Work Experience

Once you’ve obtained a job, you’ll want to gain experience in an oncology unit, cancer center, or related department.

It enables you to develop the skills necessary to provide cancer patients with education, screenings, and treatment.

You’ll also want to obtain cancer-relevant certifications to develop your skillset and improve your odds of landing an oncology position.

For instance, obtaining an oncology nurse certification assures healthcare facilities you receive adequate oncology training.

You can also become certified as a pediatric hematology oncology nurse and specialize in pediatrics.

Obtain Certification

As previously mentioned, experienced registered nurses can pursue oncology nursing certification.

It includes AOCNS, AOCNP, AOCN, BMTCN, CBCN, CPHON, CPON, and OCN certification.

The following section covers the various certification for oncology nurses to provide a reference. 

Oncology Nurse Certifications:

  • Advanced oncology certified clinical nurse specialist (AOCNS)
  • Advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner (AOCNP)
  • Advanced oncology certified nurse (AOCN)
  • Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN)
  • Certified breast cancer nurse (CBCN)
  • Certified pediatric hematology oncology nurse (CPHON)
  • Certified pediatric oncology nurse (CPON)
  • Oncology certified nurse (OCN)

Each certification enables registered nurses and APRNs to specialize in a specific area of oncology.

It also enables them to earn higher salaries and obtain jobs more quickly due to their training, education, and certifications.

Career Advancement Opportunities

There are post-graduate degrees for those wanting to further their oncology career.

For instance, healthcare professionals can earn an MSN or DNP to become advanced practice registered nurses.

It enables them to pursue the highest level of nursing and provides the broadest scope of practice.

For those in oncology, you can pursue clinical nurse specialist schooling specializing in advanced practice oncology nursing.

Career Outlook

The importance of oncology nurses will continually increase as patient care advances within the cancer field.

Unfortunately, cancer is relatively prevalent throughout the United States and other countries.

As a result, the demand for cancer specialists will rise to meet the needs of those with cancer or at risk of developing cancer.

It provides opportunities for oncology nurses to provide specialized care to cancer patients or those prone to the disease.

It also enables oncology nurses to earn exceptional incomes due to their steady demand.

The medical field is relatively recession-proof and offers excellent job stability.

There will always be a need for RNs, physicians, nurse practitioners, and other educated healthcare specialists.

According to BLS.gov, the career outlook for registered nurses is approximately 9%.

Nevertheless, a nursing shortage results from nurses retiring, education limits, burnout, and career changes.

Those who become registered nurses can pick their specialization, earn fantastic incomes and work in a steady profession.