What Does An Oncology Nurse Do?
An oncology nurse is a registered nurse who cares for and supports patients who have cancer. As an oncology nurse, you will work with a multi-disciplinary team in a variety of settings – including clinics, hospital wards, transplant units, and community healthcare centres. You may also work with patients of varying ages, from children to the elderly, either as outpatients or in palliative care settings.
As with all kinds of nursing, oncology nurses must be empathetic and have excellent communication skills. Educating and supporting patients is a major part of the role of an oncology nurse, as is a commitment to ongoing training on cancer treatments and their side effects. Cancer medicines and treatments are continually changing, so oncology nurses must remain up to date with the latest information.
Role and responsibilities of an oncology nurse
As an oncology nurse, you will have many responsibilities within your role, including supporting and educating your patients and their loved ones. Another primary part of the role is patient assessment. Oncologists will recommend treatments, but you may be responsible for those patients who have presented with treatment side effects, as well as assessing patients throughout chemotherapy.
As an oncology nurse, you must be able to interpret pathology results and their implications, while also possessing an in-depth knowledge of the expected side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue. You will also need to display interpersonal skills so you can provide listening support to your patients, as well as the ability to assess their understanding of the disease.
Oncology nurses are often responsible for the administration of chemotherapy drugs. Therefore you must be educated on the safe handling of drugs and management of allergic reactions. You may also need to obtain a chemo-bio certificate before administering chemotherapies and biotherapies. As an oncology nurse, you must be very detail-oriented because the medication administration for patients can be complicated.
What are the benefits?
Being an oncology nurse is both challenging and rewarding, and people choose to go down this career path for many reasons. If you enjoy ongoing relationships with patients and their families, this could be the nursing career for you. While oncology nursing can be emotionally and professionally taxing, it also has its own unique benefits and rewards that make it an incredibly fulfilling career.
By becoming an oncology nurse, you can make a real difference to those whose lives are affected by cancer: approximately 1 in 2 people born in the UK after 1960, according to recent statistics. You get to provide a continuity of care which is difficult to achieve in other forms or nursing while helping patients through the challenging process of accepting and treating their cancer diagnosis.
The changing role of an oncology nurse: tech and innovation
Although a cure for cancer has not yet been found, nurses and technology specialists are working to improve cancer outcomes every day, furthering both treatment options and quality of life for oncology patients. Around the world, innovators are using technology to develop products and services to educate patients and families better and inform new treatment options.
One example of this innovation in action is Carevive Systems. Carevive is a company co-founded by Carrie Stricker, PhD, RN and Madelyn Herzfeld, BSN, RN, to provide more support for patients, families, and care teams. The duo has developed care plans to serve patients transitioning from treatment to survivorship using emerging technology. This technology is now being used in 30 healthcare systems across the U.S.
According to Stricker, Carevive’s mission is to;
“provide clinical workflow tools and patient engagement solutions to help cancer centres in providing comprehensive, value-based care to individuals and families with cancer. The goal is to sup¬port patients, families, and survivors in navigating their cancer experiences with optimal quality of life, and as active members of the care team.”
To that end, Carevive’s cloud-based technology analyses EMR and other clinical data sources, including tumour registry data, patient-reported health data, symptoms and treatment details. The data gathered in the process provides oncology nurses and doctors with insight into the real experiences of their patients, enabling predictive analytics to improve outcomes continuously.
How to become an oncology nurse
If oncology nursing is a field that interests you, there are plenty of opportunities in hospitals, cancer centres, outpatient clinics and hospices all over the UK. As an oncology nurse, you may also work in case management and home care. There might even be travel assignments throughout the country for specific types of oncology nurses, especially those with oncology certifications.
To become an oncology nurse, you will need to be educated to degree level, and perhaps have completed or are working towards postgraduate qualifications that qualify you for a particular speciality. The area of speciality may be focused on young people, the elderly, type of care, or a specific type of cancer – such as lymphoedema or lung cancer.
Every healthcare setting will have different entry requirements, but as a general rule, the minimum selection criteria for oncology nurses in the UK is:
First level nurse registration
- Five year’s post-registration clinical experience: two of which must have been in cancer, palliative care or a speciality area
- Degree in a related subject
- Evidence of specialist learning related to the subject area, or an intention to work towards specialist learning.
Nurses applying for oncology positions may also have experience of working in community care. Practical nursing experience is just as valuable as formal study when preparing for a career in oncology.
Apply for an oncology nurse position today
If you’re interested in becoming an oncology nurse, you can download the NursCo app for the latest job vacancies and employment opportunities in your area. You’ll get personalised job alerts and notifications sent straight to your mobile device, so you can spot them as soon as they pop up and apply on the go. You can also visit our NursCo Lounge for the latest career insights and advice on the nursing profession.
If you want to become an oncology nurse – don’t delay. Download the NursCo recruitment app today.