A pediatric oncology nurse provides skilled nursing care to children with cancer. These nursing professionals can work on oncology wards caring for inpatients receiving cancer treatment, and they can also provide care to outpatients at hospitals and clinics. In addition, some pediatric oncology nurses provide home care services to their patients. Patients may receive care at home because they cannot or do not wish to travel for treatment and sometimes end of life care is provided at home because it is a comfortable and familiar environment.
Like other nursing professionals, a pediatric oncology nurse attends nursing school to receive training as a nurse. After being certified, the nurse can pursue additional training and certifications in the field of pediatric oncology. Childhood cancers are quite varied and the treatment of a pediatric cancer patient can involve a large team including a pediatric oncologist, radiologist, and oncology nurse.
When patients are in the hospital, the pediatric oncology nurse is often the first line of care. Nurses regularly check on their patients, administer medications, monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs, and respond to patient needs. They can assist their patients with using the restroom, request additional pain medication from a doctor, help patients eat, and perform other tasks which will make patients feel more comfortable. Pediatric oncology nurses can also provide patients and their families with updates about progress and proposed treatments.
Specialized medications are used in cancer care and nurses require special training to handle them. A pediatric oncology nurse may need to be involved in the care of a patient taking radiologically active medications for chemotherapy, for example. The patient and medications need to be carefully handled to reduce the risk of contamination and the nurse needs to be alert to changes in the patient's condition which might be indicative of complications or other problems.
In clinical care for outpatients, a pediatric oncology nurse can take vital signs and other measurements, discuss progress with the patient, and provide information. Home care nurses can travel to the home to administer medications and provide patient care. Nurses who provide home care may also be involved in decisions to move patients to a hospital if the patient's needs cannot be safely and adequately met at home.
Working in this job position can be stressful, but it is also very rewarding for some nursing professionals. It often provides opportunities for continuity of care, in which a nurse follows a patient from start to finish, as well as a chance to interact with many different kinds of patients.