Oncology nursing is the branch of this profession that is focused on caring for cancer patients. Health care professionals who choose to specialize in this area may be working with patients of all ages. Pediatric oncology nursing is a further specialization within this field.
This field of nursing was first recognized in the early 1970s. Previously, the main treatment option for patients diagnosed with cancer was for doctors to perform surgery to remove the tumors. Nurses would provide care for the patient before and after the procedure.
As survival rates for cancer patients started to improve due to improved cancer research, the role of the oncologist became more important. Patients and their doctors developed a treatment plan together, and the registered nurse was part of the treatment team. This change in how cancer was treated led to an increased role for nurses, and now oncology nursing is one of the many areas where they can choose to work.
Oncology nursing may involve the nurse caring for patients directly. Some nurses in this field work in more senior positions where they are involved in the administration of a health care facility that works with cancer patients. Other employment opportunities for oncology nurses exist in the area of education. They may be asked to share their knowledge about cancer and the treatment of this disease with other staff, family members, or the public.
The field of oncology nursing also includes research. The oncology nurse may be asked to identify issues or problems that can be the focus of research. Once the results of a research study have been released, the oncology nurse can incorporate the findings into policies for treating cancer patients.
There are several steps involved in becoming a qualified oncology nurse. The first one is to complete an undergraduate degree program and the requirements to become a registered nurse. To get certified as an oncology specialist, the nurse would take continuing education courses and get on-the-job experience working with cancer patients.
Nurse practitioners can also work in the field of oncology nursing. These health care professionals have completed the requirements for a Master's degree in nursing. Part of the requirements for getting certified as an oncology nurse practitioner is to complete several hundred hours of clinical work under the supervision of experienced staff members.
Some jurisdictions require that people who want to work in the field of oncology nursing be certified. Others suggest that cancer nurses be certified but do not require it. The professional organization in your jurisdiction can provide information about the requirements for your area.