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Oncological Nurse Job Description, Career as a Oncological Nurse, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training:— Degree in nursing and advanced training in oncology.

Salary: Median— $61,463 annually

Employment Outlook:— Good

Oncological nurses handle patients who have, or are at the risk of developing cancer. They act as educators, administrators, and researchers in the field of cancer treatment, detection, and prevention. They also provide palliative and rehabilitative care. Oncological nurses may specialize in the fields of radiation therapy, hematology, chemotherapy, head and neck oncology, gynecologic oncology, pediatric oncology, symptom management, and surgical oncology.

Oncological nurses are primarily responsible for providing chemotherapy and treating its side effects in cancer patients, managing cancer related symptoms, and creating a positive environment for the chronically or critically ill patients. As managers and administrators, they make the settings conducive to the treatment of cancer.

Education and Training Requirements

Most oncological nurses are registered nurses (RNs). In order to first become a RN, one needs to complete either the Associate of Science in Nursing, or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, or a diploma in nursing. While the degree programs are available in colleges, the diploma programs are offered by hospitals. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is available to those who have undergraduate degrees. On completion of the course, nurses can take the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). They become RNs after they pass this test.

Oncological nurses generally obtain further certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. Certificates are offered in oncology, pediatric oncology, and advanced oncology, at the practitioner and clinical specialist levels. This certification remains valid for 4 years and must be renewed by passing a test or earning a predetermined number of credits in medical education. The advanced certificates require candidates to possess a MSN or higher degree and supervised oncology nursing practice of at least 500 hours.

Getting the Job

Most oncological nurses commence their careers as practical nurses or nursing aides. The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses offers information regarding suitable job openings for oncological nurses. Employment opportunities in hospitals and healthcare facilities are also advertised in job sites on the Internet and the classified sections of newspapers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Oncological nurses are promoted on the basis of experience and certifications. They may be appointed as unit managers and head nurses. Over time, oncological nurses can also become assistant director, director, and chief nurse. Those who wish to take up faculty positions in educational institutes, or wish to return to academics, can opt for doctoral degrees in nursing.

Job opportunities in the field of oncology nursing are expected to grow by 23% in the next decade. However, the employment of oncological nurses depends on the setting and the geographic location. For instance, although hospitals are the largest employers in this sector, their growth rate is expected to be slower in comparison to that of outpatient care centers and offices of physicians. Similarly, there will be a greater demand for nurses willing to work in rural settings. In addition, developments in the field of medical technology will enhance the demand for trained personnel who can operate sophisticated equipment.

Working Conditions

Oncological nurses usually work in sterilized and well-lit environments. Though they work a regular 40-hour week, nurses have to make themselves available whenever there is an emergency. Most hospitals are understaffed and working overtime is a standard practice. Since oncological nurses work with cancer patients, they have to observe stringent medical norms. Like all other nurses, they deal with potentially dangerous compounds and are susceptible to injuries.

Oncological nurses witness a lot of suffering and often have to handle patients who suffer from unrelieved pain. The job can be physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. However, most nurses derive satisfaction from caring for terminally ill patients.

Where to Go for More Information

p .Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
125 Enterprise Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15275

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
111 East Wacker Drive, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60601-4277

Oncology Nursing Society
125 Enterprise Drive, RIDC Park West
Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1214

Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses
4700 W. Lake Avenue
Glenview, IL 60025-1485

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

As per the data of April 2009, the median annual salary for oncological nurses in the United States is $61,463. Entry level salaries are usually around $35,000 per year, while experienced oncological nurses may earn up to $125,000 annually. Certified nurses have better pay packages in comparison to their non-certified colleagues.

Oncological nurses have the benefit of sick leaves, paid vacations, social security, healthcare insurance, and pension plans. Those working part-time enjoy flexible work hours.

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