Oncology Nursing Certification – Overview
Cancer has unfortunately become quite common today. Most people know more than one person who has suffered, or is suffering from, cancer.
Youngsters who wish to do something in the field end up becoming an oncologist or oncology nurses. This branch of medicine deals with the diagnoses and treatment of cancer.
In this article, we have listed the requirements, eligibility criteria, application process and other relevant details for those planning to pursue an oncology nursing certification.
What is an Oncology Nurse?
In simple words, oncology nurses care for patients who are diagnosed with cancer. Apart from caring for patients, these nurses also offer counseling and support to the patient’s caregivers and family.
As an oncology nurse, you can make a significant impact on the patient and their family’s lives. This is one of the most admired and sought-after career paths in nursing today.
It offers an incredible learning experience, has attractive monetary rewards and ensures excellent professional growth.
Working as an oncology nurse, you can form strong and meaningful relationships with patients and your peers, subordinates and doctors.
What does an Oncology Nurse do?
The level of education and training determines the specific responsibilities of an oncology nurse.
Some of these professionals are Registered Nurses (RNs) while others have more advanced qualifications, such as Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRNs).
Nurses with an oncology certification who have earned APRNs are also called “Oncology Nurse Practitioners”.
Oncology nurses are responsible for caring for patients, families and the community. Some of the major aspects of an oncology nurse’s responsibilities include:
#1. Cancer screening
#2. Cancer education
#3. Cancer prevention
#4. Nursing management
#5. Nursing navigation
#6. Direct patient care
Apart from this, oncology nurses can also specialize in different areas, such as:
#3. Bone marrow transplantation
#4. Surgical oncology
#5. Breast oncology
#6. Genetic counseling
#7. Chemotherapy / Infusion
#8. Gynecologic oncology
#9. Radiation oncology
What are the skills required to become an Oncology Nurse?
In any healthcare profession, soft skills matter a lot. However, these skills become incredibly vital in oncology.
According to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the skills required to become a successful oncology nurse include:
#1. Communication skills – Oncology nurses need excellent communication skills.
#2. Critical thinking skills – These skills help nurses to assess changes in the patient’s condition.
#3. Compassion – Oncology nurses need to be extra compassionate and have significant empathy.
#4. Emotional stability – This is highly effective when dealing regularly with critically ill patients.
#5. Physical stamina – This is necessary as patients often need help to move or walk.
What are the Requirements to Become an Oncology Nurse?
There are several different ways to become an Oncology Nurse in the US.
At the least, you must be a qualified Registered Nurse (RN) with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
Some candidates also choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to further advance their nursing education.
Once you have earned your degree, you will need to undertake the NCLEX-RN Licensing Exam.
This is a nationally recognized licensure managed by the National Council of State Boards for Nursing (NCSBN). Once you successfully pass the NCLEX, you can seek admission into an oncology specialization program.
Different states have different rules regulating oncology programs. Remember, you may not be allowed to work everywhere, even if you receive your oncology nurse certification.
Hence, you must check your state’s specific rules and regulations regarding oncology nurse certification.
You can choose to contact either the NCSBN or the American Nurses Association (ANA) to resolve any queries.
What are the Requirements for an Oncology Nurse Program?
If you plan to pursue an oncology nurse program or a degree, the specific admission criteria will depend on the nursing school you attend. Some of the most common prerequisites to becoming an Oncology Nurse include:
#1. Minimum ACT or SAT scores
#2. Average 2.5 to 3.5 GPA
#3. Excellent scores in English, Maths and Science
#4. Passing score in TOEFL (if English is the second language)
Apart from these, some less common requirements to become an oncology nurse in the US include having:
#1. A statistics course
#2. Essays and personal statements
#3. Letters of recommendation
What are the Steps to Becoming an Oncology Nurse?
Before you seek to acquire certification or specialization, you need to complete a program to become a Registered Nurse (RN) first.
There are three main ways to become an RN in the US. Each of these ways requires a different amount of time and dedication.
When choosing a nursing school, make sure to select the one which provides oncology nurse training or oncology nurse course at least.
You may also find numerous nursing colleges with specialty programs, so you will need to do a little bit of research.
Now, let’s check the steps to becoming an Oncology Nurse:
Step 1 – Acquire an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
If you choose to enter into an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program then you will need to spend a couple of years in nursing school.
This associate’s degree lets you enter employment sooner and is also less expensive than pursuing a BSN degree.
According to the Nurse Journal, the average expense of acquiring an associate degree in nursing is around US$ 31,000.
There are numerous community colleges and vocational schools that offer ADN programs.
These courses cover topics like physiology, anatomy, microbiology, applied managerial statistics and lifespan development. However, an associate degree has a restricted career scope, as compared to a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
With increasing competition in the healthcare industry, employers are hiring candidates with a BSN, instead of an associate degree holder.
Step 2 – Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)
Acquiring a higher-level nursing degree also opens opportunities for working in a higher position in the healthcare industry.
Getting a BSN can lead to a fulfilling career and is an excellent way for RNs to advance their nursing careers.
To put it simply, getting a BSN will give you the additional skillset and knowledge required to work in the increasingly complex healthcare industry.
Most students earn their BSN degree in 2 to 3 years. The majority of BSN programs can be seen in universities and vocational schools. The cost of enrolling in a BSN program varies between different nursing schools.
Step 3 – Get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree
If you plan to enroll in an oncology nurse practitioner program, then you should also consider getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
You also need an MSN degree if you want to later enroll in a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist specialization program, also called the Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).
According to BLS reports, APRNs need to have licenses as RNs in their state, apart from having passed the national certification exam.
As an oncology nurse, you can expect to earn an average annual salary between US$ 50,800 and US$ 106,530.
An oncology nursing certification is extremely important if you seek employment at the higher echelons of the oncology department.
This certification program is essential to learn the skills and knowledge required to assist oncologists in diagnosing and treatment of cancer patients.