Career Options for Oncology Nurses

Nurses are some of the most important caregivers a cancer patient will ever see. On hematology visits, nurses are often the first, the last, and maybe the only caregiver to see the patient. Oncology is a challenging field that offers a wide variety of career options for the right nurse. If you have decided to dedicate your life to helping cancer patients manage their disease and hopefully recover, here are some of your options:

Registered Nurses 

RNs are by far the most common type of nurse and also the ones that will see the cancer patient most often. RNs provide a wide variety of care and expertise along with a health dose of compassion and personal support. RNs are the professionals responsible for administering chemotherapy and medication, changing dressing, monitoring vital signs and blood work, and offering the education and caring that the patients and their families need. RNs working in oncology can be found in clinics, offices, hospitals, treatment rooms, or as part of home care services. To work as an RN, you will need a two-year nursing degree at minimum. Alternatively, you may choose to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which takes four years.

Advanced Practice Nurses

APNs are nursing professionals who hold a master’s or doctoral level degree in nursing. This enhanced education brings additional responsibilities. In oncology centers, APNs may work independently or as part of a physician’s team. APNs perform many of the same duties as a physician. They may assess a patient’s physical condition or medical history, develop a plan for treatment, and prescribe medication. APNs may also choose to become nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. Those who choose to become a CNS must complete advanced education in a specialized field, including oncology.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists are nurses who have completed highly specialized training in the administration of anesthesia. These skilled professionals work with, or under the direction of, an anesthesiologist. Nurse anesthetists can work with oncologists in providing surgical procedures.

Nurse Navigators

Many cancer centers have a nurse navigator on staff. Although the job description can vary greatly, the overall goal is to help cancer patients and their families navigate the complexities of the healthcare system. Nurse navigators often provide education, help access outside resources, arrange services with other medical personnel, or help with simpler tasks like organizing transportation to treatments and helping locate a wig. Nurse navigators are a vital resource for cancer patients who are moving to outpatient care.