Oncology Registered Nurses work with physicians and other members of the health care team to provide care for patients with cancer in a wide variety of settings such as hospitals and clinics. Oncology RN care for chronically or critically ill cancer patients. They administer chemotherapy, monitor their patient’s progress and implement new methods of symptom treatment. The RN must also create a supportive environment. Educating cancer patients about treatment options, procedures and particularities of the disease is a large portion of what the Oncology RN does. S/he must stay on top of modern advancements and new treatment methods constantly and be prepared to work with patients who have been diagnosed with life threatening conditions. Emotional stability is required in order to help patients and their families work through the treatment process and cope with the death of the patient should treatment fail.
It is said that nurses are the heart of health care. In particular the field of oncology nursing is probably one of the most rewarding and challenging fields in nursing. Oncology Registered Nurses are the ones who are there for the patient with cancer during the most intimate and difficult moments in their life. The RN is the one at the patient’s bedside, educating and encouraging them. They are the ones communicating with the physician, keeping the patient safe and coordinating the care. Nurses join the nursing profession for a reason. They are the caregivers, healers, and helpers of the world. When the RN chooses oncology as their work setting they must understand they will face many challenges. During the time when the patient needs help the RN is the one who will be there.
The Oncology RN specializes in caring for patients who have cancer. Oncology nurses are often the patient’s first line of communication and will help coordinate many aspects of patient care throughout the cancer treatments.
The Registered Nurse will perform many duties, some of which are:
- Review the patient’s health history
- Monitor and assess physical and emotional status of patient
- Record and analyze results of laboratory, imaging studies and pathology
- Administer medications, fluids, and cancer treatments safely.
- Collaborate with physicians and other health professionals about the treatment plan
- Educate the patient and family members about the disease, available treatment plans and possible side effects of the treatments
- Help interpret and explain to the patient and family members the complex medical terminology and answer their questions.
- Communicate with the physicians on the patient’s behalf and work as the patient advocate
- Help the patient plan for and manage symptoms throughout treatments
Oncology Registered Nurses can provide care in a variety of settings. These could be private practices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, long term care facilities and more. The scope of Oncology nursing reaches from prevention and early detection, to treatment, through symptom management and palliative care.
The Oncology Registered Nurse must have a cancer-specific base of knowledge and clinical expertise in care of cancer patients beyond what is acquired through a basic nursing program. Nurses will typically meet specific eligibility criteria and pass an exam to become oncology certified. Advanced certification requires a master’s degree or higher in nursing, many hours of supervised clinical practice and sometimes additional training.