Oncology nursing

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This nurse is well protected against occupational hazards of exposure to chemotherapy agents: she is using a laminar flow cabinet, wearing gown, gloves, goggles and long sleeves.

An oncology nurse is a specialized nurse who cares for cancer patients. These nurses require advanced certifications and clinical experiences in oncology further than the typical baccalaureate nursing program provides. Oncology nursing care can be defined as meeting the various needs of oncology patients during the time of their disease including appropriate screenings and other preventive practices, symptom management, care to retain as much normal functioning as possible, and supportive measures upon end of life.[1]


United States[edit]

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers several different options for board certification in oncological nursing.[2] Certification is a voluntary process and ensures that a nurse has proper qualifications and knowledge of a specialty area and has kept up-to-date in his or her education.

The ONCC offers eight options for certification:[3]

  • Basic:
    • OCN: Oncology Certified Nurse
    • CPON: Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse
    • CPHON: Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse
  • Specialty:
    • BMTCN: Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse
    • CBCN: Certified Breast Care Nurse
  • Advanced:
    • AOCN: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
    • AOCNP: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
    • AOCNS: Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist

Certification is granted for four years, after which it must be renewed by taking a recertification test or by earning a certain number of continuing education credits.

To become certified, nurses must have an RN license, meet specific eligibility criteria for nursing experience and specialty practice, and must pass a multiple-choice test.

For the advanced AOCNP and AOCNS certifications, a nurse must have a master's degree or higher in nursing and a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice of oncology nursing. The AOCNP certification also requires successful completion of an accredited nurse practitioner program.


Oncology nurses, like any Registered Nurse have a large variety of settings they can work in. Oncology nurses can work inpatient settings such as hospitals, outpatient settings, in hospice services, or in physician offices. There are a variety of specialties such as radiation, surgery, pediatric, or gynecologic. Oncology nurses have advanced knowledge of assessing the client's status and from this assessment will help the multi-disciplinary medical team to develop a treatment plan.[4]


The nurse must also educate the patient on their condition, its side effects, its treatment plan, and how to prevent possible complications. This education should be done effectively throughout the treatment of the disease, according to the teaching style that best suits the particular patient.[5] According to the Oncology Nursing Standards, the patient or caregivers for the patient should understand the state of the disease and the therapy used at their education level, understand the therapy schedule and when it is being used, be involved in decisions regarding their own care, and state interventions for serious side effects and complications of the disease and intervention.[6]


Nurses must be able to manage the many side effects associated with cancer and the treatment. Nurses must have extensive knowledge of pharmacological and nonpharmacological nursing interventions, and when they are appropriate to use.[7]


Oncology nurses must have appropriate training in the administration, handling, side effects, and dosing of chemotherapy. Each institution will have its own policies for various chemotherapy drugs to ensure adequate training and for prevention of errors.[7] The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) and Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offer a Chemotherapy/Biotherapy training course available to any oncology nurse to ensure the safe administration and management of side effects of chemotherapy and biotherapy agents. This course consists of 16 contact hours. This certification needs to be renewed after two years.[8]


  1. ^ Ferrell, B; Virani, R; Smith, S; Juarez, G (2003). "The role of oncology nursing to ensure quality care for cancer survivors: a report commissioned by the national cancer policy board and institute of medicine". Oncology Nursing Forum. 30 (1): E1–E11. doi:10.1188/03.ONF.E1-E11. PMID 12515992.
  2. ^ "Information for Employers & Advocates". 29 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Oncology Nursing Certifications". 3 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Statement on the scope and standards of oncology nursing practice". American Nurses Association and the Oncology Nursing Society. 1996. Retrieved 3 December 2017.[dead link]
  5. ^ Padberg, R.M.; Padberg, L.F. (2003). "Patient education and support". Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 5: 1609–1631.
  6. ^ Oncology Nursing Society (1997). Statement on the scope and standards of advanced practice in oncology nursing. Oncology Nursing Press.
  7. ^ a b Rieger, P.T.; Yarbro, C.H. (2003). "Role of the Oncology Nurse". Holland-Frei Cancer Medicine. 6. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  8. ^ "ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate Course".

External links[edit]

Media related to Oncology nursing at Wikimedia Commons