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Top Oncology Careers for Nurses

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Question:
Can you discuss oncology jobs for nurses? Are there jobs outside of hospital shift work? Do I need a BSN?

Answer:
As in other specialty fields, oncology, or cancer care, is a broad area. Many options exist for nurses to work along the continuum from prevention to rehabilitation. Nursing positions may involve the acute care hospital, but opportunities are abundant in the community and outpatient settings also. Lets look at some options to consider.

Prevention and screening programs

Nurses with expertise in health promotion and early intervention (usually BSN prepared) will be interested in targeting behaviors which are known to have links to the development of cancer. While disease is always multi-factorial in causation, behaviors such as tobacco use and sun exposure can be changed and minimized. Health education and eliminating barriers to change are components of these community health efforts. Nurses in primary care also include these topics in anticipatory guidance of well individuals.

Nurses are employed as well in targeted screening programs such as mammography and colonoscopy. LPNs and ADNs may work in prepping patients and aftercare, as well as assisting with procedures. Helping patients to complete these screening exams with minimal anxiety is important in gaining compliance with screening recommendations.

Diagnosis and treatment

During the diagnosis of cancer, patients and families are likely to be distraught and overwhelmed with information. Nurse navigators are RNs with BSN degrees. They have had experience working with cancer patients, and have attained oncology nursing certification. Nurse navigators serve as guides during this difficult time, explaining and coordinating information, services, and referrals.

Another highly specialized nursing role is the administration of chemotherapy agents in cancer centers. Nurses who administer chemo need both technical expertise and the ability to be compassionate listeners to patients undergoing treatment protocols. Radiation therapy, surgery, and bone marrow transplants are also treatment modalities that involve skilled nursing care.

Care of cancer survivors

Cancer survivors will continue to be followed in specialized centers for years to monitor for recurrences and complications associated with both their diagnosis and treatment. Nurses may be involved in genetic counseling and fertility concerns for cancer survivors. Counseling and support to patients with altered body integrity because of surgery such as amputations help survivors to adapt to the changes that a diagnosis of cancer has brought to their lives. Returning to an optimal state of health and wellness after cancer treatment is the goal of follow up nursing intervention.

Palliative Care

For those patients who have terminal illness, nurses with expertise in pain management, palliative care, and hospice services play a critically important role in managing end of life care.

Research

Cancer research is a top priority, and nurses are involved at many levels. Clinical nurses carry out established protocols, while advanced practice nurses (with MSN or doctoral-level degrees) are often involved in designing and implementing research studies.

An excellent resource for oncology nurses in any setting is the Oncology Nursing Society, which offers both continuing education and certification, as well as information on research and career development. Additionally, ONS has clinical practice material online on a variety of cancer care topics.

If you are interested in advancing your nursing career, look into some of the many RN-BSN programs now available, both online and through colleges in your community. Getting that BSN degree can open doors for more options and increased job satisfaction, whether in oncology nursing or another specialty.

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