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Shedding Light on Oncology Nursing

Working as an oncology nurse is incredibly rewarding, a job where you make a huge impact in the life of those going through the treatment of cancer. However, the nature of the care you provide can be very emotional and professional taxing.

How Important Oncology Nurses are

Oncology nurses are often responsible for the administration of chemotherapy drugs to patients.  They must be educated on safe handling, cytotoxic spills and management of allergic reactions.  The oncology nurse may be responsible for following the medical oncologist’s prescriptions, ensuring the correct drug dose is administered to the correct patient via the correct route.

In addition, they often must manage both the symptoms of a patient’s disease and the side effects of a patient’s various cancer treatments. An oncology nurse would be working directly with patients who have undergone chemotherapy, as a result you must be familiar with the common side-effects and be proficient in knowing how to treat them appropriately. What this means is an extensive understanding of nausea, vomiting and fatigue, as these are three of the most common side effects of cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy.

As an Oncology nurse you must be compassionate with strong interpersonal skills.  Part of the role is to listen to the emotional concerns and anxieties of the patient and refer them appropriately if needed.

Every healthcare setting will have different entry requirements, but as a rule, the minimum selection criteria for oncology nurses in the UK is:

  • First level nurse registration
  • Five year’s post-registration clinical experience: two of which must have been in cancer, palliative care or a speciality area
  • Degree in a related subject
  • Evidence of specialist learning related to the subject area, or an intention to work towards specialist learning.
  • Nurses applying for oncology positions may also have experience of working in community care. Practical nursing experience is just as valuable as formal study when preparing for a career in oncology.

Best parts about oncology nursing

  • Helping to make a hard thing a little less difficult
  • Building ongoing relationships with patients
  • Perspective about what’s important
  • Patients who come back and visit
  • Helping patients make the most of the life they have
  • Many oncology nurse jobs offer standard “office hours”

In the last decade or so, most of the chemo and biotherapy infusion has moved to outpatient centre. So, for nurses looking to get away from long, round-the-clock shifts, oncology nursing could be a great option.  

By becoming an oncology nurse, you can make a real difference to those whose lives are affected by cancer: approximately 1 in 2 people born in the UK after 1960, according to recent statistics. You get to provide a continuity of care which is difficult to achieve in other forms or nursing while helping patients through the challenging process of accepting and treating their cancer diagnosis.