Hi everyone, welcome to our interactive and well-researched Oncology Nurse Practitioner Career guide!
This article will discuss everything you need to know before delving into the Oncology Nurse Practitioner field of Nursing.
After carefully reading this detailed and informative article, you will have understood the steps you need to take to become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner.
Here are few things you will learn in this article:
Let’s get started right away!
What is an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?
An Oncology Nurse Practitioner is an individual who gives thorough care and guidance to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Thus, as an Oncology NP, you’re to take care of these patients as well as give needed support to their families.
You also work with other healthcare professionals in evaluating a patient’s condition, determining and administering appropriate medications to be used, giving remedial treatments, following up on the patient’s recovery, and minimizing the side effects of meds in a variety of settings.
Oncology Nursing dates back to the mid-19th century when Oncology Nurses take part in surgery as the only therapeutic agent against cancer.
However, more is now involved in your duties as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner.
Given the numerous curative approach available to cancer patients, your functions and duties as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner range from carrying out diligent investigations, educating the public on cancer care and prevention, and performing screening exercises.
They also provide palliative care as an Advanced Practice Provider, monitor patients’ health in cancer centers, serve as Gynecological Oncology Healthcare Providers, perform executive duties related to patient care to enlighten patients and their families on treatment procedures, and provide cancer care in an Outpatient Clinic.
As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you can work in a Physician or a Physician Assistant, a private home, infirmary, oncology center, assisted living facility, or Nursing home.
Oncology is a sub-specialization for Nurse Practitioners, still as an Advanced Practice Oncology Nurse, there are various other sections of your profession that you can choose to specialize in, these are:
- Oncology specialty
- Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer
- Hospice care
- Gynecological specialty
- Cancer Genetic risk assessment
- Breast Cancer
- Stem cell transplant
Yearly, millions of individuals are diagnosed with cancer in the United States.
Yet, the Centre for Disease Control records a progressive 27% decrease in the cancer death toll.
Unfortunately, though, apart from the heart-related cause of death, cancer is another major cause of death.
This record indicates an alarming need for Oncology Nurse Practitioners – Registered Nurse Practitioners in the Oncology Specialty who have been certified as a source of credibility to their practice.
Duties of an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Depending on the work setting, as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you are to evaluate, identify specific oncologic conditions, and administer treatment to these patients.
You may need to request specific drugs such as chemotherapy, based on your assessment of the patient’s symptoms as well as tests carried out.
Also, you will work cooperatively with a group of healthcare professionals to make sure your assessment of the patient is accurate as well as proper therapy is carried out.
As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you may also need to keep track of the therapy given to ascertain how well your patient is accepting it if there’s any notable aftereffect, and respond to whatever inquiries he/she may have.
You may also give palliative or comfort care in certain situations.
As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you must communicate regularly with Nurses to make sure your patient receives adequate treatments.
As mentioned repeatedly, what you do depends largely on your work setting and the part of oncology you specialize in.
Nevertheless, as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, these are some of the roles:
- Administer treatment to oncology patients
- Maintain constant communication with previous and present healthcare givers
- Engage in quality oncology research plans
- Specify drugs and accompanying treatments to be given
- Supervise intravenous (IV) therapy
- Request, execute, and clarify analytical reports (such as x-rays and laboratory tests)
- Keep an accurate medical record
- Inform patients and their families about the therapeutic process and forestalling measures
- Request particular medications such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Initiate pain control procedures
- Physically evaluate and thoroughly examine the patient’s health background
How to Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
The first step you need to take to become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner is to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), even if you’ve acquired an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).
A Bachelor’s Degree is a compulsory requirement to start any graduate program.
Considering the number of years it’ll take to be an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, it is advisable you commence your BSN Program on time so that it won’t slow you down from applying for the Nursing Practitioner Courses.
You will find a detailed list of steps to take in becoming an Oncology Nurse Practitioner below, but first, you need to be a Registered Nurse (RN):
1. Graduate from an accredited Nursing program and obtain your BSN
To get your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you can either acquire an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) first, then go after your RN-to-BSN or outrightly commence your BSN Programs in an approved Nursing institution.
2. Pass NCLEX-RN and apply for licensure
After obtaining your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you should put in for and excel in the NCLEX-RN.
After which you’re eligible to request state licensure through the Board of Nursing in your state.
3. Gain oncology experience
Acquiring experience is highly beneficial to you even though it’s not a requirement to apply for Major Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs.
As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner gaining years of experience, or what professionals call oncology experience.
It will help also forms part of your credentials which puts you in the frontline for acceptance into a Nursing program.
It will also be useful whenever you intend to get other certifications.
4. Apply for an Accredited NP Program
You should carefully go through the demands of the NP School you wish to apply to, before enrolling or accepting a program.
After you have carefully gone through the demands of a particular institution and ensured you meet up, you can then apply to the school and wait to be accepted.
5. Graduate from an accredited Nurse Practitioner Program
In this stage, you could graduate with a common specialty like adult care, children/adolescent care(pediatrics), or family practice.
Major Nurse Practitioner (NP) positions would usually demand that you take the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) Exam to validate your understanding of and expertise in Oncology Nursing.
You could also obtain an oncology-based post-graduate certification to attest to your knowledge and capability in oncology some schools however offer alternative programs for Oncology Nurse Practitioners as you will see in subsequent paragraphs.
6. Pass your Board Certification Exam and obtain state licensure as a Certified NP
The next step to take after you finish your graduate programs is to sit for and excel in specific certification exams in line with the program you finished.
You will be eligible to apply for state licensure as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the state where you practice after you excel in the certification exam.
Be sure to meet the demands of the State Board of Nursing to get your license.
Also to receive your NP license, your RN license must be in good standing.
You will use both of these licenses throughout your career as a practicing Nurse.
You can find additional information on your State Board of Nursing website.
7. Obtain an Oncology-related Certifications
Various places of employment have demands concerning the certificate type.
You should therefore get the required certificate, as soon as you’re employed.
The majority of organizations and private establishments demand that you have additional education before working as an Oncology NP.
Nine out of ten, the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AONCP) – more details are given below – certificate will be asked of you.
8. Lastly, you may obtain your DNP if you choose
As a Nurse Practitioner (NP) you can obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree after you finish your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program.
Being the highest form of degree in Nursing, If you have a DNP you’ll have increased chances of being employed in the best healthcare organizations as well as an increased income.
You can work as a healthcare giver, take the lead in certain projects or be an instructor at a university.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner Programs
If you want to be an Oncology Nurse Practitioner and you already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you can participate in 2 types of Nurse Practitioner Programs either in person or online.
If you already possess your Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) and want to apply straightaway for the NP program at the graduate level, the MSN-NP is for you.
It is a general choice for Nurse Practitioner Programs.
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is required for this program.
As a Nurse, if your goal is to be a part of research teams or work in conventional sectors then you should take the Doctorate Nurse Practitioner Program.
It enables you to continuously meet the demands of an NP as well as receive your Doctorate Nurse Practitioner (DNP).
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is required for this program.
Post-graduate Certificate Programs
You can check for schools offering Post-Graduate Certification Programs if you wish to specialize in Oncology after obtaining your NP degree.
You must have a master’s degree and possess an MSN or qualification in any other focus to participate in a post-grad certificate program.
You will be awarded the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) if you’re qualified.
This means that, of the below-mentioned paths, you fully meet up with the demands of one.
The certification will be given to you by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).
Oncology Certification Exam
Here are other things you should know concerning the Exam:
- It is a multiple-choice exercise with 165 questions and you are given to 3hours to complete it
- You are to pay for ONS/APHON membership, a sum of $296
- If you’re not a member, you would pay a sum of $416
Below is an analysis of the exam:
- About 35% of the exam is on cancer prevention, diagnosis, effects, the different stages, and subsequent treatment
- 45% focuses on basic Cancer treatment and Cancer Treatment and follow-up care
- Another 10% will be based on life-threatening cancer cases
- 5% of the exam is focused on psychopathology
- The last 5% is focused on your skills and roles as an APRN
You can readily practice as an Oncology Nurse with just your BSN and some extra training in the field.
Still, if you choose to participate in an additional graduate program for Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse professionals which makes you an AONCP you will have an in-depth understanding of cancer diagnosis, various remedial procedures, and management.
This makes you an expert in your field.
Oncology is a subspecialty in most educational programs with different focuses.
As a Nurse Practitioner, you can take Adult Oncology as a subspecialty in some MSN-Adult (Adult geriatrics) Nurse Practitioner Programs.
Also, you can sub-specialize in pediatrics as an Oncology NP in some MSN-Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs.
You can as well focus basically on Oncology in MSN-Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs.
You can also take MSN Programs that focus on Oncology for Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS).
If you are a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or CNS who wants to subspecialize in Oncology, you can take a Post-master’s Oncology Certificate Program.
You can obtain a DNP, a Ph.D., or DNSc with a focus on Oncology.
Below is a bulleted list of what you should expect in the NP and CNS Oncology graduate-level programs:
- Procedures for evaluating cancer risk in people – as a family or as individuals
- Different methods of forestalling, examining, and improving health against cancer
- Ways of analyzing and caring for cancers generally
- How to examine cancer patients, the rate of development, and aftereffects of remedial procedures
- To deal with various religious, cultural, and lifestyle choices of cancer patients and their families as you help them cope with the different phases and realistic results of cancer
- To work collaboratively with a healthcare team, families, and Caregivers in providing end-of-life care to cancer patients
Adult Oncology Certification
If you want to obtain certification – any of the three types – as an Adult Oncology Nurse, you would need to have an unlimited and functional RN license.
This is a requirement of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).
Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN)
- this certification is meant for you if you do not have a graduate degree as an RN but has acquired a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical work experience as an Adult Oncology Nurse within the last 2 and a half years before applying
You should also have no less than 10 continuing education hours in nursing or take an alternative course in Oncology within the last 3years before applying.
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)
- to obtain this certification you must have had no less than 500 hours of monitored clinical work experience in Oncology, finished an approved Nurse Practitioner Program, and must have earned an MSN or higher degree from a recognized institution
Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS):
- this certification demands that you also have a minimum of 500 hours of advanced monitored work experience (either part-time or full-time) in Adult Medical Oncology and an MSN or higher degree from a recognized college
If as an RN you wish to specialize in breast health, the ONCC awards you the Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN) Specialty certification.
Before now, the ONCC awards qualified individuals the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN) Certification.
This certification exam has been discontinued but that does not nullify the certification if you already have it, you can still renew it.
Pediatric Oncology Certification
You can also obtain the Certified Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Nurse (CPHON) Certification from the ONCC if you meet up with these requirements:
- You must possess a recent, functional, and unlimited license as an RN
- As an RN, you must have acquired a minimum of a year of clinical work experience during the last 3years before applying
- You should have had no less than 1,000 hours of Pediatric Oncology or Hematology Nursing clinical practice within the last 2½ years before applying for the certification
- You also have a minimum of 10 hours of continuing in-person Nursing education or an alternative course in Oncology Nursing within the last 3 years before applying
Before now you can obtain the Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPN) Certification from the ONCC, but the exam for this certification has been discontinued.
Still, if you already have this certification as a Nurse you can renew it.
As a Pediatric NP, you can also obtain the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) either as a Primary Care Provider CPNP, or Acute Care CPNP.
Another path is to obtain the PNP-BC Certification in Primary Care from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Required skills to Succeed as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
The importance of teamwork cannot be tossed aside.
As an Oncology NP, you must work collaboratively with the interdisciplinary team to provide adequate care and treatment to patients.
As the name implies “interdisciplinary”, the team includes a group of different services and specialties for day-patients these may include physiotherapy, Primary Care, surgery, occupational therapy, and diet/nutrition amongst others.
For convalescent/inpatients, you may need to work with more Specialists depending on the type of cancer, what part of the body it is found, and what exhibited symptoms.
As an Oncology NP, you should ensure a smooth flow of information among “all” members of the interdisciplinary team, concerning the patient’s care.
You should have specific professional aspirations as an Oncology NP and pursue them.
This will enable you to progress in your career.
Just like many organizations, you would be assessed at specific intervals to determine your advancement in the profession.
As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you must be updated on recent healthcare procedures.
This will enable you to give reasonable top-quality medical care to patients.
You must also be proficient and be able to make critical decisions when providing adequate clinical care to cancer patients.
As an Oncology NP, accountability is another important skill you ought to possess.
This means that you should be able to properly give the cost of treatments received by a patient and be prudent in using available provisions.
You should be able to ease patients’ monetary burden by providing them with the necessary information that can help with the costs of appointments, laboratory tests, and remedial processes.
As an Oncology NP, you should aim at providing steady best-quality care to patients.
This requires that you stay up-to-date on recent regulations and measures to be taken in delivering exclusive care to patients.
To succeed at this, you must work cooperatively with your interdisciplinary team.
Not everyone can qualify to become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner but an Oncology NP can come from anywhere.
Take some time to go over the educational requirements once again and determine if it is a career you are cut out for.
Finally, review the needed skills section to see if you really have a shot at it.
No matter what career you later choose, we want to see you succeed in your chosen career.