Oncology NurseNurses work with patients to make them feel more comfortable and to improve their overall health, and some nursing students and those interested in nursing programs want to know if they can specialize a nursing degree in oncology. All nurses working in this specialized field have at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and some experience working with oncology patients. Before you enter a BSN program, give some thought to the things you need to do before working in this field.

What is an Oncology Nurse?

An oncology nurse is someone who works with cancer patients. Not only do they work with patients recently diagnosed with different forms of cancer, but they also work with patients in remission and those dealing with cancer that returns. Some oncology nurses also work with patients who have a family history of cancers and those with certain risk factors that may lead to cancer. They perform many of the same tasks as other nurses, including taking vital statistics and administering medications as needed. Nurses working in this field may also provide some counseling.

Where Does an Oncology Nurses Work?

The professionals working in this field often work in hospitals that specialize in the treatment of different cancers. They provide assistance to the doctors working on the cases and help patients when the doctor is unavailable to make an appointment. Oncology nurses also work in cancer treatment facilities. They meet with patients and their families after a recent diagnosis and ensure that everyone knows what the diagnosis means. Some oncology nurses also work for alternative treatment centers and help patients understand how alternative treatment methods work in comparison to traditional treatments.

Getting Certified

According to The Campaign for Nursing’s Future, which Johnson & Johnson operates, oncology nurses must obtain a BSN and work in the field before seeking certification. You’ll also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, which lets you work as a licensed nurse. After spending a minimum of one year working in the field and having a minimum of 1,000 hours of oncology experience, you can apply for your Oncology Nursing Certification. In addition to passing the test itself, you also need to successfully pass a background check that looks for any signs of criminal activity in your past.

Can You Specialize a Nursing Degree in Oncology?

If you want to specialize a nursing degree in oncology, you need to think about a graduate degree. There are only a few colleges in the country that offer a specialization in oncology at the undergraduate level, but you’ll find dozens of schools that offer oncology graduate degrees. The two years that you spend in the program include a residency or fieldwork requirement that lets you get hands on experience working with patients diagnosed with cancer and those going through cancer treatment. Many of these programs let you earn many of the required hours of field experience that you need prior to taking the oncology certification exam.

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Oncology nurses provide support to patients battling cancer, those dealing with the side effects of treatment and those in remission, but they also help support the family and loved ones of those patients. While you can specialize a nursing degree in oncology, you usually cannot specialize your degree until you finish your BSN and begin work at the graduate level.