Career Profile: Oncology NurseMay 13, 2016
Oncology nurses play a significant role in the healthcare team. They work in all aspects of cancer care, from screening and detection to treatment, management of symptoms, education, and counselling. They also offer supportive services to cancer survivors and end-of-life-care to cancer patients suffering from a more aggressive form of the disease.
The responsibilities of oncology nurses go beyond direct patient care. Because of the persistent nature of the disease, the duties of an oncology nurse are quite different from nurses working in other areas.
In caring for patients, an oncology nurse will often play the role of caregiver, counsellor, manager and patient educator, all at once. They work hand-in-hand with physicians and coordinate with other members of the healthcare team to ensure the best quality of care for their patients.
Some of the duties and responsibilities of an oncology nurse include:
- Recognising and identifying cancer symptoms and cancer-related issues.
- Creating customised care plans for patients.
- Watching and recording the patient progress.
- Collaborating with a team of healthcare professionals to share relevant knowledge and expertise.
- Administering medication, chemotherapy and other treatment as advised by the oncologist.
- Charting the patient’s response to administered medication and treatment.
- Keeping updated medical records to ensure continuity of care across the multi-disciplinary team that is responsible for each patient.
- Organising relevant referrals to dieticians, social workers, and other appropriate professionals to ensure the patient receives comprehensive care.
- Educating patients and their families on treatment expectations.
- Providing patients and their families with supportive resources that help encourage a positive outlook.
Oncology nurses are responsible for managing not just the symptoms of a patient’s disease but also the side effects of various cancer treatments. They play a key role in supporting the patient throughout their cancer journey, for which compassion and strong interpersonal skills are essential attributes.
Education & Training
Oncology nursing is an advanced nursing specialty. To become an oncology nurse, you will have to complete a three-year Bachelor of Nursing degree and hold an active registered nurse (RN) license. Then, you will then need to enrol in advanced study to obtain a Graduate Diploma in Nursing Science (Oncology). These programmes provide advanced theoretical knowledge and skills in oncology nursing and are carefully designed to prepare RNs to work with cancer patients and their families.
The goal of most graduate diploma programs is to enhance nurses’ knowledge of cancer disease progression, develop knowledge of advanced cancer treatments and outcomes and improve nurses’ clinical skills particularly in areas where technology is continuously being updated. All graduate diploma programmes give student oncology nurses an in-depth knowledge of fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, as these are three of the most common side effects of cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy.
An Oncology nurse will work in a wide variety of settings from inpatient wards and private oncology clinics to the community and bone marrow transplant units. They may work with patients of all ages, from infants and teenagers to the elderly.
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.