How Do I Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

If you are caring, compassionate and detail-oriented, you may be wondering how to become an oncology nurse practitioner. Oncology nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals that provide specialty medical treatment to cancer patients. Oncology is the field of nursing and medical care dedicated to the diagnosis of cancer and the treatment of cancer patients. A nurse practitioner is a nurse with extensive schooling and experience that is qualified to perform primary or specialty medical care as well as nursing services. Like other types of nurses, oncology nurse practitioners find employment in healthcare facilities such as medical offices, home health care services and hospitals.

An oncology nurse practitioner can expect to spend time observing and recording physical conditions, such as vital signs and test results, of a cancer patient. In states where nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe medication, oncology nurse practitioners write prescriptions for patients to get the procedures and medication to help treat their illness. Oncology nurse practitioners help cancer patients devise approaches to cope with their symptoms. An oncology nurse practitioner also oversees chemotherapy treatments, manages the side effects associated with this treatment and educates patients and their loved ones about cancer and treatment options.

Working with cancer patients can be emotionally difficult, because oncology nurse practitioners develop relationships with patients that may undergo a great deal of pain and suffering. For many oncology nurse practitioners, though, the career is also emotionally rewarding. These compassionate care providers improve and even save the lives of cancer patients.

The first step to becoming an oncology nurse practitioner is becoming a registered nurse (RN). Some registered nurses begin their careers with only an associate’s degree, but others invest their time in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree early on. Registered Nurses should take the courses, clinical experience or continuing education training to learn about the intricacies of treating cancer so that they can become oncology nurse specialists. For nurses that have acquired a sufficient amount of experience, the next step is to earn certification as an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). Nurses who earn the advanced Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and have spent 500 hours practicing oncology in a clinical setting under appropriate supervision can seek state licensure as an advanced practice nurse (APN) and take the ONCC’s Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) certification exam.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates career opportunities for all nurses to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. This job outlook is significantly brighter for those in the field of nursing than the 14 percent average growth expected for all occupations. If you have the compassion and emotional stability to work with cancer patients and the detail-oriented organizational and critical thinking skills to provide first-rate medical and nursing care, knowing how to become an oncology nurse practitioner can help you begin a fulfilling career in the growing field of healthcare.

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