Oncological Nurses


Exploring this Job

You can explore your interest in the nursing field in a number of ways. You can read books about famous nurses (such as Clara Barton, Elizabeth Fry, or Florence Nightingale) or books on careers in nursing. You might also talk with your school's career services office, school nurse, or other nurses in your community about the career. You can also visit hospitals to observe the work of nurses.

Some hospitals now have extensive volunteer service programs in which students can work after school, on weekends, or during vacations. You can find other volunteer work experiences with the Red Cross or community health services. Camp counseling jobs sometimes offer related experiences. Some schools offer participation in Future Nurses programs.

To learn more about the specialty of oncology nursing, visit Web sites of associations such as the American Cancer Society (https://www.cancer.org), and talk with oncology nurses about the career. Additionally, the Oncology Nursing Society offers helpful career resources at its Web site, https://www.ons.org/develop-your-career.

The Job

Because cancer treatment and care differ considerably depending on the facilities and the type of cancer, oncological nurses' job responsibilities vary greatly. Basic duties of most oncological nurses include assessing patients' physical and emotional needs and medical histories; managing patient symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and pain; working with physicians, radiation therapists, and other medical professionals during the cancer diagnosis and treatment process; and counseling the patient all along the way through diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up procedures. 

It is also important for oncological nurses to keep up on current research, treatments, and other advances with the disease. Nurses who administer drugs and other types of treatment must be aware of the changes in dosages, equipment, and side effects.

Caring for patients with cancer can be an emotional experience. Nurses must be aware of the psychological aspects of this type of nursing. They also need to know the effects that this disease can have on the patients, families, and friends. They should be prepared to provide care for patients who have a terminal illness.

There are so many treatment choices available for cancer patients today that the nurse needs to be an educator as well as a caregiver. The nurse must help the patients receive the best possible care and also respect their wishes. You need to be a patient advocate and know the difference between giving them information and advising them.