Oncology Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
It’s estimated that over one-third of all men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer at some point in their lives, and oncology nurses represent the front line in their care.
Oncology nurses are in short supply — the demand for oncology nurses is expected to grow as the national nursing shortage increases and more patients are diagnosed with some form of cancer. This means oncology travel nurses will be in even greater demand, as cancer centers and hospitals, physician’s offices and clinics, home care agencies, rehabilitation facilities and hospices across the country increasingly look for help with their own staffing challenges.
What is an Oncology Nurse?
Oncology nurses are registered nurses who collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals in caring for patients diagnosed with cancer. Because cancer can take many different forms it often requires varying levels of care. Some patients have chronic forms of the disease requiring years of careful management and monitoring, while others have highly aggressive malignancies that move quickly, cause great pain, and require critical care and compassionate support.
The scope of care provided by oncology RNs goes beyond basic nursing practice to the specialized needs demanded by each patient’s individual diagnosis and condition — from the most common to the rarest forms of the disease.
Cancer is a progressive disease, and oncology nurses provide different types of care as their patients advance through the illness’ various stages.
Oncology nurse responsibilities include:
- Screening and preventive care
- Patient education
- Symptom management and dealing with treatment side effects
- Quality of life support
- End-of-life care
Many oncology nurses choose a specific type of cancer in which to specialize: breast cancer care and pediatric oncology are popular choices. Some choose to work in genetic counseling and risk assessment while others provide long-term follow-up for those who are in remission.
Oncology nurses can choose the work setting that best meets their needs and interests, as cancer care is provided in acute care hospitals and specialty cancer centers, private physicians’ offices and radiation therapy facilities. The skills that oncology nurses possess are needed by home healthcare agencies and community clinics, in rehabilitation facilities and pediatric oncology facilities. Each of these types of care facilities make extensive use of oncology travel nurses to support and supplement their staff.
Oncology nursing is a field that requires internal strength and compassion.
Patients who have been diagnosed with the disease face numerous physical and emotional challenges, and nurses are frequently the healthcare professionals with whom they spend the most time. Oncology nurses are frequently the source of both information and support for the patient and their families, in addition to providing for patients’ physical needs. Oncology nurses play a role at every point of cancer patient care.
Oncology Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications and Professional Groups
Oncology nursing requires highly specific training focused on the many aspects of cancer treatment and care.
The minimum educational requirement for a career in oncology nursing is certification as a registered nurse. Though a two-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) is acceptable, it is generally considered preferable to earn a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and then to pursue additional certifications in oncology. Many nurses pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree allowing them to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specializing in oncology.
If an RN or APRN is interested in becoming certified in oncology, there are eight different oncology-specific certifications available. These are:
- Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN)
- Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON)
- Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN)
- Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN)
- Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)
- Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS)
- Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON)
- Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)
Each of these certifications is available through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, and requires an unencumbered license as a registered nurse in the United States, a minimum amount of time working both as an RN and in oncology, and a minimum amount of continuing nurse education depending upon which certification is being sought. Certification requires passing a comprehensive exam that covers major subject areas. The minimum requirement for becoming an OCN, for example, is two years of experience as an RN within four years of applying for certification, 2,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice, and ten hours of continuing nurse education in oncology nursing.
There are several different professional groups that offer education and networking to oncology nurses interested in furthering their nursing careers. These include the Oncology Nursing Society, the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses, and the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care.
Oncology Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
Oncology nursing is a highly specialized field, and staff nurses who have oncology certification receive generous compensation and benefits.
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual U.S. salary for an oncology nurse is $87,340.
Compensation variables include years of nursing experience, geographic location, and educational level, as well as the certifications the oncology nurse holds.
The average annual U.S. salary for an oncology nurse is $87,340.
Oncology nurses are in particular demand. Hospitals are increasingly competing for patients, and recent studies have tied patient satisfaction ratings directly to nurse staffing ratios. Added to the pressures being felt throughout healthcare by the national nursing shortage, there is the added factor of the increasing number of new cancer diagnoses in the United States combined with the growing number of survivors requiring long-term follow-up care.
There is an expectation that in the face of the national nursing shortage and increased demand for oncology nurses, higher wages will follow.
Top Paying Cities for Oncology Nurses in 2021
According to ZipRecruiter.com, here are the best paying cities for oncology nurses in 2021:
- Santa Clara, CA: $105,668 per year
- San Francisco, CA: $105,637 per year
- Fremont, CA: $101,470 per year
- San Jose, CA: $99,274 per year
- Alexandria, VA: $98,198 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being an Oncology Nurse
Pros of Oncology Nursing
- Opportunity to establish relationships with patients who require continuing care
- Freedom to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings
- Many oncology nurses are able to work predictable standard office hours
Cons of Oncology Nursing
- Patients are very ill and suffer complications and poor outcomes
- Constant exposure to patient and family members’ despair can lead to occupational stress
- Risk of exposure to toxic chemotherapy drugs
Travel Nursing Jobs as an Oncology Nurse
Oncology nurses interested in oncology travel nurse jobs will find a wide range of opportunities available, all offering generous compensation and benefits, the chance to travel and meet new people, and the chance to apply their skills where they are truly appreciated. Oncology travel RNs can choose from an extensive and ever-changing list of openings, allowing them to select exactly the type of work environment they want and the type of cancer patients they want to treat.
Oncology travel nurse jobs offer significantly higher salaries than those offered by traditional oncology nurse jobs. Compensation is often as high as $105,000 per year paid through a combination of an hourly rate plus non-taxed housing stipends, per diems, and other benefits that are exclusively available as part of oncology travel nurse salaries. Many contracts also offer signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and referral bonuses if you know interested colleagues.