One of the chronic diseases, which affect the physical as well as every aspect of the patients’ life is cancer. This disease is expected to increase, especially for the aging population, resulting in a significant demand for oncology nurses. As part of the cancer treatment and care team, oncology nurses play an important role in cancer management and helping to change the lives of patients and their families. If new oncology nurses know and understand the work setting options available, the opportunities for advancement and what to expect during the first year on the job may, they may have more confidence when starting their careers.
As a recent graduate from an oncology nursing training program, you may work in a variety of practice settings. These include in and outpatient facilities such as small community hospitals and larger multi-faceted hospital systems. Other work environments include doctors’ offices, hospices, community cancer centers, home health care facilities and community and public nursing facilities. Oncology nurses may also work at research and pharmaceutical institutions.
Being a new oncology nurse can be an intimidating exercise with all the training you have received. As you look forward to practicing your skills and knowledge following your training, here are three tips to help you with your transition.
1. Get ready to learn about and gain experience with a range of care and treatment procedures as you apply the skills and knowledge you received during training. With the constant advancements in cancer research, this period may be demanding as well as exciting with new technologies and methods to learn. Keeping abreast of the changes in medications, research and protocols is also expected.
2. Be prepared for a challenging and rewarding time of caring for and supporting cancer patients and their families. As a debilitating disease, cancer touches all areas of the patients’ life. Therefore, you should balance how you handle the highs and lows, victories and defeats and the joys and sadness. Physical, mental and emotional preparedness is required to cope with the extreme outcomes that are part of cancer care and management. Expect that each day on the job will bring about different challenges, opportunities and experiences.
3. Find a good adviser who can help you with your transition from the classroom to the practice setting. Your mentor may offer you encouragement, help to boost your confidence, guide you in avoiding pitfalls and hazards of the profession and guidelines for career advancement. Join or use the website of the oncology nursing professional body to aid you in learning new updates on medications, diagnosis, treatments as well as getting certification classes and pursuing advanced training.
Opportunities for Specialty Care Advancements
The new graduate pursuing a career in oncology nursing may begin at the generalist level with specific training, knowledge and clinical expertise in cancer care and management. However, specialty areas opportunities exist with the advancements due to scientific and technological developments. This involves cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, care, survivorship and end of life care. Some specialty areas in oncology nursing include:
- Preventive care and detection
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments
- Breast and GYN oncology
- Palliative care
- Pediatric oncology
Oncology nurses offer a wealth of skills, knowledge and ability in helping people of different ages, genders and from all walks of life who are at risk of getting cancer or who are undergoing cancer treatment and recovery. However, for new oncology nurses, having some guidelines on what to expect on the job may help to ease the anxiety they have about this important medical profession.
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Debra Hassel is an oncology nurse and guest author at Best RN to BSN, where she contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online RN to BSN Programs.