Oncology Nursing

An Oncology Nurse is an advanced nursing practice and they are the direct caregiver to patients experiencing or are at risk for developing cancer. Oncology Nurses give health care education, and counseling for cancer prevention, screening and detection. Oncology Nurses work in various settings with cancer patients in hospitals, cancer centers, hospice programs, homes, doctors' offices, extended care facilities, and pharmaceutical companies. Within the oncology field there are several areas in which nurses can specialize, such as chemotherapy, breast oncology, and radiation. There are various duties of an Oncology Nurse which include the roles of direct caregiver, educator, consultant, administrator, and researcher.

  • As a coordinator, the oncology nurse works expertly with the multidisciplinary oncology team to achieve realistic healthcare goals for an individual or for an entire community.
  • In the role of consultant, oncology nurses provide expertise about oncology to colleagues, allied health personnel, and healthcare consumers, while as an educator, the oncology nurse designs and performs a variety of patient education activities.
  • As researcher, the oncology nurse identifies and investigates researchable problems, and evaluates and applies research findings that affect cancer care or nursing.
  • In their work as administrators and managers, oncology nurses create environments conducive to the optimum health of the public and to professional nursing practice.

The nature of oncology nursing care spans the spectrum from prevention and acute care through rehabilitative and palliative supportive care as necessary.
The oncology field has many fields nurses can focus on:

  • Chemotherapy -- biotherapy
  • Breast oncology -- hematology/oncology
  • Radiation -- surgical oncology
  • GYN oncology -- head and neck oncology
  • Bone marrow transplant -- cancer genetic counseling
  • Prevention and early detection -- symptom management
  • Palliative care

An Oncology Nurse is a registered nurse that practices at the generalist level of a cancer-specific knowledge base and demonstrate clinical expertise in cancer care beyond that acquired in a basic nursing program.

The basis for advanced nursing practice in oncology requires a minimum of a master's degree. An oncology nurse actively participates in professional role development including continuing education, quality assessment and improvement, and the review and clinical application of research findings. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) has several different certification options, including:

  • OCN: Oncology Certified Nurse
  • CPON: Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse


  • AOCN: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
  • AOCNP: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • AOCNS: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Specialist

An entry level OCN makes an average salary of $60,000 while an experienced OCN makes an average salary of $66,000.

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, 2009
Oncology Nursing Society, 2009
Pay Scale, 2009