Nurses are the healers and caregivers of the world. Their knowledge and compassion help patients navigate illnesses and injuries and survive life-threatening conditions. Oncology nurse practitioners (ONPs) are nursing specialists who work with some of the most fragile patients in our society – those suffering from cancer.
Cancer is a terrible disease that takes many forms. It does not discriminate by age, culture, gender, or race. Becoming an oncology nurse practitioner is not for every nursing professional. It takes a special kind of fortitude. Nurses who choose to work in an oncology setting understand the work is challenging and emotionally taxing. Still, they do it anyway.
Some of the things we will explore during this post including the following:
- What is an oncology nurse practitioner (ONP)?
- Where do oncology nurse practitioners work?
- What are oncology nurse practitioner job duties?
- What are the 5 steps to earning your ONP?
- How much do oncology nurse practitioners make?
- What is the job outlook for oncology nurse practitioners?
What is an oncology nurse practitioner (ONP)?
Oncology nurse practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who specialize in providing comprehensive care to cancer patients. ONPs also provide consulting and education to families of cancer patients. They are part of a team of healthcare providers who:
- Conduct physical assessments of cancer patients
- Create treatment plans
- Administer cancer therapy
- Prescribe medications specific to cancer care
While cancer can strike anyone in any age group, those over the age of 65 are more at risk. For this reason, many ONPs find themselves working more with elderly cancer patients.
Where do oncology nurse practitioners work?
Since the scope of oncology nursing care spans from prevention and early detection to symptom management and palliative care, ONPs can work in a variety of settings. Medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology are included in the scope of practice for ONPs. They can opt to work in clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient care centers, and private practices.
What are oncology nurse practitioner job duties?
Oncology nurse practitioners are the first line of communication for cancer patients and their families. They are the most familiar face on the cancer care team, coordinating most aspects of a patient’s care throughout the treatment process. Here are some of the most common job responsibilities of ONPs:
- Conducting a health assessment and reviewing patient health history
- Monitoring a patient’s physical and emotional status
- Organizing image studies, laboratory test results, and pathology reports
- Collaborating with the patient’s team of cancer care providers
- Educating patients and their families about cancer and all treatment plans
- Administering medications, fluids, and cancer treatments like chemotherapy
- Serving as an official spokesperson for the cancer patient when communicating with other clinicians on the patient’s behalf
Depending on where they work, ONPs may have additional duties. A well-crafted job description outlines all responsibilities. Be sure to ask employers for a copy of the job description during the interview process.
What are the 5 steps to earning your ONP?
Pursuing a career as an oncology nurse practitioner requires a special level of commitment. Here are the steps for earning a nursing degree to be an ONP.
1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
As previously mentioned, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) as the first step in your career as an ONP. Nurses who already have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can complete a BSN in 1 to 2 years. Nursing candidates without a formal nursing degree may take up to 4 years to earn a BSN. Candidates who are already Registered Nurses (RNs) can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program to fast-track their degree. Many of these “bridge” programs can be completed in 2 years or less.
2. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)
Some nursing professionals already hold an RN when they decide to pursue a BSN. Candidates who already hold RN licensure can skip this step. For those who need to become licensed RNs, you must sit for the NCLEX-RN.
3. Earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor in Practical Nursing (DPN)
A minimum of a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) is required to work as an oncology nurse practitioner. A Doctor of Practical Nursing (DNP)l degree is only necessary for nurses who wish to work in research and development or educational settings.
4. Obtain an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) License
Most states require ONPs to obtain additional licensure as advanced practice registered nurses. Each state’s licensing board provides information about whether an APRN is required to work as an ONP. Check with the state about whether an APRN is needed.
5. Become certified in oncology nursing
The final step is to earn oncology nursing certification. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers several certification options for ONPs. Some of the certifications are for renewal only.
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How much does an oncology nurse practitioner make?
According to Salary.com, ONPs earn a median annual salary of $114,919. The top 90 percent of wage earners in this nursing specialty can expect to make $122,999 per year. Depending on location, some oncology nurse practitioners make more or less than the national average. The top 5 cities for ONP wage earners are:
|CITY/STATE||PERCENT ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGE|
|San Francisco, CA||25|
|New York, NY||20.3|
Want to check out an estimated salary range for ONPs in a specific location? Incredible Health offers a free Nurse Salary Estimator tool.
What is the job outlook for oncology nurse practitioners?
The U.S. has battled a nursing shortage since 1998. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for Nurse Practitioners of all specialties is expected to grow by 45% between now and 2029. With an increased focus on preventative healthcare, and a rapidly aging population, the need for ONPs is expected to continue rising.
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