Oncology nurses are registered nurses who specialize in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Seeing a patient through cancer is a long-term commitment, as nurses play an important part of the journey from early detection through the fear and sickness of treatment to the ultimate prognosis. Oncology nurses often develop relationships with their patients and their families. Serving them to their utmost ability is one of many of their goals.
Patients are an oncology nurse's top priority. Nothing is more important than making sure patients are receiving quality, compassionate health care. Patients diagnosed with cancer are entering a frightening world. Their futures have suddenly become ones they can't even recognize. There may be hair loss, painful cancer treatments, weakness; they face their own mortality, and make arrangements for their children. Oncology nurses must be sensitive to the horrible upheaval in patients' lives and be there to offer them unflagging support.
Another important goal for an oncology nurse is also centered around her patients. She becomes her patients' advocate. She works closely with physicians to create a treatment plan for her patients and then becomes the driving force behind this plan. She monitors her patients' progress and listens attentively to them, taking their every concern seriously and addressing them. She makes sure her patients understand all phases of their treatments and passionately offers hope. Her entire focus is on the patient as a whole person, not just on cancer.
Staying Current with Advances
Oncology nurses have a duty to continue their education. Technology in cancer detection, treatment techniques and drugs are ever-evolving. A nurse short-changes her patients when she isn't aware of new discoveries and advances, nor can she fulfill her responsibility to keep her patients informed. Ongoing knowledge is crucial to an emerging role of oncology nursing, that of preventive care. More nurses in this field are educating their patients on the importance of taking measures to prevent cancer, rather than simply treating it once it's a reality.
Nursing in oncology has a strong future in health care. Through the year 2020, an estimated 20 million new cases of cancer are expected, according to "Biomedical Imaging and Intervention Journal." Registered nurses in all fields should see a 20 to 28 percent increase in job opportunities within the same time frame, much better than the average for all occupations. Nurses earned an average annual $65,470 in 2012.