Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer
If you find your way into oncology nursing, you may never leave. Jobs are plentiful, diverse and challenging, oncology nurses say. And once you’ve gotten a taste of caring for cancer patients, other nursing jobs pale in comparison.
“It’s ‘once an oncology nurse, always an oncology nurse,’” says Mary Murphy, MS, director of clinical systems at the Hospice of Dayton in Ohio. “In oncology nursing, you have the opportunity to use all your skills, to look at the whole person and to care for people for a long period of time. I get up every morning and feel good about what I do.”
Determined to Be a Nurse?
Join NursingLink's Determined to Be a Nurse Group now.
Oncology nursing jobs span the full spectrum of the cancer continuum, from prevention to acute, rehabilitative and palliative care. An oncology nurse may administer chemotherapy in a physician’s office, for example, or care for hospital patients undergoing surgery or bone-marrow transplants. An oncology nurse could also assist in clinical trials at a cancer center or provide in-home palliative care.
“There are a variety of opportunities in oncology nursing, depending on your personality type,” says Murphy, an advanced oncology certified nurse (AOCN). An oncology nurse who likes a sense of routine and teamwork may thrive in a physician’s office or a hospital, for instance, while someone who prefers autonomy and troubleshooting may gravitate toward hospice or home care.
‘You Use Everything You’ve Learned’
No matter what working environment they choose, oncology nurses must be committed to lifelong learning, explains Jeanne Held-Warmkessel, MSN, RN, AOCN, a clinical nurse specialist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “In oncology, your education is never over,” she says.
In the 22 years that Held-Warmkessel has been working with oncology patients, new medications, treatment regimens and technologies have vastly improved the quality and length of patients’ lives. At Fox Chase, Held-Warmkessel is on the cutting edge of cancer treatment, caring for patients enrolled in clinical trials. Many cancer patients are critically ill, with multiple needs. “You have to be really astute and technologically competent to care for these patients,” she says. “They keep you on your toes. You use everything you’ve learned in nursing school and throughout your career every day.”