Nursing is a multi-faceted profession comprised of different specialties, each of which can be practiced in different facilities and across different locations. One such specialty is oncology nursing. Oncology refers to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and nurses of this specialty are present for patients during some of their most difficult and intimate of moments in their journey. They aren’t just at the patient’s bedside- they also communicate with doctors and coordinate care as needed.
What is an Oncology Nurse?
An Oncology Nurse works with those who have (or at risk of getting) cancer. They provide assessments, administer treatments and communicate with patients and care providers to help develop tailored plans according to each patient’s needs.
There is a lot of one-on-one time with cancer patients and as a result, these nurses form strong bonds and lasting relationships with the people in their care. Oncology Nurses are also often the go-to person when a patient or their family seeks the answers to any questions they may have or when they need emotional validation.
The relationship between a patient and their Oncology Nurse is one that is crucial to create a comprehensive treatment plan (beyond addressing the treatment of the cancer itself)- the nurse needs to know what mental and emotional needs their patient has in order to give them strength to face their condition and be a pillar of stability if/when the treatment starts to take a toll in the form of physical and emotional stress.
What are the main duties of an Oncology Nurse?
Oncology Nurses often serve as the first line of communication with cancer patients and help to coordinate their care throughout cancer treatment. They may perform many duties, including:
- Reviewing the patient’s health history
- Keeping track of pathology, laboratory, and imaging studies
- Assessing, monitoring, and assisting with the patient’s emotional and physical status
- Safely administering fluids, medications, and other cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy)
- Helping patients understand their condition and treatment plan
- Collaborating with clinicians and doctors about the patient’s particular treatment plan
- Answering questions and helping to translate complex medical terminology
- Communicating with clinicians and doctors on behalf of their patient
- Helping the patient plan for and manage their symptoms during the course of their treatment
What are the challenges of being an Oncology Nurse?
The role of an Oncology Nurse can be very rewarding, but it can also be demanding- physically, mentally, and emotionally. These nurses need to keep track of several details throughout the day for more than one patient, and one mistake could adversely affect their health- needless to say, this attention to detail is critical and can cause some stress if not managed effectively.
This specialty also involves the nurse being a source of compassion for their patients, and they need to be able to keep their patients calm in adverse situations as they go through their difficult journey. The bond that is formed between an Oncology Nurse and their patient (and oftentimes the patient’s family as well) can lead to an emotional investment that must be navigated with care, so that the nurse can still provide objectivity and focus throughout their duties.
While oncology nursing may have its challenges, it is also a very rewarding path to take as a specialty due to the level of comfort that an Oncology Nurse provides their patients- they advocate for their patients in a way that no one else can, because they form relationships and understand their patients on a deeper level.