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How to Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Examine the duties, responsibilities, schooling, requirements, certifications, job outlook, and salary expectations for one of nursing’s most challenging fields.

Woman with a stethoscope typing on a laptop

Registered Nursing is one of the broadest, most diverse areas of employment in the healthcare industry. With countless specialties to choose from, aspiring nurses can gain a breadth of experience working with a variety of patient groups that span a large cross-section of the population. By choosing a unique specialty based on your interests, your nursing career can prove rewarding on multiple levels.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse (RN))

Every nursing career path, however, comes with its own set of responsibilities, work environments, and patient groups. Moreover, each nursing area has its own educational and certification requirements. Today we’ll take a closer look at the field of Oncology Nursing and the role of the Oncology Nurse Practitioner. If you are a current or aspiring nurse and are considering the possibility of a post-RN specialization, we hope this information will help you determine if nurse oncology is the right field for you.

Oncology Nurse Practitioners work closely with physicians, surgeons, patients, and families to assist in cancer treatment… With the amount of cancer research taking place, the role of the Oncology Nurse will surely evolve, but the occupation will always remain patient-centered. Their duties can include screening, research, management, cancer prevention, education, administration and much more.

Oncology nursing can be a highly rewarding career choice for anyone who is interested in working in cancer treatment or feels passionately about helping people overcome a variety of conditions surround the disease. The field can also be highly rewarding in terms of pay. In fact, Oncology Nurse Practitioner is one of the highest paying nursing jobs in the U.S.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paid nursing jobs)

Provo College offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which is often the first step in starting a journey toward oncology nursing. Continue reading our guide to further explore the role of the Oncology Nurse Practitioner.

The Oncology Nurse Practitioner Defined

What is an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

An Oncology Nurse Practitioner is a highly specialized Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who provides comprehensive care to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, but also provides consulting and education to their patients’ families. Working in close collaboration with other healthcare team members, the Oncology NP conducts thorough physical assessments, writes prescriptions for medications, administers therapeutic measures, and evaluates the care that’s provided.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does an Oncology Nurse Practitioner Do?

Cancer can take many forms. Because of the ubiquity of this terrible disease, the role of the Oncology Nurse Practitioner offers a variety of unique opportunities for experience, learning, job growth and career satisfaction.

The role of the Oncology Nurse Practitioner requires you to juggle multiple responsibilities between screening, research, management, cancer prevention, education, administration and much more. While the work can be highly rewarding, it can carry a high level of stress and responsibility. It is certainly not a career choice for everyone.

Most Oncology Nurse Practitioners end up working with adults, over the age of 65 as the risk of cancer increases with each decade of age. Cancer spans all classes and cultures, so an Oncology Nurse Practitioner will likely find themselves working with a diverse patient population.

The Day-to-Day Responsibilities of an Oncology Nurse Practitioner

As an Oncology Nurse Practitioner working in a clinic, your days will likely include:

  • Viewing test results to make an official diagnosis and writing prescriptions
  • Working in collaboration with a doctor to provide primary care
  • Medical recordkeeping to prevent dangerous drug interactions, incorrect diagnoses, and other mix-ups
  • Management, supervision, and scheduling of staff, along with overall department administration

Oncology Nurse Practitioners work in a wide variety of settings and are often trained in a specific focus-area, usually including one of the following sub-specializations:

  • Cardiology
  • Emergency
  • Family practice
  • Geriatrics
  • Neonatology
  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary care
  • School health
  • Women’s health

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Job Settings

Where Do Oncology Nurse Practitioners Work?

Two healthcare workers in PPE

Oncology Nurse Practitioners can work in various types of healthcare settings including hospitals, doctors’ offices, cancer treatments centers, as well as in patients’ homes and hospices. Their duties and responsibilities will, of course, vary from one practice to another as well as from one setting to another. Wherever they work, Oncology Nurses must usually provide both physical support as well as psychological support for their patients and their patients’ families.

In addition to primary specialization, advanced practice oncology nurses often focus on a specific area of oncology or treatment method, such as:

  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Breast oncology
  • Cancer genetic counseling
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gynecological oncology
  • Palliative care
  • Prevention and early detection of cancer
  • Radiation oncology
  • Surgical oncology

Oncology Nurse Practitioners Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Be an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

Not surprisingly, there is a significant level of education and training involved in becoming an Oncology Nurse Practitioner.

Registered Nurses (RNs) with a BSN degree and additional Oncology training can practice oncology nursing. However, completing a graduate program to become an Advanced Practice Oncology Nurse provides you a much greater depth of knowledge in oncological pathology and treatment.

Oncology nursing programs typically offer oncology as a sub-specialty within a patient population focus. For example, Clinical Nurse Specialists will often specialize in oncology by pursuing MSN programs with the oncology CNS option.

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers a variety of certifications for aspiring Oncology Nurses. The Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) certification ensures you have gained and mastered the requisite knowledge for oncology nursing and are ready to provide high-quality care as a Nurse Practitioner.

Eligibility requirements for the AOCNP certification include the following:

  • An active license as a Registered Nurse (RN)
  • A minimum of two years of experience as an RN within four years prior to your application for the exam
  • A minimum of 2,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice within four years prior to your application
  • A completed minimum of 10 contact hours of nursing continuing education in oncology nursing

Steps to Becoming an Oncology Nurse Practitioner

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and obtain NCLEX-RN certification to qualify as a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). If you’re starting from scratch, with no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program will take about three to four years to complete.

If you already have your Registered Nursing license, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are very convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to licensed vocational nurses with an Associate’s Degree in vocational nursing (ASVN). This LVN to BSN pathway will allow you to skip the first three semesters of the BSN program.

2. Become a Registered Nurse

Every state requires a practicing nurse to have an RN license, so the next step to becoming an Oncology Nurse practitioner is earning your nursing license. With that, you will be certified to enter the workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

3. Earn your Master’s Degree in Nursing

Registered Nurses with a bachelor’s degree who wish to become Nurse Practitioners must earn their master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.

4. Obtain an Advance Practice Nursing License

Most states require additional licensure for Advanced Practice Registered Nursing, especially those who wish to qualify as Oncology Nurse Practitioners.

5. Obtain Oncology Nursing Certification

Successfully completing your graduate degree and licensure requirements will prepare you for multiple certification exams specific to Oncology.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Certification Options

Medical professional examining a sample

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers three certifications for adult oncology nurses. Each requires an active and unrestricted RN license.

  1. Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) is the credential for registered nurses without a graduate degree but at least 1,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice during the prior 30 months, and at least 10 continuing education hours in nursing, or an oncology elective taken during the prior 36 months.
  2. Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or higher from an accredited school, completion of an accredited nurse practitioner program, and at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner.
  3. Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS) requires an MSN or higher from an accredited institution and at least 500 hours of supervised advanced clinical practice in adult oncology nursing.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Oncology Nurses Make?

According to Salary.com, Oncology Nurse Practitioners can expect to earn an average hourly rate of around $54 per hour, or an annual median salary of approximately $113,000 per year.

The top 10% of Oncology Nurse Practitioners can earn as much as $121,000 or more.

What is the Job Outlook for Oncology Nurse Practitioners?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) is projected to increase by 45% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (4%).

Much of this growth will result from an increase in the demand for healthcare services and preventative care for the aging population in our country. This will have a direct effect on the Oncology profession.

A Career as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Are you ready to start your career as an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse smiling at a patient

Oncology Nurse Practitioners are deeply involved in saving, extending, and improving the lives of their patients on a daily basis. It’s a multifaceted field with rewards that go beyond financial compensation, but it does offer a competitive salary. Although job satisfaction in this field can be extremely high, it can also be emotionally strenuous job for some people.

If working with patients and families when lives are literally at stake sounds like the kind of career challenge you’re looking for, becoming an Oncology Nurse Practitioner could be the career path you’ve been seeking.

While we do not offer an Oncology Nurse Practitioner program, you can start your journey by first earning a BSN degree at Provo College.

Click here to learn more about our BSN program.