Oncology care is one of the most challenging and rewarding nursing careers. It’s an opportunity to be inspired by patients’ determination, hope and faith as they face a life-threatening illness. And it touches every part of health care; even nurses outside of the oncology specialty will care for patients with cancer at some point in their career. 

Cancer is a complex disease with many types and subtypes of diagnoses now known because of advancements in genetic and genomic research. Some cancers are curable when detected early, and more patients are benefitting from newer treatments such as immunotherapy agents. Cancer is now viewed as a chronic disease with more than 15 million U.S. cancer survivors, and that number increases daily. 

Cancer, care and caring

Oncology nursing offers unlimited career possibilities for men and women in nursing. It demands sophisticated knowledge and strong decision-making skills but also calls for limitless amounts of compassion and kindness. In return, nurses in this field garner respect, an unrelenting demand for their services, and most importantly, the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Oncology nursing is the ultimate synthesis of the science of care and the art of caring.

The professional possibilities available to oncology nurses are as diverse as the patient populations they serve. Many choose to work in a clinical setting, providing direct care to patients and their loved ones. Oncology registered nurses or oncology advanced practice nurses can specialize in these and other areas:

  • Cancer treatments such as medical oncology (chemotherapy, immunotherapy), radiation oncology, surgical oncology and bone marrow/stem cell transplant

  • Psychosocial care

  • Survivorship care

  • Prevention and detection

  • Genetics

  • Pain management

  • Home care

  • Patient navigation

  • Hospice and palliative care

Oncology nurses may also pursue careers in research as nurse scientists, the pharmaceutical and medical products industry, academia, and administration.