Oncology Nurse Practitioner Role
The duties of an oncology nurse practitioner include prescribing medications and treatments and making diagnoses. Oncology nurse practitioners work closely with physicians, surgeons, families and palliative caregivers to care for cancer patients and help them through all stages of treatment. In addition to providing medical care, an oncology nurse practitioner must offer psychosocial support for the patient and his or her family. The work of an oncology nurse can also involve preventive care and education.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice
Oncology nursing is dedicated to assisting patients and their families as they cope with various forms of cancer. These nurse practitioners are trained to manage the physical and psychological needs of the oncology patient and his or her family. Oncology nurse practitioners may provide primary, acute or tertiary care in a variety of medical settings including hospitals, cancer care centers, private practice and palliative care centers. They may also work in nontraditional settings delivering educational programs on cancer prevention and similar topics.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner Salary
The average salary of an oncology nurse practitioner is $108,000, though it can vary depending on experience, education, geography and employment setting. Oncology nurses with an advanced degree make significantly higher pay than the average registered nurse.
How to Become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Oncology Nurse Practitioner Eligibility Requirements
There are many steps to becoming an oncology nurse practitioner. Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the many requirements of nurse practitioner programs. Here is a step-by-step path you can take to earn your certification.
- Become a registered nurse. In order to apply to an oncology nurse practitioner program, a nurse must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working one to two years before applying for a nurse practitioner program is highly recommended.
- Apply to nurse practitioner programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Acceptable programs must have a concentration in oncology or a concentration in adult, family, geriatric or women’s health. Nurse practitioner concentrations other than oncology require additional clinical hours. More information on oncology nurse practitioner programs and coursework requirements can be found below.
- Complete 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to oncology nursing. If concentrating in an area other than oncology, 1,000 clinical hours are required.
- Apply to take the oncology nursing exam administered by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) to earn an oncology nurse practitioner certification. The exam tests screening, prevention, genetic risk, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and treatment planning, staging, side effect and symptom management, emergencies, survivorship, end of life care, psychosocial issues, coordination of care, professional practice and roles of the advanced practice nurse. Final transcripts and proof of education are required. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
- Apply for state certification as an oncology nurse practitioner in the state where you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to find out what the requirements are and how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
- Once you have earned your oncology nurse practitioner certification, it must be renewed every four years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and may require continuing education contact hours.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner Programs
Oncology nurse practitioner programs are designed for RNs seeking to advance their skills and take on leadership roles in cancer care. As mentioned above, the ONCC administers the certification exam to graduates of an accredited nurse practitioner education program who have completed at least 500 hours of faculty-supervised clinical work experience for an oncology specialization, or 1,000 hours for other specializations. A two-credit semester course in oncology or 30 hours of oncology-related continuing education are required for certification.
Before enrolling in any nurse practitioner program, students must earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and possess a current, valid RN license. Depending on the program, most schools require a 3.0 grade point average for admission to the nurse practitioner program. Oncology nurse practitioner programs award a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) with an emphasis in oncology, or for those interested in a longer program of study, a doctorate. Curricula focus on teaching oncology nurse practitioner students to perform cancer risk assessments, diagnose and manage common cancers, perform patient assessments, assess actual and potential cancer effects, help patients and families cope with outcomes and coordinate palliative and end-of-life care.
Students should be prepared to complete 60 or more credit hours in addition to the clinical hours required. Core classes will include advanced physical assessment techniques, pharmacology, theory and research related to the focus area and practicum placement at the end of the program. Full-time students can expect to carry four or five classes each semester, and part-time students will carry the number of hours determined by the institution.
The practicum, or onsite training with real patients, is a key component of nurse practitioner education. Students may be connected with a preceptor, but most are responsible for finding their own — especially if the nurse practitioner student is enrolled in a distance or online program. During the practicum, students will assess and treat real patients under the guidance of their preceptor. Required practicum hours can range from 500 to 1,000 hours or more depending on the program. Upon completion and graduation, students will be eligible to sit for the oncology nursing certification exam, plus the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner exam, an additional credential that solidifies the nurse’s expertise in oncology.
Full-time students can expect to complete the program in seven semesters at most higher learning institutions. Part-time programs will take longer and can vary in length depending on the school. RNs who wish to earn a doctorate instead of a master’s degree may complete additional coursework and clinical requirements for an additional year or two, depending on program requirements.
Online Oncology Nurse Practitioner Programs
For working registered nurses who do not want to put their career on pause or uproot their lives to attend a far-away on-campus program, nurse practitioner online programs can be both a flexible and high-quality option. When looking for an online nurse practitioner program, make sure it is high quality, with interactive features such as live classes and placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to what they offer on campus, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to move there. Nurse practitioner online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become an oncology nurse practitioner.
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)
Type of Certification: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must have an active registered nurse license and a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. Additionally, the candidate must have successfully completed an accredited nurse practitioner program and have a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner.
Certification Process: Candidates can apply online or download the application and mail it in with proof of eligibility and application fee. If approved, candidates will be issued a permit to test.
Fees: Fees vary based on ONS/APHON membership, age, and application format; view a full schedule of fees.
Renewal Process: Certification is renewed every four years. Applicants must meet two of the three requirements for renewal:
1. 1,000 hours practice as a clinical nurse specialist in oncology during the past four years;
2. 125 professional development points, also known as Oncology Nursing Certification Points Renewal Option (ONC-PRO), 75 of which must be in adult oncology content;
3. Passing the examination again
Learn about other advanced practice nursing specialties.
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