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Oncology Nurse Practitioner Degree Program Information

Oncology nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who specialize in providing care for patients with cancer. Individuals can choose to receive a master's degree in nursing with an oncology emphasis or recieve a post-master's certificate in oncology in order to become an oncology nurse.

Essential Information

Oncology nurse practitioners often work in hospitals and medical facilities that specialize in the treatment of cancer. Aspiring nurse oncology practitioners can prepare through either a master's degree nursing program with an oncology emphasis or an oncology nurse practitioner post-master's certificate program. There, they can learn about cancer pharmacology and genomics while exploring ways of managing the cancer symptoms of their patients. Students complete clinical rotations and possibly a thesis. Applicants to both programs must have nursing licenses. Oncology nursing certifications are awarded to experienced candidates who pass an examination and pursue continuing education.

  • Program Levels for Oncology Nurse Practitioners: Master's degrees, post-master's certificates.
  • Prerequisites: Nursing license, a bachelor's degree is required for the MA program while a master's degree is necessary for a post-master's certificate.
  • Program Requirements: Some programs require that certain courses have been completed while others require professional work experience in the field.
  • Other Requirements: Clinical rotations, thesis, examination, continuing education.
  • Online Availability: Online courses and programs are available.

Master of Science in Nursing with Nurse Practitioner and Oncology Emphasis

Master's degree programs with a nurse practitioner and oncology emphasis provide education and training for registered nurses. This program is made up of core nursing courses involving research, ethics and disease management. The coursework may also include advance practice training in community health nursing, cancer care and palliative care. Alternatively, some schools offer an adult oncology minor within a master's degree program.

A bachelor's degree is required, though not necessarily in nursing. Those who have an associate's degree in nursing but a bachelor's degree in an unrelated area, may have to take some prerequisite classes before starting the master's program. Applicants also must have an active and unrestricted registered nursing license.

This type of master's degree program usually includes several semester hours of clinical nursing training. Some programs also include a thesis. Classes may include:

  • Genomics of cancer
  • Cancer care and symptom management
  • Health issues and policy
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Epidemiology and pathophysiology

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Post-Master's Certificate

An oncology nurse practitioner post-master's certificate program is usually tailored for nurses who already have a master's degree, but want to focus on oncology patient care. This intensive training program teaches nurses to care for patients with cancer. Many of the programs take a holistic approach to cancer care by offering coursework and clinical experiences that will have students focusing on a cancer patient's mind, body and spirit.

A master's degree from an accredited nursing program and an active registered nursing license are usually required for this program. Many programs also require applicants to have taken human physiology within the last five years. Schools want applicants to have basic computer skills, and some programs require applicants to have at least one year of relevant work experience.

In addition to classroom work, this type of educational program may require a clinical experience as well. Classes may include:

  • Advanced practice health assessment
  • Concepts in oncology nursing
  • End-of-life care
  • Cancer care and symptom management
  • Advanced cancer pharmacology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 31% from 2012-2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). An aging population is the reason for this expected growth. The average salary for nurse practitioners is $97,990, as reported by the BLS in May 2014.

Continuing Education Information and Certification Information

There are many Ph.D. programs in nursing for those who want to advance into research or teaching positions. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers continuing education opportunities with conferences, webinars and research papers. There are also many post-master's certificate programs available for nurses with a master's degree who are looking to specialize in a different area or sharpen their skills and training.

Both the master's degree program and the post-master's certificate program prepare students for certification in the field. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers an adult nurse practitioner certification, while the Oncology Nursing Society offers an advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner designation. In addition, the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation also has several certification programs, including the advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner. Most organizations that offer certifications may also provide continuing education conferences and seminars.

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