Chemotherapy Certification Requirements for RNs and Nurses

Sep 28, 2019

Gaining chemotherapy certification is relevant for RNs with an interest in working in oncology and administering chemotherapy. There are a number of certification options, each with their own requirements regarding degree level in nursing and amount of work experience in oncology nursing.

Essential Information

The Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) credential demonstrates registered nurses' abilities in cancer nursing, including administering chemotherapy. In order to earn the OCN, it is necessary to have an RN license and significant oncology nursing experience. Registered nurses should also have completed continuing education coursework in oncology. Prior to obtaining an advanced oncology certifications, candidates should earn a master's or doctoral degree in nursing.

Required Education A nursing diploma or an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing
Examination Requirements Must be a licensed RN with one year of experience within three years prior to taking the exam; minimum of 1,000 hours of oncology nursing within the previous 30 months; and a minimum of 10 hours of continuing oncology nursing education within the previous 36 months
Advanced Certification Options Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse (CPHON), Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP), Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN) and Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12% (for all registered nurses)
Median Salary (2018)* $71,730 (for all registered nurses )

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Certification Information

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recommends that all oncology nurses - those who provide care to cancer patients - be certified as proof of their skills and knowledge in the demanding field of oncology nursing. There are no state or federal statutes that require certification to administer chemotherapy; however, many employers have their own certification process. The ONS provides a training class on chemotherapy and biotherapy that helps prepare nurses for certification testing by the employer and results in a chemotherapy provider card that is valid for two years.

Though this course does not result in chemotherapy certification, the ONS recognizes the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation as an accredited organization that can offer a variety of certification options to oncology nurses. Options include the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse (CPHON), Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP), Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS) and Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN) designations, as well as several renewal options.

Exam Requirements

The OCN option includes chemotherapy treatment as one of the modalities covered in its certification testing material. In order to be eligible to take the OCN certification exam, a candidate must be a licensed registered nurse (RN) and have at least one year of experience in the past three years as an RN, at least 1,000 hours in oncology nursing in the past 30 months and at least 10 hours of continuing education in oncology nursing within the past three years. The test itself is three hours long and consists of 165 computer-based, multiple-choice questions. Certification renewal is based on a combination of maintaining an active RN license, acquiring practice hours, passing required testing and/or accruing professional development points.

The AOCNP, AOCNS and CBCN certification tests also include chemotherapy in their testing material, though to a lesser extent. In general, their eligibility requirements are the same; however, the advanced oncology certifications also require a master's degree or higher from an accredited nursing institution.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Statistics for oncology nurses are included in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) registered nurse category. The projected job outlook for all registered nurses is 12% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for registered nurses was $71,730 in May 2018.

The Oncology Certified Nurse qualification is offered for RNs wishing to show their advanced knowledge of working in oncology, and to be able to administer chemotherapy. Taking the exam has specific requirements including working as a licensed RN, many hours of work experience and continuing education. The AOCNP, AOCNS and CBCN certification tests also have similar requirements, although certain advanced certifications require a master's or doctoral degree in nursing.

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