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Pediatric Oncology Nurse Overview
Pediatric oncology nurses care for children with cancer. They administer medications, record observations, communicate with doctors and parents and perform diagnostic tests. Dealing with terminally ill children on a regular basis can make this job challenging and emotionally draining. However, despite the difficulty of the role, helping children and their families by making them as comfortable as possible and offering emotional support can be professionally rewarding.
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Experience||1-3 years' nursing experience; some jobs require pediatric, oncology or medical-surgical nursing experience|
|Licensure and Certification||All states require licensure for registered nurses; some employers prefer voluntary Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse (CPHON) certification|
|Key Skills||Awareness and understanding of other's reactions, emotional stability, active listening skills, communication skills, judgment and decision-making ability, familiarity with Microsoft Office, database and medical software|
|Mean Salary (2015)*||$68,910 (for registered nurses)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com job postings (September 2012)
Let's look at the steps to become a pediatric oncology nurse.
Step 1: Complete a Registered Nursing Program
To become a pediatric oncology nurse, one must first become a registered nurse. RN training usually is offered through an associate's or bachelor's degree program in nursing. Associate's degree programs in nursing can be found at 2-year community, technical, and vocational colleges as well as some private schools. Programs leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing are generally offered through public and private 4-year colleges and universities.
Prerequisites for nursing programs generally include human physiology, human anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, and psychology, though some programs incorporate one or more of these courses into their curricula. Other coursework covers aspects of clinical nursing, health concepts, pediatric nursing, leadership, nursing practice, and community health nursing.
Additionally, nursing programs often require the completion of one or more internships or clinical experiences. Working in pediatrics or oncology could be an opportunity to gain experience with younger patients or people with cancer, which some employers require.
Step 2: Obtain RN Licensing
To become a registered nurse, one must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam. While all fifty states use this exam, some have additional licensing requirements. Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow registered nurses from other states to become licensed through a process called endorsement.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
Once licensed, registered nurses might work in hospitals, cancer treatment centers, public heath departments, private physician's offices, or clinics. Pediatric oncology units are often looking for nurses with 1-3 years of experience, preferably with skills in administering chemotherapy, working with children, and delivering infusion treatments. These skills can be gained in medical-surgical units, pediatric units, or other settings.
Some employers prefer pediatric oncology nursing candidates with the Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse (CPHON) credential. This certification requires a current RN license and 12 months of RN experience, along with a minimum of 1,000 hours of pediatric oncology (or hematology) nursing practice and 10 contact hours of continuing nursing education.
Additionally, some employers prefer job candidates who are already Pediatric Advanced Life Support certified. This certification can be obtained by taking a course through the American Heart Association or various colleges, universities, and medical schools.
Step 4: Continue Your Education
RNs who want to advance their careers and become nurse practitioners or nurse specialists can pursue a master's degree in nursing. Some of these programs allow students to specialize in pediatric care. Pediatric oncology nurses also must make sure they meet license and certification renewal requirements. Renewal of nursing licenses typically requires the completion of a designated number of hours of continuing education coursework through a board-approved provider. Each state has its own requirements on the timing of license renewal, but all entail coursework that enables nurses to maintain and update their skills and continue growing in their profession.
In summary, a pediatric oncology nurse needs an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, state licensure as a registered nurse, and 1-3 years of nursing experience. Voluntary certification and continuing education could increase job opportunities.