Nursing Careers in Pediatric Oncology: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pediatric oncology nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties, certification and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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A pediatric oncology nurse must complete an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing before obtaining a state nursing license. To specialize in oncology, it may be beneficial to participate in the pediatric hematology/oncology nurse (CPHON) program to become an OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse). Certification is optional, but will help prepare nurses to work with children with cancer.

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Essential Information

Pediatric oncology nurses work in a variety of settings, including children's hospitals, cancer treatment centers and pediatric offices. These professionals must hold a minimum of an associate's degree and nursing license. Additional voluntary credentialing in certified pediatric hematology/oncology is available for these registered nurses and may assist one in getting work within this nursing specialization.

Required Education Associate's degree
Additional Requirements State nursing license; voluntary credentialing may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for registered nurses
Median Salary (2015)* $67,490 for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options in Pediatric Oncology Nursing

Pediatric oncology nurses work with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. They typically provide care in a hospital or physician's office. Duties include helping patients and their families understand the treatment process, monitoring treatment side effects, offering general bedside care and administering medicine.

Cancer patients are treated with four types of therapy and an oncology nurse can specialize in a specific area of treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and biological therapy. Nurses may also have the opportunity to assist with research studies or teach nurses who are new to pediatric oncology.

An advanced nursing position in the field of pediatric oncology is a nurse practitioner. These advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) usually work in direct care situations and offer guidance to the families of children with cancer.

Education Requirements

There are three degree options that lead to becoming a registered nurse. The options include 3-year diploma programs offered by hospitals, a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Individuals desiring to work as an advanced practice nurse must obtain a master's degree in nursing (MSN).

To specialize in the area of pediatric oncology, a nursing student generally needs to gain experience in the field. Some nurses start out working in pediatric wards to gain basic experience working with children. A nurse may also consider applying for an internship in a pediatric or cancer unit of a hospital. Fellowship programs in pediatric oncology also offer opportunities to gain knowledge and familiarity in pediatric oncology diagnosis, treatment and management.

Pediatric Oncology Nursing Certification and Licensing

Pediatric oncology nurses may seek credentialing through programs such as the certified pediatric hematology/oncology nurse (CPHON) offered by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). Registered nurses who take and pass the certification examination may use the OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse) credential. The process of recertification is required every four years. This can be accomplished by examination or by the Oncology Nursing Certification Points Renewal option (ONC-PRO). This program was established to allow a qualified renewal candidate to accrue points through a variety of options, such as participating in continuing education, getting a research paper published or participating in writing materials for the certification examination.

Licensing is also a required step in pursuing a career in pediatric oncology nursing. Licensing is managed at the state level, but in every state, a nurse must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Other requirements, set by the state nursing board, may include meeting educational requirements and passing a criminal background check.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, is projected to increase by 16% during the 2014-2024 decade. Based on 2015 data from the BLS, registered nurses earned an annual median salary of $67,490. Nurse practitioners received $98,190 in median wages annually, per BLS.

Pediatric oncology nurses work with children with cancer work in hospitals, cancer treatment centers, or doctors' offices. In addition to holding a nursing license, they need to have experience working with children, and benefit from knowledge about the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer. They can earn optional professional certification by participating in the certified pediatric hematology/oncology nurse program.

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