Oncology technicians are certified nursing assistants who specialize in working with cancer patients. Prospective oncology technicians can complete a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate program, which prepares students to deliver basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs). All states require CNAs to be certified. While requirements vary by state, the process typically requires completing a certain amount of work experience or practicum and passing an exam.
Applicants may be required to undergo criminal background checks and physical exams that verify their wellness and abilities to perform labor-intensive healthcare tasks, such as lifting objects and moving beds. They will also need to have a high school diploma or GED, provide transcripts and may need to attend an orientation. These programs generally last one semester.
Certified Nursing Assistant Programs
According to November 2011 job postings on CareerBuilder.com, CNAs who work specifically with oncology patients assist nurses with chemotherapy and palliative care, blood draws and vital sign checks. Aspiring oncology technicians can acquire the skills needed to work in this field through CNA training programs. These programs cover general topics in anatomy, medical equipment operation and nutrition. Alongside this coursework, students complete a set number of hours of clinical training at approved healthcare facilities.
Coursework specific to oncology isn't available in a typical CNA program; however, some schools and organizations offer courses that provide oncology training. In those programs, students might learn about common cancer side effects, end-of-life care for cancer patients and cancer terminology. In general CNA programs, students can study:
- Patient personal care
- Safety measures
- Patient rights
- Infection control
- Emergency preparation
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Certified nursing assistants are expected to have excellent career growth and employment prospects going forward. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for nursing assistants was projected to grow 9%, while growth for orderlies was projected at 5% from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS cites improvements in long-term medical care and the use of nursing care facilities as alternatives to hospitals as key forces driving this robust growth.
In May 2018, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for all nursing assistants was $28,540, while orderlies earned $28,060. Nursing and community care facilities, hospitals and home healthcare providers were the leading employers of CNAs at that time.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
According to the BLS, nursing assistants are required to be trained in accordance with state requirements for at least 75 hours and pass a state examination verifying their competency in order to earn the CNA credential. Additional requirements vary by state.
CNAs can seek advanced careers in the nursing field. To work as an RN, a CNA can expect to complete a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program, according to the BLS. Graduates of these programs can take the National Council Licensure Exam to become registered nurses.
Students interested in working as an oncology technician will need to enroll in a CNA program and then complete additional oncology training. Graduates with the CNA credential may need to meet additional state requirements to practice as nursing aides.