While there are no certifications in chemotherapy that can be earned entirely online, pharmacy technicians with education or experience with aseptic techniques can earn certification, and registered nurses (RNs) can receive training by completing courses and passing a comprehensive examination. They may have to travel to take short courses, attend seminars and take an examination.
Pharmacy technicians who have education or experience in hazardous drugs can apply for certification from the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA). They can complete their training at home, but they must attend a seminar in-person and pass an examination.
Registered nurses (RNs) can take courses in chemotherapy and biotherapy from the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). These courses are taught during two-day seminars that are held in various locations around the U.S. Successfully completing one of these programs will give the nurse a provider card and credits towards oncology nursing certification. Nurses must take new courses periodically to keep up with new technologies and treatments, and these courses are offered online.
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) certification to RNs who meet training and experience requirements for working with cancer patients. They also must pass an exam. This certification must be renewed every four years.
Chemotherapy Certification for Pharmacy Technicians
The NPTA has developed a chemotherapy certification course specifically designed for pharmacy technicians. Students must have education or experience with aseptic technique for sterile drug products prior to enrolling in the program. The course includes home-based learning topics, most involving various safety precautions utilized in the handling and management of hazardous drugs.
Attendance of a 1-day seminar at NPTA's training institute in Houston, TX, and successful passing of an exam completes the certification. In addition, 20 continuing professional education (CPE) credits are awarded to the student upon course completion. The NPTA program doesn't require recertification or renewal.
Chemotherapy Courses for Nurses
APHON and ONS are two organizations that offer chemotherapy and biotherapy courses designed specifically for nurses. Students must have an active RN license to enroll in either program. Lasting two days, both courses are held at various locations across the U.S. throughout the year. While not in itself a certification, nurses who successfully complete either course are awarded a provider card and obtain continuing education credit, which may be applied toward the completion or renewal of various ONCC certifications.
This course focuses on the appropriate administration of chemotherapy and biotherapy to adult patients. Additional topics include legal and ethical issues related to chemotherapy, toxicity and symptom management, and potential patient complications. Due to the hands-on training requirements, there are no online options for the course.
As an organization, APHON focuses specifically on pediatric nursing, and the course reflects this specialty. Nurses learn to safely administer chemotherapy and biotherapy to children and adolescents. Other topics of discussion include a list of common side effects seen in pediatric oncology patients and effective methods of preventing or minimizing them. Like the ONS course, this program is only available in-person.
Chemotherapy Nursing Renewal
To keep up with new advances in chemotherapy, course renewal is mandatory for nurses. In an effort to offer options that fit busy schedules, APHON and ONS are now offering online renewal courses. Students must have access to a computer with an Internet connection to take the course, as the curriculum is taught entirely online. Topics include the latest updates in cancer therapy management, an introduction to any new chemotherapy medications and a review of safety precautions that need to be taken while handling toxic drugs. Upon successfully finishing the course and passing a test, the student receives 2-2.5 contact hours of continuing nursing education (CNE) in addition to certification renewal.
Oncology Nurse Certification
ONCC's OCN program is restricted to RNs with an active license. Prerequisites include at least 1,000 hours of oncology nursing experience, ten oncology-related CEUs or a related academic elective taken in the last three years, and at least one year of experience as an RN. Passing an exam is also required. Renewal is required every four years to maintain certification. In addition to the chemotherapy and biotherapy course, APHON and ONS offer a wide variety of other oncology-related courses that may be applied towards OCN certification renewal.
Degrees in Chemotherapy
There is currently not a degree specific to chemotherapy administration. The degree commonly earned by pharmacy technicians who want to mix chemotherapy drugs would be an associate's degree. An associate's degree isn't necessary for pharmacy technician practice, however. Registered nurses who want to work with cancer patients may have earned either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an associate's degree in nursing.
Individuals looking for an online degree in chemotherapy will not find one completely online, but RNs and pharmacy technicians may find related training in hybrid programs that cover chemotherapy and oncology. Various professional organizations offer chemotherapy and related courses, each of which has varying prerequisite and continuing education requirements.