Oncology is the medical care and treatment of cancer patients. Due to the clinical requirements for the program, it is not possible to become an oncology physician online. However, healthcare providers like oncology nurses and physicians can complete oncology certificate programs in online or hybrid formats.
Courses in these online certificate programs cover types of cancer, treatments and working with cancer patients. These courses provide students with the skills they need to work with oncology patients, ranging from understanding the development of cancer to dealing with the psychological issues that are handled by cancer patients. Residencies are typically required for these programs.
Certificate in Oncology
Physicians who want to become oncologists need to complete a residency program in person. However, there are certificate programs in oncology that are offered as online and hybrid programs designed for practicing nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers who work with oncology patients. Certificate programs cover the biology of cancer, patient assessments, treatment goals and psychological issues, among other topics.
Program Information and Requirements
Online certificate programs in oncology can typically be completed in a year and may be completed entirely or partially online, depending on the program. Students who plan on enrolling in an online program need access to a computer that connects to the Internet and meets technical specifications, such as having newer operating systems and specific software installed. Students may also be required to purchase textbooks in order to complete required readings.
Common Certificate-Level Courses
Coursework covers cancer prevention, screening methods, therapies, symptom management and treatment. Students can access coursework, including lectures, readings and study guides through interfaces such as Blackboard or WebCT. They can also interact with instructors by using e-mail and the telephone.
This class covers the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of the drugs used to manage various health states. Students also learn about the ethics and legal regulations involved in prescription medicine.
Participants learn how to perform a clinical assessment of patients. They practice different techniques for taking patient histories and providing physical exams.
Biology of Cancer
Students learn the developmental stages of cancer from the cellular level and study environmental influences. They also examine diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
This course covers how and why different disease symptoms appear. Lessons cover physiological responses, treatment methods, current research and developmental physiology.
Overall, the nurse practitioner field is expected to grow quickly at a rate of 31% between 2014 and 2024, although employment opportunities for nurses vary by field and location. This faster-than-average rate is due to the increased demand for healthcare services resulting from newly insured patients, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the median annual wage for a nurse practitioner, such as an oncology nurse, was $98,190, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Additional certification, other than a registered nursing license or doctor's credentials, is not required after earning an oncology certificate, but some nurses incorporate their studies into a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist program. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a large number of certification programs, including several that could accommodate an oncology nurse. Nurses must meet education and experience requirements as well as pass credentialing tests.
Certificate and degree programs are also available in radiation therapy for those who want to want to learn more about the related field of diagnostic imaging, although most states require individuals to become licensed in order to work as a radiology technician.
While full-fledged degree programs in oncology are not available, currently practicing health professionals may benefit from achieving an online certificate in oncology care as it focuses on specific and key skills that are very pertinent to the oncology field.