How Can I Become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

Research what it takes to become a pediatric oncology nurse. Learn about education requirements, and licensure and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

Children with cancer receive nursing care from pediatric oncology nurses. These nurses specialize in cancer treatments and work with children who are diagnosed with cancer. They may perform a wide range of tasks. Some pediatric oncology nurses may focus on education, and may be involved in explaining to patients how their illness affects them or how the treatment they're going to receive will help. They also educate and support the child's family members. Pediatric oncology nurses may also be involved in performing treatments. They might give a patient chemotherapy or other prescribed treatment.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Administer medication and treatment; take vital signs and maintain patient records; observe patient status and report changes; assist physician with examination and treatment
Licensure and/or Certification All states require RNs to be licensed; board certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 for all registered nurses*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

You must be a registered nurse (RN) to work as a pediatric oncology nurse. This requires you to earn an associate's degree in nursing or registered nursing (ADRN), or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), as well as a state-issued license. A certified nursing assistant or practical nursing license may be required to enter an ADRN program. Prerequisite courses typically include anatomy and physiology, nutrition, medical terminology, psychology, microbiology, statistics and chemistry. Other prerequisites could include cardiopulmonary resuscitation training and current vaccinations.

You can enter most traditional BSN programs with a high school diploma. Colleges may require that you have a certain number of high school credits in social sciences, English, math and a foreign language. BSN courses include reproductive health, child and adolescent health, psychology, biochemistry, pharmacology, statistics and leadership.

How Can I Obtain Licensure?

Licensing requirements vary by state. You can apply for licensing through your state's board of nursing. Currently, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American-Samoa, the Virgin Islands and all 50 U.S. states require that nurses pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to gain licensure as a registered nurse (www.ncsbn.org). The NCLEX-RN is developed and maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Pediatric Oncology Nursing Certification

Certification for pediatric oncology nurses is voluntary. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers a certification (CPHON) for pediatric oncology hematology nurses. (www.oncc.org). Certification candidates must be licensed RNs and have at least one year of experience and ten hours of approved continuing nursing education in oncology within the last three years. You must also have 1,000 hours of nursing practice in hematology or pediatric oncology during the last 30 months to be eligible to take the CPHON exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Healthcare social workers and physician assistants work in the medical field, like pediatric oncology nurses, and they perform some duties that are similar to those of a pediatric oncology nurse. Healthcare social workers may be involved in educating and supporting patients and their families, which is something that pediatric oncology nurses may also do. Physician assistants may be involved in ordering or administering tests to diagnose a patient. They may also prescribe treatment. A physician assistant may work with a pediatric oncology nurse to ensure that a patient they diagnose has an appropriate treatment plan put in place. Healthcare social workers need a bachelor's or master's degree. Physician assistants need a master's degree.

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