If you have passion for kids, a nurturing disposition, and an interest in heatlh care, you might have what it takes to become a great pediatric oncology nurse.
What is a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?
A pediatric oncology nurse is a specialized registered nurse (RN) that cares for children and adolescents with cancer, administering chemotherapy and radiation therapies and follow-up care. They must also be equipped to provide patients and their families with the knowledge and emotional support they need to cope with sometimes bleak and painful prognoses.
Because of the delicate nature of their work, pediatric nurses must have excellent bedside manner. They must also be able to work long shifts, manage busy caseloads, and be very organized and detail oriented, especially when maintaining medical records or administering medications.
How to Become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse
To become a pediatric oncology nurse, you must first become a licensed RN, a process that requires you to earn one of the following credentials from an accredited nursing school:
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
RN hopefuls must also pass a national licensing exam called the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Most states have additional requirements for RN licensure, so it's wise to contact your state's nursing board to learn more.
Once you've become an RN, you can become a pediatric oncology nurse by earning additional credentials in both oncology and pediatrics, or through a targeted certificate, such as the Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPON) credential. RN credentialing is a typically voluntary, but employer-preferred process managed by the organizations like the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board or the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. These certificates ensure that you have the specialized training necessary to care for a very specific patient demographic.
Becoming a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Some pediatric oncology nurses go on to become certified oncology nurse practitioners, a position that typically offers more autonomy, responsibility, and money. To become a certified oncology nurse practitioner you must earn your MSN Degree, complete at least 500 hours of supervised clinical training, and pass the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) exam.
Pediatric Oncology Nurse Salary Information
Pediatric oncology nursing is a relatively small, specific subset of RNs, making it difficult to pin down salary specifics. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for RNs in May, 2009 was $63,750, with the middle 50 percent earning between $52,520 and $77,970. Meanwhile, 2010 data provided by Salary.com notes that oncology nurses earned $63,882 on average, with the middle 50 percent earning between $57,099 and $72,260. Pediatrics nurses earned an average of $60,541 the same year, with the middle 50 percent earning between $55,066 and $67,106. Those with BSN or MSN degrees tend to earn more than those with ADNs alone.
Career Outlook Pediatric Oncology Nurses
Thanks to technological advances that help their young patients live longer, the future is bright for budding pediatric oncology nurses. According to the BLS, RNs are among the fastest growing occupations in the country, with a projected growth of 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. The BLS notes that opportunities are especially good for those who have earned additional training, including pediatric oncology certification.