There are estimated to be 1,958,310 new cases of cancer and 609,820 deaths related to cancer in the United States during this year. The disease can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting, so healthcare professionals need to provide both medical and emotional support to the patients and their families. Oncology nurses, in particular, play a vital role in providing comprehensive care and support to patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Read on to learn more about oncology nurses’ salaries, responsibilities, job outlook, and more.
Table of contents
- What Exactly Is an Oncology Nurse?
- Oncology Nurse Salary & Job Outlook
- How To Increase Your Salary as an Oncology Nurse
- Should You Become an Oncology Nurse?
- What’s the Bottom Line?
What Exactly Is an Oncology Nurse?
An oncology nurse is a specialized registered nurse who, in collaboration with other nurses and physicians, cares for patients diagnosed with cancer. These nurses often work in hospitals, private clinics, therapy facilities, and specialized cancer treatment centers.
To fulfill their responsibilities, these nurses must have an in-depth knowledge of all the stages of cancer, treatments, and managing the physical and emotional aspects of cancer care. Oncology nurses should also possess excellent communication, organizational, and critical thinking skills, as well as empathy and compassion for the patients under their care.
What does an oncology nurse do?
Oncology nurses play a crucial role in providing comprehensive care and education to patients and their families, helping them to adjust and cope with their condition. Their responsibilities are varied and multifaceted, but some of the primary duties they perform include:
Administering chemotherapy and other cancer treatments
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy are some of the most common cancer treatments. Although the treatment depends on the stage and type of cancer, oncology nurses help administer drugs for all these treatments.
Monitoring patients for side effects
As part of their daily routine, oncology nurses play a crucial role in closely monitoring patients and diligently assessing their vital signs. A key responsibility in this regard involves vigilantly watching for any potential side effects that may arise as a result of the treatments being administered, including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue.
This proactive approach to patient care helps ensure that any adverse reactions are promptly detected and addressed, allowing for more effective management of the patient’s overall well-being.
Providing emotional support
Oncology nurses also provide emotional support to patients and their families. They help patients and their families cope with the physical and emotional challenges caused by cancer. They offer compassion, empathy, and a listening ear for patients and family members experiencing fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Promoting health and wellness
Oncology nurses educate patients on the importance of healthy living and provide information on self-care. Additionally, they help patients and their families navigate the healthcare system and make informed decisions about various treatment options.
Oncology Nurse Salary & Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job opportunities for registered nurses, including oncology nurses, will increase by 6% throughout this decade.
In addition, the average salary for an oncology nurse in the United States is $90,088 a year. This salary can range from $55,500 to $138,000 annually. This wide range of wages comes as a result of several factors, such as experience level, location, and employer.
Oncology nurse salary by state
Reports show that the highest-paying states for oncology nurses include New York, Idaho, and California, with median annual salaries ranging from $95,725 to $99,878. On the other hand, the states with the lowest wages for these nurses include Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina, with median annual salaries ranging from $63,570 to $70,189. See the map below for oncology nurses‘ wages in other states.
Oncology nurse salary by years of experience
The experience of an oncology nurse plays a significant role in determining their salary—a more experienced nurse is more valuable to employers.
Here’s an estimation of the average salary of an oncology nurse based on years of experience:
How To Increase Your Salary as an Oncology Nurse
Registered nurse positions such as oncology nursing typically provide plenty of room for you to improve and earn more money. Here are a few tips for boosting your salary in this field:
- Continue your education
Employers are often willing to pay more for nurses dedicated to advancing their abilities. Obtaining advanced degrees in the field of nursing, such as master’s or doctoral degrees, can help you stay on top of the competition. Similarly, various certification programs can help you expand your knowledge and skill set.
- Gain experience
The more experience you have as an oncology nurse, the more valuable you become to employers and the more eligible you are for other positions with higher pay. Working in various oncology settings can pay off. For example, the average pediatric oncology nurse’s salary is $116,810 per year and can go up to $131,180 with experience. Additionally, taking on leadership roles can help you earn a higher wage—the average oncology nurse navigator’s salary is $113,707 per year.
- Consider travel nursing
Travel nursing can be a lucrative career choice, especially for those seeking higher wages and diverse experiences. Travel nurses are in high demand and can earn higher wages due to the short-term nature of their duties. So, consider pursuing travel nursing in oncology to increase your earnings.
Should You Become an Oncology Nurse?
You should become an oncology nurse if you are compassionate and empathetic, possess strong communication skills, have patience, and can maintain a positive attitude since the job can be emotionally challenging at times. Naturally, it is also important to have a solid understanding of cancer symptoms, stages, types, and treatments, as well as be able to respond quickly in emergencies.
Of course, ultimately, the decision to choose a career is a personal one. If you have the desire to help people and make a difference in their lives, then oncology nursing can be an excellent fit for you.
Benefits of being an oncology nurse
There are several benefits that come with being an oncology nurse. Some of them include:
Sense of fulfillment
As an oncology nurse, you have the opportunity to help people navigate through what is, for most, a life-changing experience. Providing medical care and emotional support to your patients can be a deeply rewarding and meaningful experience.
Plenty of room for professional growth
Oncology nursing requires continuous education and training in order to stay up-to-date with the latest treatments, technologies, and other discoveries made in relation to cancer. Therefore, the job presents many opportunities for professional development and advancement.
As was previously explained in this article, the demand for oncology nurses is great, and so is the payment. As long as you work hard and continue advancing your skills, employers will provide excellent salaries and benefits packages to compensate for your work.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The profession of an oncology nurse is as challenging as it is fulfilling. You provide care and support for people fighting one of the most complex human diseases. The job allows you to make a difference in your patients’ lives while generously compensating you for your efforts.
Want to learn more about different nursing specialties and their salaries? Check out our nursing salary and career guides by clicking here.
Nurse Luke is a CRNA who specializes in Nursing content and still enjoys a very busy career with Locum, Per Diem and Travel nursing in the greater midwest. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field and received his CRNA masters degree from the Mayo Clinic School of Healthcare. He is passionate about helping nurses explore the options of becoming a travel nurse as well as spending time with his Family.