Cancer as it may sound can be very a serious topic to discuss. It involves a challenge of the hopes of having a good health despite the intractable illness that has inflicted the body. Cancer and its origin can still create a bizarre atmosphere in the field of medicine. Oncology as it is the study of cancer and its malignancies have been much thought about for more than a decade. This branch of medicine needs experts in order to alleviate the stigma and manage those who have been afflicted by such illness.
The role of a nurse has greatly evolved over the years. This is true with the birth of the specialty called oncology nursing. It was found out that there is a unique separation of a nurse who practices in a cancer ward. There is a desire to be educated more about the activities done in that area as well as how to apply the nursing process in terms of facilitating the nursing care to the cancer patients. Through this gap, the registered nurses have addressed this question through extended education about cancer and its effects to the whole individual. It was here oncology nursing came about.
During the 1950’s, the nurse would usually assist to a surgeon doing the most effective treatment for cancer – surgery. They are equipped with knowledge and expertise more of a surgical origin. Most of the responsibilities include preparing the patient for surgery as well as teaching them about how to recover faster. The psychological aspect of the nurse’s role have been apparent since patients with cancer need a strong psychological support so that they can cope up with a loss of a body part, low self-esteem and changed daily living.
The advent of chemotherapy and radiation therapy as means of treatment for cancer have affected the way nurse would work with cancer patients. The protection among health care workers have been heavily discussed since chemotherapy and radiation can also be harmful to the health care providers when too much exposure is done. This change has encouraged the nurses to know more about how to care cancer patients. They were able to create new methods of caring for them such as new ways to prevent infection, caring for wounds and supporting them holistically.
In 1971, the National Cancer Act was passed and the practice of nurses in oncology has been well defined. This opened academic opportunities for nurses to undergo formal training on oncology. Later, numerous programs were opened to cater the rising demand for oncology nurses.
As each research output proved that there is an escalating level of cancer patients, more tasks were delegated to nurses that they were called to specialize on this area in order to be competent. Through the above stated act, nurses were focused in promoting a decrease on the incidence of cancer, learning a lifestyle that is not prone to all forms of cancer. The mortality of cancer patients have been also a great focus on this act.
The act also summarized the roles of oncology nurses. Here are the following:
- Provide a thorough assessment on the presenting signs of cancer
- Develop a plan of action to detect suspects of cancer
- Perform a physical examination related on the body part being affected
- Respond to the needs of the cancer patients
- Monitor the positive compliance and response of patients to the stated therapy.
- Perform proper referral in order to facilitate better communication and effective means of care
- Contribute to the monitoring of cancer victims, mortality and those who are at risk.
- Monitor the rapid growth of those who had all types of cancer making it as a major chronic health condition
- Teach about the access to the proper health care needs and informs the patient of the possible output of each treatment prescribed.
- Administer medications that are needed intravenously while observing proper practices in the protocol.
The registered nurse who becomes an oncology nurse has additional roles as they get more training regarding oncology. They can become researchers, counsellors and educator for instance as they advance in the career ladder.
- A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- A licensed nurse able to practice in a certain state
- An experienced nurse with exposure to medical-surgical units
- A well educated and trained nurse with training in basic life support for instance so that in times of oncologic emergencies, nurses can readily respond.
- Further qualifications may include being an oncology certified nurse or gaining a degree.
Future as an Oncology Nurse
As an oncology nurse, the settings of the work may be in a large hospital with a unit concentrated in oncology. Some opted for private practice or even travelling along with cancer patients. Some also may work on National Cancer Institute. The average pay for an oncology nurse may rise between $40,000 to $125,000 especially for those who have advanced knowledge about oncology.
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