What is an Oncology Nurse?

Nurse with Cancer PatientMay is Oncology Nursing Month. This worldwide recognition honors the nurses who care for patients with cancer. Thousands of nurses participate in Oncology Nursing Month activities, ranging from social gatherings, fundraising to support patients and efforts to raise awareness of the rewards of an oncology nursing career. This year’s theme, Oncology Nurses: Providing Care for Life, conveys the long-term relationship between nurses and their patients, even after patients complete their treatment.

In honor of Oncology Nursing Month, I want to provide you with more information about the advantages of having an oncology certified nurse (OCN) involved in your cancer care.

What is OCN?

OCN examinations test the knowledge necessary for the nurse to practice competently at the basic level in adult oncology nursing. The certification validates an individual’s knowledge in cancer nursing. Candidates who pass the OCN® Test may use the certification mark “OCN” to verify that they have met all eligibility and testing requirements. After the examination the oncology nurse most often joins the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) to maintain continuing educational requirements.

Why Should an OCN Be On My Treatment Team?

Having an OCN on your treatment team gives you the added bonus of another cancer expert. OCN’s advance their knowledge on the specifics of cancer treatment. They understand side-effects of cancer and treatment, know ways to treat them and can be a great resource for both patients and caregivers. OCN’s are better equipped to deal with the special needs that come with cancer treatment.

What is ONS?

ONS is a professional association of more than 35,000 members committed to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and the transformation of cancer care. Since 1975, ONS has provided a professional community for oncology nurses. ONS seek to reduce the risks, incidence and burden of cancer. This is done in partnership with cancer treatment providers by encouraging healthy lifestyles, promoting early detection and improving the management of cancer symptoms and side effects throughout the disease path.


Cancer care changes each and every day. Oncology nurses need to know about everything from new treatments and technologies to changes in managed care and evolving reimbursement policies. ONS is an outlet to provide the most comprehensive education to help nurses stay at the top of their profession and provide the highest quality patient care possible.

Check to see if your nurse is oncology certified! Does he or she have OCN after their name? Thank your oncology nurse for all he or she does!

By Charlene Berke

Director of the Cancer Center at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital