Career Moves in Oncology Nursing: What Comes Next?

Oncology Nursing Career Moves

Written by Colleen O’Leary, MSN, RN, AOCNS®

I am convinced that if oncology nurses were more familiar with the vast array of opportunities for those with advanced degrees, we would have a glut of nurses with advanced knowledge and expertise. I’ve had many conversations with nurses who say they want to continue their education, but who simply don’t know all of the options available to them.

Often I hear that they are familiar with the nurse practitioner role. They see nurse practitioners in the hospital, in their doctor’s office, and even at now-popular walk-in clinics. But how many know about the other oncology advanced practice nursing roles? Do you know what a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) does? How about a clinical nurse manager (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), clinical nurse leader (CNL), or clinical nurse educator (CNE)? Beyond that, you can explore a multitude of educational credentials, including the PhD and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

I will be presenting Digesting the Alphabet Soup of Nursing: Choosing Your Career Path on Sunday, May 4, at Congress. Join me to learn what an oncology nursing career trajectory looks like, understand how to start planning for what comes next, and get answers to the following questions.

  • What’s the difference between an oncology advanced practice nurse and other advanced nursing roles?
  • How do I get onto a management track?
  • What path do I take if oncology nursing education or research is my forte?
  • What roles are common throughout each oncology nursing title and what is unique?
  • What does an oncology nursing job look like for each title—or what can I make it look like?

No one starts out with all the answers. Nursing was my second career, and I was a bedside oncology nurse for many years. As life changed, I moved to another city and eventually into a position that was part staff education, part bedside nursing. I thought that’s what I’d do for the rest of my nursing career. I had no desire to go to graduate school, didn’t want to be a nurse practitioner, and wasn’t going to take the GRE exam, for sure.

But as I progressed in my career, I was mentored by some excellent advanced practice nurses, who taught me that there were so many opportunities for oncology advanced practice nurses than I ever knew about. With their inspiration and encouragement, I returned to school and became an oncology CNS. What a great move! I’m now supporting patients and families throughout their disease journey, encouraging our nurses’ professional development, and working within my system to ensure that we are doing the best for our patients based on the strongest evidence available.

Let me help you figure out your next move during Choosing Your Career Path at Congress. There’s a whole world of opportunity for you!

by Melissa

6 thoughts on “Career Moves in Oncology Nursing: What Comes Next?

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Christine! We haven’t released the exact room location yet, but this lecture will take place during regular Congress hours in the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. If you check the schedule a little closer to the conference, we’ll have room locations listed for every session.

  1. pamellah says:

    Am a Kenya Bsn nurse really have passion on oncology but i would really want to pur sur masters on oncology kindly advise me becoz There no university offering these .kindly give way forward

  2. Megan says:

    I am working on my DNP to become an oncology CNS. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend ONS Congress this year (attending HPNA and ASPMN conferences). Will your slides become available elsewhere?

    • Carla says:

      I have just looked at the ONS Congress schedule for Sunday, May 4 and saw that your lecture is not included. Has it been cancelled? But yesterday I printed out the schedule and it was there. I am really looking forward to this lecture, so I hope you will be there.

      • Melissa says:

        Hi Carla! We took this session off the schedule because Colleen will not be attending, but just added it back this morning because she was able to find someone to present in her place. Thanks for asking.

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