What It’s Like to be Oncology Infusion Nurse? Things to Know

by Sara Alvarado

Updated July 10, 2024
According to the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (2022), cancer incidence rose consistently from 2014 to 2018 in all individuals up to age 85 years. The highest cancer incidence was in the age range of 80–84 years, suggesting a higher concurrence of comorbid diseases for the oncology nurse to consider when caring for this population.

Oncology infusion nurses play a crucial role in the care and treatment of patients battling cancer. Here's a comprehensive overview of their duties, educational requirements, and challenges they may encounter:

Duties of an Oncology Infusion Nurse

1. Administering Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy: Oncology infusion nurses are responsible for safely administering chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments to patients. This includes preparing medications, calculating dosages, and ensuring proper infusion techniques.

2. Assessing Patients: Before, during, and after treatment, nurses assess patients for any signs of adverse reactions or complications. They monitor vital signs, assess for side effects, and provide supportive care as needed.

3. Patient Education: Oncology nurses play a crucial role in educating patients and their families about treatment plans, potential side effects, and self-care measures. They provide emotional support and guidance throughout the treatment process.

4. Collaborating with Healthcare Team: Infusion nurses work closely with oncologists, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement comprehensive care plans for patients. They communicate any changes in patient status and collaborate on treatment adjustments.

5. Managing Central Venous Access Devices (CVADs): Many cancer patients require central venous access devices for chemotherapy administration. Infusion nurses are responsible for accessing, maintaining, and troubleshooting these devices to prevent complications.

6. Providing Symptom Management: Oncology nurses assist patients in managing treatment-related symptoms such as nausea, pain, fatigue, and peripheral neuropathy. They may administer medications or recommend supportive therapies to alleviate discomfort.

7. Ensuring Safety and Compliance: Infusion nurses adhere to strict safety protocols and guidelines to minimize the risk of medication errors and infection transmission. They maintain accurate documentation of treatments and monitor for any regulatory compliance issues.

Educational Requirements

Nursing Degree: To become an oncology infusion nurse, individuals typically need to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program.

Licensure: Nurses must obtain licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN) by passing the NCLEX-RN exam in their respective state or jurisdiction.

Oncology Nursing Certification: While not always mandatory, obtaining certification in oncology nursing demonstrates expertise in the field. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers certifications such as the Certified Oncology Nurse (OCN) or Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON).

Specialized Training: Oncology infusion nurses often pursue additional training or certification specific to infusion therapy and chemotherapy administration to enhance their skills and knowledge in the field.

Challenges Faced by Oncology Infusion Nurses

1. Emotional Stress: Working with cancer patients can be emotionally challenging due to the nature of the disease and its impact on patients and families. Nurses may experience compassion fatigue or burnout from witnessing suffering and loss.

2. Patient Complexity: Cancer patients often present with complex medical conditions and treatment regimens, requiring nurses to possess advanced clinical skills and critical thinking abilities to provide effective care.

3. Chemotherapy Side Effects: Managing chemotherapy side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and neutropenia requires nurses to be vigilant in assessing patient symptoms and providing timely interventions to minimize discomfort and complications.

4. Safety Concerns: Handling hazardous medications and working with central venous access devices pose safety risks for nurses. Strict adherence to safety protocols and ongoing training in handling hazardous materials are essential to mitigate these risks.

5. Workload and Time Management: Oncology infusion nurses may face high patient volumes and fast-paced work environments, necessitating strong organizational skills and the ability to prioritize tasks effectively.

Final Thoughts

By understanding the duties, educational requirements, and challenges faced by oncology infusion nurses, healthcare facilities can better support these vital members of the healthcare team and ensure optimal care for patients battling cancer.
Article by
Sara Alvarado
Greetings, I'm Sara, a dedicated nurse and a proud contributor to the AutoInfu blog. With my firsthand experience in the world of infusion pumps, I'm here to provide you with the latest insights, expert advice, and essential updates to ensure you stay informed about the infusion pump industry.

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