Nurses are the heart of healthcare — and oncology nurses have some of the biggest hearts for their patients. 

From offering counseling and support to giving medication to assisting with end-of-life care, the job of an oncology nurse is exciting, rewarding, heartbreaking, and always changing. 

And we need more passionate and caring nurses just like you. 

If you’re wondering what an oncology nurse does, we’ve got you covered in this guide. We lay it all out for you to help you decide if a career as an oncology travel nurse is right for you. 


what do oncology nurses do


Table of Contents



What Is It Like to Be an Oncology Nurse?

The basic characteristic of any nurse should include …

  • Compassion 
  • Resilience; and
  • Precision 

… but oncology is a particularly challenging subset of nursing. It requires a special breed of nurses. 

If you’re an oncology nurse, you’re tough. 

You can dig deep …

  • Emotionally
  • Physically; and 
  • Mentally 

… to persevere through exhausting and often emotional shifts. 

While being an oncology nurse can be incredibly taxing, it is one of the most rewarding jobs for nurses. 

If you’re searching for your dream job in nursing, our recruiters at Trusted Nurse Staffing would love to talk with you. They’ll help answer any questions you have about working as an oncology travel nurse. 


what is it like to be an oncology nurse


What Do Oncology Nurses Do?

Oncology nurses care for cancer patients. They help to coordinate the many aspects of their care throughout their journey with cancer. 

For cancer patients, oncology nurses are there during the most difficult and intimate times of this journey. You are the one at their bedside, helping to educate and encourage them. You are the one behind the scenes, supporting families and communicating with doctors and other care team members

5 Responsibilities of an Oncology Nurse

#1: Patient Assessment

As an oncology nurse, you’re expected to be an expert in assessing a patient’s physical and emotional status — completing a detailed history and physical examination. 

You’ll review their: 

  • Health history
  • Health practices; and 
  • Knowledge of the disease and treatment plan

#2: Patient Education

Oncology nurses are experts when it comes to cancer and cancer treatments. 

You’ll help the patient and his or her family understand the disease and the treatment process. Your clinical knowledge and technical expertise will help ensure the patient understands what is happening with their body in each stage of treatment. 

Patient and family education starts before therapy and continues during and after therapythis continuing education helps to ensure success.

Patient education can be written or visual aids. It may include referrals to other professionals or community programs, such as cancer support groups

#3: Direct Patient Care

Oncology nurses provide direct patient care at the bedside and chairside. 

This may include keeping track of …

  • Laboratory 
  • Pathology; and
  • Imaging studies

… as well as safely administering medications, fluids, and cancer treatments. 

The majority of oncology nurses will provide direct patient care involving chemotherapy. It’s important to ensure that the correct dose and drug are administered by the correct route to the right patient. 

#4: Care Coordination

Oncology nurses play a vital role in a patient’s treatment plan — serving as the patient’s first line of communication. 

You’ll collaborate with doctors and other clinicians about the treatment plan on the patient’s behalf. 

Advocating for the unique needs of your patients helps to reduce the impact of cancer on:

  • Patients
  • Families
  • Communities; and
  • Populations 

#5: Patient Symptom Management and Support

Symptom management goes far beyond screening for pain or asking about fatigue — it’s a central practice to oncology nursing. 

It involves:

  • Complex decision-making 
  • Evidence-based interventions; and
  • The support of the entire team 

Oncology nurses intervene with evidence-based resources to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients who are plagued with disease and treatment-associated symptoms.

Cancer patients may suffer from:

  • Pain 
  • Fatigue 
  • Constipation 
  • Anorexia
  • Dyspnea
  • Nausea and vomiting; or
  • A number of other side effects 

Patient management and support from loving and caring oncology nurses are paramount to the successful outcomes of cancer patients. 

Where Do Oncology Nurses Work?

Oncology nurses can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient centers
  • Clinics
  • Private practices; and
  • Long-term care facilities 

The scope of oncology nursing spans from prevention and early detection to treatment, symptom management, and palliative care. 

Experienced oncology travel nurses also have the incredible opportunity that few other careers can offergetting paid to explore and travel across the country. 

There is consistent demand for oncology travel nurses. If adding in adventure, amazing pay, and lasting memories appeals to you, we’d love to help you get started. Reach out today! 


what an oncology nurse does


3 Pros of Working in Oncology

Oncology nurses have a rewarding career that helps many patients and their families — making a tremendous impact on the quality of life for their patients. 

In addition to the impact you make in the lives of those with cancer, as an oncology nurse, you’ll see many other benefits that few other careers offer. 

#1: Above-Average Salaries

Pay for oncology nurses can change depending on the area and current demand. 

Oncology nurse jobs pay an average annual salary of around $74,000, which is slightly higher than the median salary for other nurses. Some states such as New York and New Hampshire may pay above $90,000. 

A travel nurse working in oncology averages $103,197plus the other perks of travel nursing. 

#2: The Ability to Form Long-Term Relationships With Patients

The relationships you build with your cancer patients will be special. 

Oncology nurses walk through some of the most difficult times that a cancer patient may go throughfrom beginning chemotherapy and the joy of remission or helping them as they end their fight with dignity. 

You’ll inspire your patients, and their hard work will inspire you. Building strong relationships with them and their family members is common and rewarding for many oncology nurses. 

#3: Being Able to Combine Your Medical Knowledge and Emotional Intelligence

Oncology nursing takes emotional intelligence to deal with loss and patients’ physical and emotional pain. Patients are often scared, upset, and anxious. It’s important to understand how their emotions are playing a role in their health.

It also takes specialized medical knowledge so that you can do everything you can for your cancer patients. 

You’ll need to have a deep understanding of …

  • The disease process
  • Physical effects; and
  • Treatments 

… offered to the patient. 

2 Cons of Working in Oncology

As with all specialty areas of nursing, it is essential to also weigh the negatives in order to decide if oncology nursing is right for you. 

It’s important to make sure you are really driven to do this work and that you have a true passion. 

#1: High Levels of Occupational Stress

Since oncology nurses form close relationships with patients who are often terminal, this can lead to a lot of stress and sadness on the job. 

Two ways to combat this are to focus on all the good you are doing for patients and to remember to take care of yourself, too! 

An article in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing shares that “oncology nurses have a longstanding history of witnessing the tragedy experienced by those they care for.” However, they don’t have the same level of treatment services many first responders have such as “counseling, routine debriefing, and time off to counter the negative emotional effects.” 

Travel oncology nurses are able to take time off between their assignments to rest and ready themselves for the next assignment — helping to increase professional longevity and fulfillment.

#2: The Danger of Exposure to Toxic Chemotherapy Drugs

Exposure to chemotherapy can create hazards for oncology nurses as they deliver lifesaving care to cancer patients. Exposure occurs when oncology nurses inhale vapors or touch contaminated surfaces. 

Guidelines recommend wearing protective gear, including:

  • Double gloves
  • Eye protection 
  • Respirators 

Despite the risks, many health care workers don’t use the recommended protective equipment when handling chemotherapy. 


working in oncology


Looking for Oncology Travel Nurse Jobs? Let Trusted Nurse Staffing Help

Are you ready to begin your career as an oncology travel nurse? 

Getting started with Trusted Nurse Staffing is easysimply create your free profile. 

One of the recruiters will reach out shortly to discuss everything you need to know about this exciting career. They will help to answer any questions you have and help you determine if this is the right path for you. 

We aim to offer a personalized experience and will help you through each step as you begin your new adventure. 

The world needs more amazing nurses like you. If you’re ready to start your journey as an oncology travel nurse (or in any nursing field) reach out today!


what is it like to be an oncology nurse