Chemotherapy can be complex as it’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment for cancer patients. With different treatments targeting different types of cancer cells, a radiation oncology nurse (also known as a Registered Nurse for Radiation Therapy) has multiple roles to improve the treatment pathway. Simultaneously, radiation oncology nurses are patient advocates and educators who can further oncology research by monitoring symptoms and collecting data points to determine treatment effectiveness.

This nursing job requires extensive knowledge in several disciplines which can be achieved with CEUs or mentorships. Since radiation therapy has varying success rates dependent on the type of cancer, it’s natural for patients to forgo treatment. Radiation oncology nurses should have the ability to reduce a patient’s anxiety about their treatment by providing simple explanations put in layman terms. You can learn more about the responsibilities and requirements of a Radiation Oncology Nurse and check out career opportunities at Eisenhower Health by clicking on the link: Radiation Therapy (ELCCC) department.

What are the roles of a Radiation Oncology Nurse?

The three key roles of a registered nurse specializing in radiation therapy are: a patient advocator, patient educator for complex treatments and a nurse researcher in Oncology.

Patient Advocator

The radiation oncology nurse is responsible for monitoring patients throughout treatment. Detailed logs must be kept that describe the patient’s symptoms before and after radiation therapy. Any abnormal signs must be immediately reported to the physician who will determine the next steps for the treatment. However, some patients will fall under geriatric care, so it’s critical to differentiate between signs of aging and an actual response to the treatment. As the designated nurse, radiation therapy nurses spend the most time with the patient, so your opinions are valuable if the treatment is endangering the patient even further. There are multiple aspects to consider, however, protecting the patient’s health status is the top priority for radiation oncology nurses.

Patient Educator

By staying updated on the latest research for radiation therapy, the Radiation Oncology Nurse ensures that the most accurate information can be shared with their patient to help them make a better, informed decision. A lot of knowledge must be actively sought after for Oncology since the field is still relatively new. Patients want to understand their condition, the proposed treatment, and the pros/cons of the treatment. In this age where Google makes it easy for anyone to self-diagnose or self-plan a holistic treatment, radiation oncology nurses are responsible for providing sound advice based on studies and science.

Nurse Researcher in Oncology

With their collected data, scientists can improve the chemotherapy experience for patients. It’ll help determine the best radiation method, strength, and tools to execute when targeting the specific cancer cell type. Ultimately, a radiation oncology nurse plays a major role in furthering scientific research that strives to increase the success rate of radiation therapy.

What are the Requirements to be a Radiation Oncology Nurse?

Similar to most registered nursing positions, a Radiation Oncology Nurse must have a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and a state license. Additionally, certifications for BLS/CPR and ACLR are necessary in case a patient displays negative symptoms and requires immediate critical care. Depending on the position, a higher career path like an Oncology Nurse Practitioner may require a Master’s degree in Nursing, advanced practitioner nurse (APN) certification, and an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)

For oncology nurses or nurse assistants, the additional certification needed is an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN). The exam requires 1000 hours of oncology registered nurse experience and 1 year as an RN and 10 contact hours in the oncology discipline. If you intend on administering chemotherapy to patients, ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate will demonstrate your expertise in the field.

The complete list of requirements are:

  • ADN or BSN in Nursing
  • Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Active state license as a registered nurse
  • Current BLS/CPR and ACLS certification
  • OCN certification
  • ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy certification

Desirable qualities of a radiation oncology nurse are:

  • Friendly and compassionate to nurture the patient-healthcare provider relationship based on mutual trust.
  • Attention to the patient’s vitals and external symptoms during radiation therapy.
  • Strong patient advocacy when communicating treatment plans to interdisciplinary team and family members.
  • Detail-oriented when taking notes and vitals with the ability to deliver an assessment on the patient’s health status to other team members.
  • Patient when discussing care plans to patients and family members.
  • High emotional intelligence to create a positive patient care experience that includes simplifying medical terminology and concepts to the patient.

What are the Radiation Oncology Nurse Responsibilities?

Working in the radiation department requires a unique set of tasks. RNs in radiation therapy typically:

  • Administer chemotherapy and monitor the patient throughout active treatment.
  • Prescribes medication following chemotherapy.
  • Manage short-term and long-term effects to improve the patient’s health condition.
  • Creates a care plan with defined goals communicated to the patient and patient’s family.
  • Effectively communicates medical terminology regarding the patient’s condition, illness, radiation therapy, and treatment plan.
  • Adjust the treatment plan as a patient advocate if the patient displays symptoms that can worsen their health condition.
  • Coordinates and documents appropriate discharge planning and referrals to ensure continuity of care after discharge.
  • Embraces change and continuously identifies opportunities for improvement by demonstrating a commitment to utilizing evidence based practice.

Why Should I be a Radiation Oncology Nurse?

Similar to other nursing specialties, registered nurses in radiation therapy will be in high-demand with many opportunities for career growth in oncology. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average age for cancer diagnosis is 66 years old (2021). The baby boomer generation will be the primary group for radiation oncology nurses for the upcoming decade. Many nurses develop a treasured patient-provider relationship with their patients in radiation therapy. Compared to the ER or ICU, patients in the radiation department are fewer, but require a significant amount of care.

Where are the Registered Nursing Jobs Near Me?

If you’re interested in developing deeper connections with patients, consider becoming a radiation oncology nurse. The field provides many career and research opportunities that will continue improving our methods of radiation therapy. Eisenhower Health provides both to our registered nurses who work with team members to deliver outstanding patient care. Our world-class medical center fosters a positive environment so our passionate health care workers can thrive in Coachella Valley, CA. Apply for our Registered Nurse – Radiation Therapy job and check out our Career page for more available nursing positions in California.

Originally posted on 15/7/2021

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