Oncology nurse practitioners provide expert care and counseling services for cancer patients. They are advanced practice nurses who conduct research and perform administrative duties in addition to working directly with patients. A person who wants to become an oncology nurse practitioner usually needs to obtain a master's degree in nursing, gain experience in an oncology setting, and pass a regional licensing exam. Many hospitals and cancer clinics also require new nurse practitioners to gain national certification from a governing board before they can work independently.
A person who believes that he or she wants to become an oncology nurse practitioner first needs to obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year university. Undergraduate nursing programs provide expert instruction for nurses planning to enter any specialty, including oncology. A student learns about medical technology, diagnostic imaging techniques, first aid, and patient assessments. Many schools offer students the opportunity to participate in internships while earning their degrees to learn about the profession firsthand from practicing nurses.
A master's degree is required to become an oncology nurse practitioner, but many individuals choose to join the workforce immediately after receiving their bachelor's degrees. Previous nursing experience is very important, and many master's degree programs require it before an applicant can be considered for admissions. After passing national exams to earn registered nurse credentials, a new professional can begin working in an emergency room or general care division of a hospital. With at least one year of experience, a nurse can choose to take a certification exam to become a registered oncology nurse.
When a nurse is ready to return to school, he or she generally needs to submit an extensive application packet, professional resume, recommendation letters, and a statement of intent that explains why he or she wants to become an oncology nurse practitioner. A master's program takes about two years of full-time study to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and internship work. Classes provide detailed training in the specialty, exposing a student to the tools and techniques he or she will use on a daily basis. In addition, a student often has the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic related to cancer or the practice of oncology to better understand the disease.
Many schools are closely affiliated with hospitals, and career placement officials can help new graduates find job openings. In most regions, new nurses are required to work under the supervision of experienced professionals for a set number of hours before they can take licensing exams. Success on the written or computerized exam allows a person to officially become an oncology nurse practitioner. A professional can take a voluntary certification test as well to further improve his or her credentials and chances of finding permanent employment.