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Oncology nurses provide and supervise the care of patients with cancer. Oncology nurses monitor the patient’s condition, administer medication, and develop care plans and develop symptom management protocols. Oncology nurses witness much suffering but this stress is offset by the long-term relationships they often develop with patients and their families.

The responsibilities of oncology nurses extend beyond direct patient care to include consultant, patient educator, researcher, and management. They collaborate closely with physicians and other members of the healthcare team to ensure the highest quality of care to patients.

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The duties and responsibilities of oncology nursing professionals include the following:

  • Develop individualized care plans for patients under their care.
  • Collaborate with a multidisciplinary health care team to share knowledge and expertise.
  • Identify and treat cancer-related health issues.
  • Perform cancer research to improve treatment protocols provided to cancer patients.
  • Provide supportive resources for patients and their families to foster positive outlook and morale.
  • Educate patients and their families with regard to treatment expectations.
  • Monitor and record the progress of patients on an ongoing basis.
  • Document patient’s response to medication and all treatment.

Oncology nurses provide a broad range of services from direct care and cancer prevention through rehabilitative, palliative, and supportive services. Some oncology nurses specialize in working with children and are referred to as paediatric oncology nurses.

Click here to read more about what oncology nurses do.

Work Environment

Oncology nurses most often work in clean and sterile hospital environments, although some may work in community-based clinics. Full time oncology nurses typically work a 40 hour week but needs to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week for emergencies. Since many medical facilities throughout Australia are understaffed due to the global nursing shortage, overtime has become standard practice with double shifts a frequent occurrence. Oncology nurses must also adhere to strict confidentiality policies due to the delicate health condition of cancer patients.


The oncology nurse must possess knowledge in each of the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Oncology nursing practice
  • Pharmacology
  • Nutrition
  • Psychosocial aspects of cancer for patients and their families.
  • Principles of radiation chemotherapy and possible complications of treatment.

Education and Training Requirements

Oncology nurses usually hold an active registered nurse (RN) license. To become a Registered (Division 1) Nurse it is necessary to complete a three year Bachelor of Nursing degree that is available at most Australian universities. Upon graduation students are eligible to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). A  list of universities offering nursing coursework is provided by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  Graduates then participate in a period of poste registration graduate support in a hospital for a year and then move into professional practice.

Clinical work plays a major part of most bachelor’s programs and occurs in a variety of healthcare settings. Students will further develop their skills by participating in nursing laboratories Nearly 50 percent of the nursing program will be devoted to clinical and laboratory practice in such settings as large general hospitals, smaller community0based hospitals, cancer-based clinics, and rehabilitation centres.

Bachelor’s programs offer practical experience combined with theoretical study and the development of comprehensive clinical and patient-relationship skills to enable graduates to work as competent nursing professionals. Study will foster independent and critical thinking skills and enhance student’s awareness of preventative health measures.

Before enrolling in any program, make sure that is accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA),

Following completion of a bachelor’s degree, those who wish to become an oncology nurse will need to enrol in advanced study to obtain a Graduate Diploma in Nursing Science (Oncology). This program is designed to prepare the registered nurse to work with cancer patients and their families. The program will provide advanced theoretical knowledge and skills in oncology nursing.  The goal of most graduate diploma programs is to:

Enhance the student’s knowledge of cancer disease progression.
Develop knowledge of cancer treatments and outcomes.
Improve the student’s clinical skills in an area where technology is continuously being updated.

Graduation from the diploma program will foster safe and competent practice and build on knowledge already gained through prior work in the field. Programs will include student research of cancer nursing to better understand not only the medical, but socio-psycho aspects of care as well on behalf of patients, their families, and communities.

Oncology Nurse Earnings

The earnings and working conditions of nurses in Australia are determined by various awards and agreements.  The article What do Nurses Earn which provides a guideline of annual nurse wages across Australia and at different career levels.

Job Outlook

There is a severe nursing shortage throughout Australia across all areas of nursing. This arises from the aging of the nursing workforce, nurse recidivism, and the smaller number of nurses entering the profession. This combined with the aging of the population and the increased incidence of cancer in older adults means that the field of oncology nursing is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupation through the year 2020.


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