I was reading an article today from the NCI Cancer Bulletin titled Nurses and Physicians Collaborate to Improve Cancer Care. Basically, this article discussed the importance of having advanced practice oncology nurses on board as the aging population continues to grow along with the number of cancer survivors. As the demand for oncology care has increased, advanced practitioners will help oncologists meet that demand.
As I read through this article, I started thinking, "What's going to happen to the existing number of staff nurses in the hospital, clinic, and hospice settings as many of them transition into advanced practice?"
Even though there is a significant need for formal oncology training programs, many will pursue general nurse practitioner training and become certified through programs such as the Oncology Nursing Society's Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner.
As we train more oncology nurses to become advanced practitioners and/or doctoral candidates and researchers, what can we do to help the undergraduate nurse population become better prepared for oncology nursing?
There seems to a shortage with oncology nurses in general, whether it's general staffing or advanced practitioners, but many medical facilities will not hire staff nurses for oncology units unless they have experience. There are students who would like to pursue oncology once they graduate, but they are not qualified to do so.
With the aging baby boomers potentially creating a cancer epidemic, it may be time for all nursing programs to consider incorporating oncology internship programs into undergraduate programs and increase the number of formal training programs for graduate students.
For those of you who are pursuing or already have an advanced degree in oncology nursing practice, would you still remain a staff nurse with a master's degree, DNP, or a PhD?
Also, what do you feel undergraduate nursing programs could do to help prepare students for oncology practice?