Oncology research nurses work in hospitals and other health care settings, assisting doctors and researchers performing clinical trials that involve experimental and untested treatments for patients who have cancer. They provide direct care to patients, perform a range of administrative responsibilities and may even help the investigators analyze data. They might also oversee and lead in-service trainings about research protocols.
As an oncology research nurse, you’ll determine a patient’s suitability to participate in a clinical trial. You’ll also coordinate, evaluate and follow patients involved in the trial, update their records with trial outcomes and results and help investigators develop protocols. You might also help collect and evaluate data. In addition, you might perform quality-control checks and complete any required regulatory reports that the investigators must submit.
As an oncology research nurse, you’ll share trial information with patients involved in the trial as well as their families or other caregivers. You'll also share what patients can expect during the trial and when they need to come in for tests, such as blood draws. You might also help collect specimens from patients involved in the trial, such as urine. In addition, you might work directly with others involved in the trial, such as sponsor institutions or pharmaceutical companies.
Education and Experience
To qualify for this position, you must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school of professional nursing. Some employers require their nurses to have at least one or two years of experience working with patients with cancer or assisting with clinical trials that involve patients with cancer. Other employers set minimum requirements much higher. For example, to work as an oncology research nurse with the Adventist Health System in Orlando, Fla., you must have at least six years of relevant experience.
Licensure and Certification
Most employers require their oncology research nurses to be certified as registered nurses and also hold valid nursing licenses in the states where they work. Being certified as a nurse practitioner might also meet an employer’s licensure requirements. You’ll likely land more jobs if you have additional oncology-specific certification, such as for treating adult or pediatric patients. Some employers also prefer their oncology research nurses to have additional certification, such as from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals or from the Society of Clinical Research Associations.
Being detail-oriented will serve you well as an oncology research nurse, as will understanding the unique needs of oncology patients undergoing treatment. You must know how to follow clinical-research protocols and be familiar with any relevant regulatory requirements. You should know how to work well on your own as well as with others and have impeccable communication skills. Understanding common cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, will also help you succeed as an oncology research nurse. In addition, you should be comfortable using standard word-processing and spreadsheet programs, like Microsoft Word and Excel.
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