The rate and frequency of cancer diagnoses in the next decade is expected to rise as the baby boomer population enters into retirement. For many nurses, the transition to oncology nursing seems logical as there are expected to be many opportunities for employment and opportunities to serve the cancer patient a variety of ways. If you are a nurse, or considering nursing school, it is important to consider not only the types of treatment given to cancer patients as part of their chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but also the treatments that are necessary before chemotherapy even begins.
In many cancer patients, the diagnosis of cancer can lead to a decrease in quality of life, decrease in function, and the immediate onset of mental health complications. Understanding that a cancer diagnosis can be a life threatening health complication, many cancer patients begin to associate negative thoughts with their condition and are often in a very poor state of health even before chemotherapy begins. As a nurse in the oncology profession, you may want to consider offering nursing services that are specializes in mental health and daily living resources to cancer patients who have not yet begin chemotherapy.
Lack of social support, uncontrolled pain, decrease mobility, and even financial factors are all key issues that affect a cancer patient well before chemotherapy even begins. While some of these matters may be issues that will be directly supported by a social worker, as an oncology nurse, you can provide the resources and the connections to the social worker. By facilitating the services needed between the social worker, oncology clinic, primary care doctor, you will be giving an important service to the cancer patient which can help to diminish the onset of depression which is commonly seen in cancer patients when chemo begins.
Managing mental health issues may be one of the most challenging. For cancer patients, mental health treatments comes in the form of therapy, medication and even support groups that are specialized around the type of therapy your particular patient may have. Often, once the cancer diagnosis is given, the cancer patient is not treated until such time as the chemotherapy is administered. By acting as a liaison oncology nurse, you can help to negate some of the mental health complications that arise in cancer patients.
Nursing in the next decade will be a high demand profession as the aging population continues to rise and the number of cancer diagnoses increase with it. If you are considering a specialized field in nursing, consider oncology but specialize in services that cater to the cancer patient well before the chemotherapy treatments begin.
Sources: Cancer 1998;82:761-764.