Oncology nurses are tasked with a very rewarding, but often challenging, job. It’s an ideal career path for someone who wants to enjoy ongoing relationships with patients and their families, and it also opens up the possibility of becoming an oncology travel nurse, experiencing new places while earning and excellent salary working at various facilities around the country.
Both permanent and travel oncology nurses care for people of all ages diagnosed with cancer. They get to know their patients well, along with all the nuances of their needs and care. Traveling oncology RNs, have even more flexibility, with the ability to consider positions in many cities across the U.S., typically for three months at a time.
The Role of an Oncology Travel Nurse
An oncology travel nurse generally has the same responsibilities as a traditional oncology RN, but they work for a healthcare staffing company rather than directly for a facility. They play an important role in helping their patients, as well as family members, get through and beyond the illness, frequently forming long-lasting bonds. Patients remember those hard-working nurses that show them compassion during trying, often painful times. These RNs are there to comfort them when there is bad news and celebrate victories with them when there’s good news, in addition to serving as an advocate to those who need additional support.
As a travel oncology nurse, you’ll typically sign-on for 13-week assignments, but oftentimes you’ll have the opportunity to extend, especially with this role in such high demand.
Reasons to Become an Oncology Travel Nurse
Being an oncology nurse can be challenging, and sometimes quite emotional but it’s also incredibly rewarding helping patients, seeing them through one of the toughest times of their lives. You’re doing something meaningful in another person’s life – but your patients may provide meaning in your life too, while teaching a lesson about what’s truly important. At the same time, you’ll be earning very good money while advancing your career by learning all sorts of skills that often comes with working at different facilities.
Experienced oncology nurses have the opportunity to become a travel nurse, as mentioned. And just like a staff position, salaries often vary by facility and location, but it’s typically quite a bit higher than what you’d make as a traditional staff nurse, and you’re getting paid to travel, including free housing in most cases, not to health insurance and many other perks.
Salary for Oncology Travel RNs
As oncology nurses have to have extensive training and perform a very specific task, there aren’t as many, which makes them in very high demand. Many facilities, from medical clinics to hospitals, have such a great need that they’re more flexible with their terms. The average annual pay for a traditional oncology nurse is around $91,000 per year, while travel oncology nurses often make over $105,000 annually in addition to housing and all the other benefits. Some of the highest-paying states for travel oncology RNs are California, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Maryland.
How Much Experience is Needed to Become an Oncology Travel Nurse?
Becoming an oncology nurse specialist requires learning specific cancer care skills through course work and clinical practice, which is why you’ll usually need at least a year or two of on-the-job experience before working as an oncology travel RN. Many healthcare staffing agencies offer special programs to help you get on this path as quickly as possible, which is why it’s important to talk to various recruiters and find out how they can assist.
How to Get Started as an Oncology Travel RN
To become an oncology nurse, you’ll first need to obtain your degree in nursing and become a licensed registered nurse passing the NCLEX-RN and then applying with the Board of Nursing. Once you’re a licensed RN, you can apply for a position as a general care nurse, ideally at a facility with an oncology department so you’ll have the potential opportunity to rotate in the oncology unit, getting direct experience. After 12 months+ experience as a nurse with 1,000 hours specifically in oncology nursing, you can take an exam to obtain an Oncology Certified Nurse certificate.
When you’re ready to take a travel oncology nurse position, it’s time to find the healthcare staffing agencies with the assignments and benefits package you’re looking for. As that can take an extensive amount of time, allow us to match you with the best company for your particular needs and requirements at no cost or obligation. All you’ll have to do is fill out a brief online form and we’ll help you get started from there.
How to Become an Oncology Travel Nurse
- Become a Licensed Registered Nurse
An oncology travel nurse must first become a licensed Registered Nurse. To become a licensed RN you must graduate from a two year (Associate’s degree) or four year (bachelor’s degree) nursing program approved by your state Board of Nursing. Then the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) must be taken and passed.
- Gain Experience As a Registered Nurse
Once the NCLEX-RN has been passed, you may begin working as a Registered Nurse. To become an oncology travel nurse, a minimum of one year of experience working in aa oncology setting is required– two years of experience is ideal. Relevant experience in Heme/Onc nursing is required to qualify for the oncology nurse certification exam.
- Obtain Credentials and Certifications
Oncology nurses will need to be certified in basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). After relevant experience has been obtained, you may be eligible to sit for the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) exam. For nurses who administer chemotherapy, earning the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate is a great way to demonstrate expertise and dedication to nursing. Eligibility includes administering chemotherapy for at least 1 year and at least once a month and this certification provides 15 contact hours.
- Compare Travel Nursing Companies
Once the required licenses, certifications and relevant experience are obtained, a nurse is eligible to become a travel oncology nurse. There are hundreds of travel nursing companies with oncology positions. A nurse should speak with several companies and compare what each company offers. Factors to consider when comparing travel nurse companies are: housing (agency based vs. stipend), benefits (medical, dental, 401k, completion bonus), salary (hourly wage, allowances, overtime), guaranteed hours policy, and travel nursing destinations (availability of jobs in the geographic location the nurse wants to work).
- Choose a Travel Nursing Company & Accept A Position
After comparing travel nursing companies and what each has to offer, the nurse will decide on a position and will be offered a contract. The travel nursing contract must be read carefully and fully understood. The nurse must ensure all questions are answered before signing the contract and accepting the position.