Oncology nurses have a responsibility to themselves, their employers, and their patients to demonstrate competency in cancer care. An oncology nursing certification shows your time, effort, and expertise beyond your nursing license. There are 183 different nursing certifications on nurse.org, and several certifications are specific to oncology, with many others related to roles and expertise within cancer care.
Certification is a formal process by which a certifying agency validates a nurse’s knowledge, skills, and abilities by predetermined standards. First and foremost, certification can benefit your patients. Many studies support the positive impact on patient care with lower complications and better outcomes. This patient benefit then translates into facility benefits and community benefits.
Second, personal benefits of certification include recognition of your area of expertise, improvement of self-esteem, and potential advancement in your career. Employers may prefer to hire certified oncology nurses over noncertified nurses. Many jobs offer compensation to recognize certification with an hourly differential, year-end bonus, or clinical ladder credit.
How to Choose a Certification
Nurses can obtain multiple certifications with generalist and subspecialty certifications based on roles or expertise.
- Generalist certification: The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) is a sister organization of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) that offers certification as a generalist oncology nurse (OCN®).
- Role based: Certifications can help colleagues and patients know more about your role or job responsibilities. Some of these examples are specific to oncology.
- Navigator: The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN) offers generalist oncology certification for nurse navigators (ONN-CG?) and another for patient navigators (OPN-CG?). These certifications are for nurse navigators who demonstrate at least three years of navigation experience.
- Educators: Although not specific to oncology, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certifications for nursing professional development (NPD-BC). ONCC does not offer testing for the advanced oncology certified clinical nurse specialist (AOCNS®) certification, but nurses with that credential may renew.
- Nurse practitioners: ONCC offers the advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner (AOCNP®) certification for oncology nurse practitioners. Some nurses use the credential advanced oncology certified nurse (AOCN®), which was the advanced exam before it split into AOCNS® and AOCNP®.
- Symptom based: Nurses may want to demonstrate expertise in symptom management or particular symptoms like pain. For example, the Certified Hospice and Palliative Care (CHPN®) exam is for registered nurses with experience with patients in this setting. In addition, the RN-BC from ANCC allows nurses to show they have entry-level clinical knowledge and skills in pain management.
- Population based: ONCC offers three certifications based on your patient population, including pediatric hematology oncology nurse (CPHON®), breast cancer (CBCN®), or blood or marrow transplant (BMTCN®). In addition, nurses working with critically ill oncology patients may want to consider CCRN (adult) or CCRN (pediatric) certifications from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
- Quality: Some certifications demonstrate expertise in a particular area related to quality care. One example is evidence-based practice certification (EBP-C), which denotes registered nurses who demonstrate knowledge and expertise in EBP.
Certification is a way to validate your expert knowledge in a specific area or skill. Many leading organizations, including Magnet status and the Joint Commission, look favorably on nursing certification. Even preparing and studying for the exam helps you expand your knowledge.
If you already have a nursing certification, your journey does not end there! Why not add more?
Hospice & Palliative Care Credentialing Center