5 Lessons to Develop or Expand Your Oncology Nursing Career

By Kate B. Hubbard, MSN, RN, OCN®, NPD-BC - Last Updated: July 12, 2022

Have you found yourself wanting to take the next step in your nursing career but do not know where to begin? Oncology nurses are experts at caring for others but often struggle with their own professional development.

I’ve been privileged to be mentored by Elaine DeMeyer, MSN, RN, AOCN®, BMTCN®, the founder and owner of beyond Oncology. Elaine is one of the pioneer oncology nurse entrepreneurs who started her own company over 20 years ago. During our ongoing mentorship, I learned 5 valuable lessons to share with you for your professional growth.



1. Begin With the End in Mind

What is your end goal for your nursing career? What is your mental picture of where you want to be in 2 years? In 5 years? In 10 years? Beginning with a clear vision for yourself is critical before you take any steps to make it happen.

Do you want to become oncology certified? Do you want to seek a leadership position in your organization? Do you enjoy teaching and want to become a unit-based or pharmaceutical nurse educator? Do you dream of starting a nurse-owned company? Dream big, write down your goals, and develop your plan.

2. Assess What You Know

An essential step in professional development is assessing your knowledge and skill sets. What are your strengths? What skills do you need to improve or acquire? Some essential skills of professional nurses include writing, public speaking, understanding technology, and professional networking.

3. Build on What You Know

Next, select 2-3 skill sets that you want to develop or expand, and write out a plan. Do you need to attend workshops or online courses on writing or public speaking? Do you need to brush up on your knowledge of technology? Do you need to join a local nursing organization to strengthen your networking skills? Check out local chapter meetings of the Oncology Nursing Society or Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

Mentorship is also a powerful way to grow professionally through learning from others. Mentors do not always have to be other nurses; multidisciplinary team members can be great resources. We can learn so much from other professionals—teachers, business owners, and leaders in other professions. Reach out to others who are doing what you want to do!

4. Just Start

Dreaming and planning may be easy, but taking those first steps is where many nurses struggle. What is keeping you from taking steps toward your dream? Is it the fear of failure? Are you worried you don’t know enough yet?

Focus on what you DO know rather than what you do not know. Explore your concerns but trust your abilities to succeed. Again, taking action is where many nurses flounder, so dare to just start!

5. Evaluate Your Growth Plan

Evaluating your development plan is essential for continuous growth. Designate time at least twice per year to STOP and REFLECT on your progress. What is going well? What do you need to do differently? Are you progressing toward your end goal?

Evaluation should not be performed alone. Successful nurses seek input from others. Ask a trusted colleague to give you feedback on your strengths and areas for improvement.

How will you know if your plan for professional growth is successful? Success is different for every nurse, so it depends on how YOU define success. Whatever success looks like for you, define it, and celebrate when you get there! What next steps do you need to take in your cancer nursing career?


beyond Oncology

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Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

ONS Podcast Episode 188: Oncology Nurse Entrepreneurs Are Innovating Beyond the Bedside

Oncology Nurses Enhance Cancer Care Through Mentorship Opportunities