Oncology Nursing     

May is Oncology Nursing Month

Compassion and Care

“We…are not solitary travelers; we are traveling in the company of heroes disguised as ordinary people.

We must continue to teach each other about (our oncology nursing) experiences…how it happened, what it meant, and how we were changed.

We cannot falter, for we have much to learn. And so we go, with resolve, courage, and tenderness, into moments of profound experience…(understanding).

We…are not solitary travelers; we are traveling in the company of heroes disguised as ordinary people.” (Excerpt from K Stanley, 2002)


Prior to the 1950s, surgery was the major treatment modality for cancer and nursing care was limited to hospitalized patients.  As chemotherapy and radiation therapy evolved in the 1950s and 1960s, nurses identified new opportunities to contribute to the care of people living with cancer. Advances in cancer treatment have been accompanied by increasing knowledge of cancer biology, genetics, “personalized medicine” and improved cancer survival for many patients. 

The role of oncology nurses expanded as the importance of nursing professionalism, education and preparation was acknowledged. The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) was incorporated in 1975 with a goal to promote the highest professional standards for oncology nurses. Oncology nursing practice has evolved to meet the needs of people throughout the cancer experience with roles in health promotion, health protection, cancer prevention, cancer treatment and management of treatment side effects, patient advocacy, navigation of cancer patients through a variety of healthcare settings (inpatient, outpatient, home care, palliative care, hospice care) and survivorship. Since 1984 ONS has led the recognition effort for specialized cancer nursing through certification, or the OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse) credential. 

The current healthcare environment is complex and continually evolving. It requires those who care for patients with cancer to provide excellent care and participate in ongoing professional development. Nurses who obtain the OCN credential are demonstrating a commitment to their oncology patients and families. Their commitment is visible through continuing education, collaboration with colleagues to ensure the best patient outcomes, and support of each other to be the very best oncology nurse possible for their community.

At the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic, we are committed to excellence in oncology nursing:  caring, compassion and collaboration.

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