RNs in the United States will see an average of 193,100 annual job openings from 2020–2030, with a 6% increase in employment—faster than the average for all occupations—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November 2023. Four years into the timeline for that statistical forecast, we need to take a pulse on continuing to grow not only the profession of nursing but also the oncology subspeciality.

Take a moment to reflect on your nursing school experiences. Were you afforded opportunities to learn in-depth oncology knowledge and skills? Did you have a clinical rotation on an oncology unit? Did you participate in an oncology nursing elective? Was there a particular patient with a cancer diagnosis who you remember? We have a critical need to increase the amount of oncology education in undergraduate nursing programs so we can prepare the next generation of nurses to care for patients with cancer. 

In my BSN program, I provided care to only one patient in oncology. As the years passed, I no longer recall his diagnosis other than “cancer,” yet I still have poignant memories: As a part of my adult health clinical rotations on a medical-surgical unit, I cared for that gentleman who was in immense pain and unable to ambulate.

During our encounter, I administered my first IV push medications that I had to mix together, per provider’s orders: meperidine with promethazine. I had to verify how many minutes I could push the medicine in my handy-dandy IV medications book. Lastly, my nursing professor had to be at his bedside with me because I was administering an IV medication and a narcotic. I remember being focused on counting the seconds on my watch to make sure that I was pushing the medicines appropriately using the saline–administration–saline method.

The most profound piece of my experience was the role that my nursing professor took. Yes, she was there for the patient’s safety, but more importantly, she was there for his comfort as she held his hands and talked soothingly to him as I pushed the medicines through his subclavian IV catheter. It was a moment I first witnessed nursing truly being both an art and science. Educators, as preceptors for nursing students or professors in academia, recognize the important, profound impact and influence you have on oncology nursing.

ONS offers free membership to full-time students working toward their initial RN degree. In addition, students get free access to take the Cancer Basics course, which provides an introductory-level foundation for caring for patients experiencing a cancer diagnosis, treatment complications, or trouble coping. Nursing students may often attend local chapter meetings of professional nursing organizations—ONS chapters, this is your time to cheerlead the many benefits of oncology nursing you’ve experienced firsthand.

Soon it will be time to join thousands of your oncology nursing colleagues at the 49th Annual ONS Congress® in Washington, DC. Remember, nursing students are eligible for a significant discount on ONS Congress registration, and you have until March 15 to submit an application for the Ciera Boyle Student Nursing ONS Congress Scholarship through the Oncology Nursing Foundation. Please spread the word, and I hope to see you and nursing students interested in learning more about oncology nursing there!

“Spring wakes us, nurtures us, and revitalizes us,” spiritual teacher and author Gary Zukav said. May your spring blossom into great pursuits that ignite the extraordinary in yourself and our future nurses.