Erin Dickman, MS, RN, OCN®, is an oncology clinical specialist at ONS in Pittsburgh, PA.
Erin Dickman, MS, RN, OCN®, is an oncology clinical specialist at ONS in Pittsburgh, PA.

For many RNs working in oncology settings, certification might seem like the next step for their career and their commitment to patient-centered care. It’s important to understand the process of certification, along with what resources are available to help them succeed.

ONS believes that oncology nursing certification benefits everyone in the cancer care continuum—from patients to family members to the nurses themselves and their employers. Certification shows that a nurse has voluntarily met the rigorous requirements for gaining cancer-based knowledge and experience and is prepared to provide high-quality, competent care to patients with cancer. It acknowledges a nurse’s commitment to career development and dedication to patient care in a constantly changing healthcare environment.

Certification isn’t just a way for nurses to demonstrate their commitment to caring for patients with cancer. It can also help nurses advance their careers. ONS recognizes that oncology nursing certification helps nurses stand out in a competitive field of job seekers. In a survey from the American Board of Nursing Specialties that asked nurse managers about the value of certification, more than 97% of respondents said certification validates specialized oncology knowledge in a nurse candidate and more than 96% indicated that it enhances a nurse’s professional credibility. In some institutions, certification is linked to higher salaries or reimbursement for continuing education, and oncology certified nurses are often seen as leaders in their practice settings. Whether seeking a new position within an institution or looking for work elsewhere, nurses set themselves apart and move their careers forward when they obtain oncology nursing certification. 

Nurses are lifelong learners, and the process of certification means cultivating an in-depth knowledge base. ONS—and its larger community of members—can help nurses navigate the certification journey. To help nurses brush up on emerging trends in oncology nursing, ONS has assembled educational bundles and online courses that work alongside the blueprint used to build the certification examination. Courses can help practicing nurses further explore topics and understand new treatments, care modalities, and interventions to prepare them for certification. 

Developing a support system through ONS chapters enables nurses to connect with local members who are also working toward certification. Setting up study sessions and building relationships for encouragement and inspiration can be a boon as nurses prepare for the certification examination. The ONS communities also offer a wealth of knowledge and conversations focused on certification. The communities can connect nurses with oncology certified members who have been through the process and can offer tips to remove any mystery and uncertainty.

Ultimately, certification can bolster a nurse’s confidence both professionally and personally, and it shows a great achievement in the pursuit of specialized knowledge and dedication to both the profession and patients.