What Is A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner? (Answered By A Nurse)

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

While it is devastating to consider that about 140,000 children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer every year, survival rates for several types of childhood cancers have improved over the past several decades. Advances in research, treatment methods and quality of care have made an enormous difference. Pediatric oncology nurse practitioners are vital for improving outcomes.

What is a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner? Pediatric oncology nurse practitioners are patient-centered healthcare professionals who aid in assessing, coordinating and managing treatments for childhood cancer patients. These NPs support not only their patients but also their caregivers while they are undergoing treatments and in remission.

If you want to work with children in a clinical healthcare setting and have a compassionate bedside manner, this may be an ideal occupation for you. In this article, you’ll learn more about the occupation and find out what it takes to become a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner.

What Does A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner Do?

A pediatric oncology nurse practitioner works with children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with cancer. In some cases, this specialist will work with patients up to 21 years of age. Pediatric oncology nurse practitioners work with patients from the time that they’re diagnosed through remission.

There are several types of childhood cancer, and treatment protocols vary. It’s the pediatric oncology nurse practitioner’s job to organize and manage treatments. Also, pediatric oncology NPs must remain educated about the various treatment options that are available and understand how to use the necessary medical equipment.

You will be responsible for explaining treatment options to parents and caregivers. You will also ensure that all necessary paperwork is complete and on file.

Some of the other responsibilities that a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner must uphold include:

◦ Organizing, managing and scheduling treatment plans
◦ Coordinating care with other healthcare professionals
◦ Preparing patients for chemotherapy or other cancer treatments
◦ Reviewing and updating patients’ charts
◦ Coordinating and assisting with personal care and hygiene activities
◦ Helping patients cope with the side effects of treatment
◦ Assessing physical, social, psychological and emotional needs
◦ Providing emotional and psychological support to patients and their families

Pediatric oncology nurse practitioners have a sensitive role. These specialists must be able to support patients and families in a variety of ways. The job can be emotional and requires a great deal of compassion and communication.

You might need to be playful as you help a child take their medicine. You’ll need to have a positive outlook and help families maintain hope. As a pediatric oncology NP, you can make a significant difference in their patients’ lives.


Where Do Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioners Work?

This type of nurse practitioner typically works in a hospital setting in the pediatric oncology unit. As a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner, you may work with inpatient or outpatient individuals.

You may also work at specialized medical centers that are dedicated to treating children with cancer, as well as radiation centers and physicians’ offices. Sometimes, a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner will work with patients in their homes, extended care facilities and hospices.

Typical Working Hours

The working hours for a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner vary depending on setting and seniority. The typical shift in a hospital is 12 hours. If you work 12-hour shifts, you may only be required to work four days a week. However, you may have to work on the weekends.

In an outpatient setting or doctor’s office, an 8-hour shift is usually available. The work hours in a private setting are usually from 9 to 5, and you probably won’t have to work weekends.

Why Become A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner?

A career as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner is challenging, but it is also rewarding. You would be helping children and adolescents, making a difference in their lives. This is an ideal job for someone who wants to work with young people and enjoys children.

The job allows you to incorporate many facets of your personality and skill set. You’ll use your analytical prowess to read medical charts. Also, this career gives you an opportunity to practice your technical skills while preparing and delivering treatments.

But then again, this position requires more than logical thinking and problem-solving skills. If you are a people person, becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner could be ideal. It offers you the chance to work closely with colleagues and offer emotional support to patients and their families.

Many people who choose to become a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner find it rewarding to serve and give back to others. This job is financially rewarding as well.

Working in the medical field gives you job security. Unfortunately, childhood cancer rates have been on the rise in the past several decades. When these patients need acute care, a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner is almost always involved in the treatment.

As such, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have growth rate projections for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners. However, the growth rate for nurse practitioners in general is forecast to be 45% between 2019 and 2029.

Following Is A Step-By-Step Process Of Becoming A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner

If you’re interested in this career, you might wonder what steps you must follow before you get a job. You’ll need more schooling than a registered nurse, and you should also keep the following steps in mind.

Step 1. Complete High School

Aspiring pediatric oncology nurse practitioners must complete high school or earn a GED before they continue their education. Graduating from high school will likely open the door for more opportunities than you’d have if you earned your GED. However, some colleges and universities accept students with GEDs.

Graduating from high school with a high GPA can help you progress more quickly. Many BSN degree programs require a GPA of 3.0 or above. Candidates with a lower GPA might be more likely to get into an associate’s degree program. Participating in volunteer work, clubs, and extracurricular activities in high school can also make you stand out when you apply to college or university.

Step 2. Get an Undergraduate Degree (An ADN or BSN)

You need to have a minimum of a master’s degree to be a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner. Therefore, you must earn an undergraduate degree as your foundation. You have two options for pursuing an undergraduate degree, including:

• Earning an associate’s degree in nursing
• Earning a bachelor degree in nursing

While an ADN is a two-year program, a BSN, is a four-year degree. Regardless of the program you choose, you will be eligible to take the RN licensure exam after your graduation. Now, based on your preference, you can earn your BSN after getting an associate’s degree or skip the associate’s degree altogether and go straight for the bachelor’s degree. The route that you follow as an undergraduate will also determine the next steps.

Step 3. Get Licensed as an RN

After earning your associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you can sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, and register for the Board of Nursing in the state in which you’ll be working. Contact the Nursing Regulatory Body in your area to request a licensure and registration application.

Step 4. Earn a Graduate Degree

To become a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner you must hold either an MSN or a DNP. Based on your nursing undergraduate degree, you could choose to enroll in either the RN-to-MSN, RN-to-DNP, BSN-to-MSN or BSN-to-DNP pathway. Upon enrolling in an MSN or DNP program, you must choose an NP specialty, preferably pediatrics or family health. As such there are no programs that take you directly to becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner. So, along with your chosen NP specialty, you must complete additional coursework in the oncology sub-specialty. While making a choice, look out for programs that offer the oncology sub-specialty option.

Regardless of the graduate degree you choose, you’ll be able to master skills in pediatrics and oncology through theoretical knowledge and practical training in clinical settings.

Now, if you are someone with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and keen on becoming a pediatric oncology NP, the direct-entry programs can be your best bet. These direct-entry programs build your nursing knowledge on what you would have learned in your non-nursing undergraduate degree.

Finally, if you are wondering whether to earn an MSN or invest more time and money into a DNP, then even though an MSN is the minimum requirement to become a pediatric oncology NP, a DNP will certainly help you rise above the competition.

Step 5. Get Certified as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner

After you earn a DNP or MSN, you need to apply for a certification. The Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner certification is the most appropriate for this field.

To be eligible, you will need:

• An active RN license in the US.
• At least two years of work experience as an RN within the four years before the certification application date.
• Completion of an accredited NP program, preferably in pediatrics or family health. Additionally, you must have completed the oncology coursework.
• At least 500 hours of experience as an oncology nurse practitioner.
• Completed at least 30 hours of continuing education in oncology nursing or one graduate-level oncology course of two credits.

List Of Fellowships & Residency Programs For Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioners

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, a fellowship is a “post-licensure clinical training program.” A fellowship or residency is optional, and licensure for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners is not dependent on it. During a fellowship, working with the specific patient subset will allow you to gain real-world experience. Also, it can give you a competitive advantage when you are applying for pediatric oncology nurse practitioner jobs.

Some fellowships and residency programs recommended for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners include:

• Sloane Kettering Memorial Pediatric Oncology Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship

This fellowship is designed to help nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants develop clinically and professionally to provide specialized patient-centered care to a specific population.

• Children’s Mercy Kansas City

– This three-year training program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and offers intensive clinical exposure to the types of situations that are prevalent in this field. It also offers strong mentorship and well-rounded research opportunities.

• Pediatric Hospitalist Fellowship for Advanced Practice Providers

– Because working with children is a primary part of a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner’s job, you might want to gain experience working with children in a hospital setting. This fellowship exposes you to a wide range of diagnoses and allows you to work with patients who have chronic illnesses, including cancer.

• Post-Graduate Acute Care Fellowship Program

– You’ll learn a great deal while working in an acute care setting. Even though all of your patients may not be dealing with cancer, you’ll gain experience supporting surgeries, emergencies and recovery from those types of events in this fellowship.

• Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

– Although you won’t necessarily be working with pediatric patients only, a fellowship in oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center offers specialized training with clinical experts and a comprehensive idea of what it’s like to work with oncology patients and their families.

List Of Certification Options For Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioners

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers the following certification options for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners:

• Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse

– The CPHON is a multiple-choice test that includes five main subject areas. It costs $296 for members of the Oncology Nursing Society or the Association of Pediatric-Hematology/Oncology Nurses. The exam costs $416 for non-members. You must pass the test every four years to maintain your certification.

• Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner

– The AOCNP demonstrates your knowledge and proficiency in oncology nursing and must be renewed every four years.

• Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse

– The CPON is a basic certification for someone who wants to go into this specialty.

These exams have eligibility requirements that include clinical hours and continuing education. Certification allows you to stay up-to-date with advancements in medicine as well as demonstrate your knowledge.

Starting Salary Of A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Your starting salary will depend on the type of practice as well as your experience and credentials. On average, the starting salary for a fellowship or job as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner is about $39 per hour. That translates to $6,830 per month, or $81,900 per year.

Per Hour $39.38
Per Month $6,830
Per Year $81,900

Average Salary Of A Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner

As you gain experience and develop your skills as a nurse practitioner in this field, you enhance your opportunities to increase your income. According to Ziprecruiter, the average pediatric oncology nurse practitioner salary in the U.S. is $54.09 per hour, or $112,511 per year. Most salaries for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners fall within the range of $96,500 to $126,000 per year.

Per Hour $54.09
Per Month $9,380
Per Year $112,511
(Source: ziprecruiter.com)

Job Market For Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioners

Many nurse practitioners who work with children are in a general family practice. Pediatric oncology is a much more specialized field. You may have less competition because it is such a niche job market. However, there is a great necessity for this type of nurse practitioner.

As previously mentioned, cancer rates have been rising. Oncologists and other cancer specialists continue to hire a support staff that can provide compassionate care to their patients. The outlook for pediatric oncology nurse practitioners in the job market is extremely promising.

Useful Organizations & Associations

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

– This organization provides information and resources related to oncology nursing and certification, renewal, testing and continuing education

Oncology Nursing Society

– A group that gives aspiring nurses guidance to help you prepare for certifications, develop your career, find funding or connect with other pediatric oncology nurse practitioners.

Advanced Practitioner Society for Hematology and Oncology

– A community that offers educational and collaborative resources.

Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses

– A professional organization for members who are devoted to enhancing nursing care for young patients with cancer and blood disorders.

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

– A professional association for pediatric advanced practice registered nurses and nurse practitioners that advances the role of the health care provider and improves healthcare quality for young people.

Summing It Up

What is a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner? A pediatric oncology nurse practitioner is a health care professional that works closely with a team of other medical providers to offer clinical and emotional support for childhood cancer patients.

This can be a field that pushes you to fulfill your potential. You’ll have a chance to practice your interpersonal, analytical, research and problem-solving skills.

A job as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner isn’t for everyone who is interested in a nursing career. The ideal candidate will have empathy and love working with children as well as being able to handle the other aspects of a nursing position.

If you’re passionate about helping children in a medical setting, there are plenty of resources available for you to begin your journey.


How Long Does It Take To Become A Pediatric Oncology NP?

The length of time that it takes to become a pediatric oncology NP depends on the path that you take with your schooling. Fast-paced programs can speed up the process.

Traditionally, it would take anywhere from six to nine years to become a pediatric oncology NP. Many candidates for this position spend four years earning their BSN. Then, they continue through a two to four year graduate program. They also need to work for one to three years as an RN and complete a certain number of hours in the pediatric oncology subspecialty.

In many cases, this work experience is rolled into a nursing program. If you do it separately, you’ll add more time your journey.

How Much Does It Cost To Become A Pediatric Oncology NP?

The cost of becoming a pediatric oncology NP depends on your course of study. An associate’s degree program in your state may cost less than a BSN program at a private university. You’ll also need to take into account the cost of the RN and other certification exams, professional memberships and graduate programs. The cost of a graduate-level nurse practitioner program ranges from about $18,810 to $185,280.

How Can I Offset the Costs of Pediatric Oncology NP Graduate Education?

Many graduate schools offer financial aid for candidates who apply for nurse practitioner programs. Online universities offer schedule flexibility so that you may be able to work while you study. The income that you make when you get a job after you earn your certification can also offset the costs of your Pediatric Oncology NP graduate education.

What Is the Difference Between Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

A pediatric oncology nurse practitioner must go through more schooling to begin their career. That’s because they have more responsibilities than a nurse.

Nurse practitioners must earn at least an MSN, which is a graduate degree. A pediatric oncology nurse can take the NCLEX-RN after completing their associate’s degree.

Both types of professionals must monitor patients and support their families. However, nurses cannot make diagnoses or write prescriptions, while nurse practitioners can. Pediatric oncology nurse practitioner duties require more analysis and interpretation of health histories and medical records. A nurse typically records information but doesn’t make determinations.

Can a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner Have Their Own Practice?

Although a nurse practitioner can have their own practice, many pediatric oncology nurse practitioners work with the support of an oncology team. However, they can choose to manage their own practice if they desire.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.