How Chemo Certification Can Advance Your Nursing Practice

Image of professional woman smiling at camera
Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse uses his skills from chemo certification to assist a patient.

Want to stand out in the oncology nursing job market? One of the ways you can do it is by obtaining a chemo certification that highlights your expertise in administering chemotherapy. Besides a fancy title, certification provides numerous career perks, including the possibility of a better salary and the chance to step into higher-level roles.

If you’re considering a chemo nurse certification, this article has you covered. We’ll break down what a chemotherapy certification is, outline the steps to get it, highlight the benefits of having one, and wrap it up with practical tips for a successful certification journey.

What Is a Chemo Certification?

A chemo nurse certification is an official document that shows that a nurse has advanced skills in administering chemotherapy — treatment that kills cancer cells. This certification serves as a testament that the nurse has the needed knowledge and skills to safely handle and administer chemotherapy drugs, understands their mechanisms of action, and knows how to manage potential side effects.

Several organizations offer chemotherapy certification for nurses, with the most well-known ones being:

Why Pursue Chemotherapy Certification?

Nurses often pursue this certification due to the unique challenges of administering chemotherapy drugs. They’re not your regular meds — chemo drugs can be dangerous and require certain skills to handle them safely. Certification can teach you how to mitigate these risks:

  • Chemo drugs can be cytotoxic. These drugs are cell killers, designed to hit cancer, but with potential side effects on healthy cells. Nurses can learn the precise targeting of cancer cells while minimizing harm to healthy tissues.
  • Chemo can cause serious side effects such as life-threatening neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. A deep understanding of chemotherapy protocols may help lessen the risks.
  • Improper handling is dangerous. To stay safe when handling these drugs, nurses require thorough training, proper gear, and strict safety measures. For instance, chemo spills can seriously harm health, causing issues for the skin, breathing, or other organs.

How to Earn Your Chemo Certification

1. Choose Your Certification

Start with researching your options and choosing a specific certification type you want to pursue.

2. Research Certification Requirements

Explore the prerequisites for your particular certification — what’s needed to apply? Some certifications may require specific practice hours, years of experience, or continuing education units. For example, OCN, CPHON, and CBCN certification requirements are as follows:

  • Active RN license
  • 2,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice in the past 4 years
  • 2 years of RN experience within the past 4 years
  • 10 contact hours of oncology nursing continuing education in the past 3 years

If you can’t figure out if you have enough work experience to apply for the certification, you can use an eligibility calculator. It will help you determine if your experience meets certification requirements or if more hours are needed before applying.

3. Enroll and Prepare

Once you’ve completed all the requirements, including the necessary education and relevant experience, enroll and get ready for the certification exam. When you study, use the following resources:

4. Pass the Certification Exam

Follow the guidelines of the certifying organization to schedule and pass the certification exam. Passing proves your chemotherapy administration skills, qualifying you for certification. Note that staying certified may involve ongoing education and periodic renewal.

The pass rates for OCNN exams are as follows:

  • OCN: 58%
  • CPHON: 62%
  • CBCN: 68%
  • AOCNP: 58%

Benefits of Chemo Certification

This certification shows your employer that you’re equipped with the latest knowledge and skills, making you a standout candidate within your organization and on the job market. Here are some additional perks that this certification brings:

  • Upgrades your knowledge. Science is always evolving, and chemo nurse certification helps you evolve with it. Think of it as updating your skills to the latest version, ensuring you’re well versed in the best techniques for administering chemotherapy treatments.
  • Boosts professional credibility and highlights your skills and dedication. Colleagues and employers notice your expertise, and patients may place more trust in you, making you stand out among the healthcare team.
  • Increases salary potential. Certification demonstrates your specialized expertise, giving you a competitive edge in the job market and internal promotions.
  • Expands job opportunities, including positions in specialized oncology units and leadership roles, as employers may prioritize certified nurses for these positions.
  • Opens up networking opportunities. Certification programs often provide opportunities for networking with other healthcare professionals, fostering connections that can benefit your career growth.

Chemo Certification Cost

Wondering how pricey these certifications are? Here’s a breakdown:

  • $420 for all ONCC certifications
  • $325 for ONS chemo certification
  • $185 for ONS certification fundamentals course

It’s worth noting that there are discounts available for members of these organizations, making these certifications more affordable. However, you’ll need to pay an annual membership fee to qualify for the discounts.

Study Tips for Your Chemo Nurse Certification

  • Use SMART goals(i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) when setting study goals. For example, set a goal to complete a specific number of study modules within a week.
  • Create a virtual study group. Use online platforms, such as Study Together and Studyverse, to form a virtual study group with peers pursuing similar certification. Collaborating virtually allows for discussions, knowledge sharing, and mutual support.
  • Create your own practice tests using exam content to reinforce key concepts and pinpoint areas needing more focus. You can do it though platforms like Quizlet and FlexiQuiz.
  • Take digital notes. Use digital note-taking tools like Evernote or OneNote to organize and access study materials easily. They let you create, edit, and share notes on all your devices, streamlining your study process.
  • Try the Pomodoro technique for focused study sessions. Break your study time into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between. Set a timer to stay concentrated and avoid burnout, making your study sessions more efficient.
  • Prioritize sleep. Did you know that sleeping and learning go hand in hand? If you sleep too little, your brain won’t function at maximum capacity. Ensure a consistent sleep schedule, as adequate rest is crucial for memory consolidation and cognitive function.
  • Reduce stress, which can affect thinking, attention, and memory, making it hard to concentrate, process information, and retain new knowledge. Therefore, make sure you use effective stress-relieving techniques.

Need Help Finding a Job You Love?

Chemo certification or not — there are great opportunities for you. IntelyCare specializes in helping you find your best nursing job matches. Start your personalized job search experience today.