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New to Oncology field

  • 1.  New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-25-2019 11:11
    My name is Nicole Tomkies. I have recently transitioned to the Oncology field (chemo infusion) and I am seeking guidance on how to become a successful Oncology nurse. I currently work at a busy, high pressured oncology private practice. I struggle with putting the pieces together. Because we are so busy my primary focus is administering chemo, however, I would love to understand the why behind what we do. Any tips would be appreciated.

    Thank you
    Nicole Tomkies

    Nicole Tomkies BSN
    Chemo nurse
    Los Angeles Cancer Network

  • 2.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-26-2019 05:08
    Hi Nicole,

    The ONS review course for the OCN is a great way to learn more about the field of oncology. The annual conference is also a great place to learn and meet others who may be feeling the same. Other than learning opportunities, be sure to take care if yourself. The oncology journals often have articles about compassion fatigue and tips on coping. It can be a difficult job but rewarding.

    Hopefully you have a supportive mentor and/or nurse manager who can also help direct you to good resources.

    Thank you for all that you do!

    Good luck!

    Laura Kenda BA BSN RN OCN
    Burlington MA

  • 3.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-26-2019 10:15
    Hi nicole,
    Congratulations!. Oncology is stressfull and also exciting field. I have been in BMT for many years, yet i still feel that it is important to keep learning.

    I started with the basic, learning how cells are formed, different lineages, what they do etc.  This site has lots of information. This site is also a great   resource

    "How I treat" is also a good guide as well as Mayo. Listen to podcast. They can be helpful too.

  • 4.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-26-2019 16:34
    Greetings Nicole and welcome to a great field of nursing!
    My best advice is to find a mentor within your clinical setting who can be a sounding board for questions and support. I also strongly recommend attending an ONS symposium early in your career as it is a great way to network and learn from others in the field!
    This will be my 36th year in oncology and I owe so much of my success to my mentors and the wonderful nurses I have worked with throughout my career! Best wishes to you!
    Muff Heffernan, MN, ARNP, AOCNP

    Mary Heffernan MN ARNP
    Affiliate Faculty
    University of Washington
    Clyde Hill WA

  • 5.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-27-2019 21:33
    Welcome Nicole,
    The fact that you are reaching out here is a big positive sign.  I got my start at a private practice as well.  your relationships with your providers are as important as knowing the content and putting the pieces together. Start building professional credibility by asking the providers to kindly explain the whys.  Learn on thing at a time.  Pick one NCCN guideline that covers a good portion of the patients you see (multiple myloma, breast, prostate, lung etc) and read through it.  Skip to the principles of systemic therapy section if that is all the time you have.

    Build a spiral bound notecard list of your frequently given drugs.

    Showing an interest at work will always pay off. Start with your providers, those around you.
    Keep asking questions...and remember a transition to a specialty takes at minimum 6 months and more often 1 year to feel comfortable.
    nurse navigator

    Jennifer Kelley RN MSN
    Palo Alto CA

  • 6.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-28-2019 00:48
    Thanks Jennifer for your encouragement and your advice. I will definitely follow through on your suggestions.

    Nicole Tomkies BSN

  • 7.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-28-2019 08:47
    ​Hi from Upstate University Cancer Center, I would really appreciate a copy of your chemotherapy guidelines also.  Any input from fellow Oncology Nurses would be helpful.  Thank you, Sue

    Susan Rourke RN
    SUNY Upstate Medical University
    Liverpool NY

  • 8.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-28-2019 10:22
    Hi Nicole,

    One thing I would suggest is trying to review each patient's pathology report.  From there, you could go to the NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network) guidelines (the gold standard for decision-making in oncology) as Jennifer previously recommended.  If you are not familiar with the NCCN guidelines, you can find them at  You just need an email address and password to subscribe.  There you will find both the professional version, which is a series of algorithms guiding everything from screening to diagnosis to supportive care and more for most cancers, as well as a patient version which breaks down the algorithms into laymen's word utilizing text and pictures.  Looking at the NCCN guidelines as you review the path report will help you to answer a lot of the "why's".  I would also highly recommend seeking an experienced oncology nurse as a mentor, if at all possible.  Once you have educated yourself, be sure to pay it forward to your colleagues, and perhaps more importantly, to your patients and their families.

    Please reach out anytime if you need a virtual mentor or just another layer of support.  Oncology is an amazing, always changing field.  Being an oncology nurse is truly a rewarding experience.  I wouldn't trade my job for any other!

    All the best to you!

    Sue Ellen Glover, MSN, RN, OCN, CBCN
    Oncology Nurse Navigator
    St. Petersburg General Hospital
    St. Petersburg, FL

  • 9.  RE: New to Oncology field

    Posted 05-29-2019 10:46
    Thanks to those who took the time out to respond to my post. From the advice I have gathered, It seems prudent to start with the NCCN guidelines. I have also signed up for the ONS summit.  I appreciate all of your support.