The human body is complex, which is why there are medical specialties and experts who can treat acute and long-term conditions in specific body parts to promote holistic healing. Blood is one such focus area, and some healthcare professionals treating blood-related conditions are hematology nurses. They often work with oncology patients diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells.
Hematology is no easy subject matter. Nurses must come to this field prepared –– educationally and emotionally. If you think this kind of work is “in your veins,” read on to learn how to specialize in this field and become a hero to patients with blood disorders.
What do hematology nurses do?
As professionals who specialize in blood disorders and leukemia, hematology nurses work to control symptoms and pain.
How, specifically? Here are a few key tasks that hematology nurses perform:
- Administering medication and IVs
- Helping diagnose conditions
- Providing patients with information on how to control their symptoms and live their best life
- Using medical equipment
- Sending for lab work
- Keeping charts
- Assisting in blood transfusions
- Prescribing medication (hematology/oncology nurse practitioners)
- Performing physical exams
- Recording patient symptoms
- Monitoring patients
What skills make a great hematology nurse?
No matter how prepared you are for the clinical work of your nursing career, there are certain skills that will help you shine as a medical professional. And each specialty begs a unique skill set that allows nurses to provide the best patient care possible. Here are some of the abilities a hematology nurse should have:
- Communication skills: Hematology nurses are responsible for communicating important information to patients and their family members about the blood diseases they treat. So, these healthcare professionals must be able to transmit complex information clearly and simply. They must also be able to communicate changes in a patient’s condition to physicians and other team members.
- Empathy: Empathy is a central skill in any healthcare role, especially those in which nurses work with individuals who may have received a difficult diagnosis. Since treatment of blood-related disorders/conditions can be painful, hematology nurses must be sensitive to this aspect.
- Critical thinking: Hematology oncology nurses have to constantly assess their patients’ conditions, which may fluctuate and require timely action. In fact, nurses with advanced skill sets may even have to make autonomous decisions or prescribe medication. They must be proficient at monitoring signs of crisis or changes in their patients.
- Attention to detail: Whether it’s to keep a chart or monitor a patient’s condition, a keen eye for detail is a must-have for a hematology nurse.
How to become a hematology nurse
Due to the highly specialized nature of their work, hematology nurses must study long and hard. This is one of the few nursing specialties in which certification is more than a plus on your resume; it’s a requirement. Here is what you can expect from your educational journey.
Get your degree
Whether you plan to practice in hematology or hospice care or anything in between, you need to earn a college-level degree in nursing. The two options are the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you are not sure how you plan to specialize or think you might get an advanced degree later, we recommend starting with the bachelor’s degree, as it’s a more widely accepted base for higher education.
In this field, there are advanced roles such as hematology nurse practitioner, where you’ll perform certain responsibilities that physicians typically take care of. To become a nurse practitioner (NP), you’ll have to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
All aspiring nurses, regardless of their specialization, must pass the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once they do, they can apply for licensure from their state and start practicing as a registered nurse (RN).
Get clinical experience
In this phase of your nursing education, you’ll get hands-on experience working with patients. Ensure that you practice for two years in the field of hematology or any other clinical nursing setting before seeking your specialization as a hematology/oncology nurse.
Time to test your nursing knowledge yet again! To practice as a hematology nurse, you’ll have to clear either the Certified Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Nurse exam or Oncology Certified Nurse exam (depending on your focus area). Both the exams are conducted by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).
What’s the job outlook for a hematology nurse?
As a hematology nurse, you’ll have a bright career outlook, with the sector exhibiting a 9% projected job growth rate. All in all, it’s a good time to be a hematology nurse.
So, what about compensation, you ask. On average, a hematology nurse’s salary is around $75,000 annually in the U.S. It could even be higher, depending on your experience and the geographic area of your workplace.
As we mentioned, you can specialize or receive an advanced degree in this field, which will boost your earnings. For example, as a pediatric hematology oncology nurse, you could earn close to $110,000 per year. In fact, even as a nurse practitioner in the field, you would make roughly the same.
Whether you’re about to start nursing school or you’ve been in the field for a long time, you need great scrubs. And we’re here to provide them with a healthy dose of moral support and appreciation for the important work you do to keep patients safe.