Oncology nurses are embracing the move to play a bigger part in patient care, says Mary Gullatte, PhD, RN, ANP, president of the Oncology Nursing Society.
"With advances in diagnosis and treatment, long-term survival has significantly increased, which requires more long-term care," says Gullatte. "Advanced practice oncology nurses are in an ideal position to work collaboratively as part of the interdisciplinary oncology team to meet the needs of patients with cancer and to fill the gap left by the shortage of other members of the cancer care team."
Because oncology nurses are already a key part of cancer care, Schilsky says it may be easier for his peers to accept and expect nursing's expansion in oncology.
"Part of it relates to the fact that oncologists are used to working with highly skilled nurses every day in our practices," says Schilsky. "Every oncology practice employs oncology certified nurses who give the chemotherapy, who are essential members of the oncology care team."
Shifting Oncology Workforce
An analysis of the current oncology workforce shows 13,400 medical oncologists and/or hematologists. But, the oncology specialty also mirrors the trend of medicine in general of an aging workforce. In 2008, there were more oncologists 64 or older, and that gap has continued to widen.