Menu

Q&A with Oncology Nurse, Carl Brown, PhD, RN, AOCN


BestNursingDegree.com interviews oncology nurse, Carl Brown, PhD, RN, AOCN. Carl has been working in oncology nursing for more than 20 years and was the former president of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. He is currently the President of the Oncology Nursing Society and an Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware School of Nursing.

Below he talks about his experiences in oncology nursing and what it takes to be successful in the field.



Q: What is your current position?

I'm a nurse researcher in the area of symptoms, conducting research, and also teaching students in bachelor's and master's programs with a focus in oncology.

Q: What is oncology nursing?

Oncology nursing takes into consideration all patients who have some form of cancer. About 1.5 million patients are diagnosed with cancer each year, anything from breast and lung cancer to leukemia and lymphomas. An oncology nurse would care for anybody that has or has had cancer. About 11.4 million Americans are cancer survivors, and we don't want to leave them out when we talk about oncology nursing.

Q: How did you get started in this field and what kind of preparation does someone pursuing this career need?

When I was in elementary school, I had an aunt, my father's sister, who suffered from a very rare form of brain and lung cancer and subsequently died. I remember how difficult it was for all of our family, but particularly for her two children, my two cousins, who were my age. From that point forward, I have always been interested in working with patients with cancer. In my 20 years as a nurse, I've only worked with patients with cancer.

Q: What are some of the settings or specialties an oncology nurse might work in?

Cancer affects basically any human being, [Short Code Error: type value must be either online or ground]. Once in nursing school, every nursing student has many, many hours of clinical time. If you think you have an interest in oncology, then ask that you be put on an oncology floor or in an oncology clinic or maybe travel with a hospice nurse - that would really be the best.

Q: What kind of changes have there been in oncology nursing in the last few years?

There's been tremendous change. You can't go away from oncology nursing, come back five years later and think that the whole field is the same because it isn't. The good news is that every day we're finding great treatments - chemotherapy drugs that work better in conjunction with each other. It is an ever-changing field.

Q: What do you see for the future of oncology nursing?

Ideally, I would like for us to find a cure for cancer, and I would like for all of us to be put out of a job. That would be very pleasant. Until that happens, I think the future of oncology nursing is continuing to travel along with those researchers and physicians who are finding the best new care and approaches for chemotherapy. I think we're going to see the survivorship numbers increase. People are living longer and longer. I think we're going to see more and more cancer because people are going to live longer. I can see in the future, nurse practitioners running survivorship clinics independently. There aren't enough oncology physicians to take care of all the patients. I think that we're going to be busy for years to come.

Q: Any other particular recommendations for aspiring oncology nurses?

The only thing that I would add is that the Oncology Nursing Society has an incredible website if you're a nurse or if you're a patient that's looking for information about cancer. It's www.ons.org. You can get connected with someone there to find the information you want, either about cancer or about oncology nursing.