A day in the life of a pediatric oncology nurse is never typical. Patient assignments vary and may include a child recently diagnosed with cancer, or one who was recently informed that there are no curative options. Nurses may care for a child in the hospital for chemotherapy or a child hospitalized due to complications. When walking into a child’s room, astute assessment and critical thinking skills kick in as the nurse determines current health state and needed interventions. Nurses often know the child so well that they cue into subtle changes that might indicate improvement or worsening of their health. They are often the first responders to medical emergencies and begin life-saving interventions for a child having a seizure, in respiratory distress, or possibly septic shock.

Important traits

Pediatric oncology nurses are passionate about their work, promoting excellence and high quality care. They are knowledgeable about the diagnosis, treatment, side effects and complications of therapy, and are highly skilled in the delivery of chemotherapy and biotherapy. They are mentors to their colleagues, sharing vast knowledge and experiences. Pediatric oncology care is a rapidly changing field, requiring nurses to be lifelong learners.

Nurses support their patients as they celebrate the smallest victories or milestones, and grieve during loss. They are compassionate, caring individuals who have earned the family’s trust and are often sought out when families need an encouraging word. They strive to normalize the child’s experience, reducing stress through distraction. They find time to instill fun, sharing laughter and sometimes tears. They include siblings when they come for a visit, asking about their life and reaffirming their importance. These connections make lasting imprints that are present long after treatment has commenced. 

Research and education

A LASTING IMPRINT: As challenging as being a pediatric oncology nurse can be, the rewards are priceless. When all is said and done, you are making a positive impact on childrens' lives.


Patient education is an important nursing role as they promote understanding of the disease and treatment. Nurses provide information that aids the decision-making process, and assists families when navigating the health care system. They often serve as advocates, empowering the family through knowledge, promoting safe care and a successful transition from hospital to home. 

The pediatric oncology nurse is involved in the research process. Nurses assist the family in understanding the impact of a clinical trial and ensure that the treatment is delivered safely and as scheduled. Nurses may collaborate with physicians in the development of clinical trials, or conduct independent research on treatment aspects, such as symptom management.

Pediatric oncology nursing is a rewarding profession. Caring for children with cancer brings out a myriad of emotions, and at times can test one’s resiliency. But when the day is done, these children remain the motivation behind the search for a cure, and provide inspiration for nurses to continue to make a difference in the lives of other children with cancer.