ONS frequently receives questions about chemotherapy certification and who can administer chemotherapy.
ONS has a position statement titled "Education of the Professional RN Who Administers and Cares for the Individual Receiving Chemotherapy and Biotherapy" (read position statement).
ONS asserts that registered nurses responsible for administering chemotherapy should attend an educational course, such as the ONS Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Course, to obtain didactic information necessary to successfully complete a clinical practicum in the administration of chemotherapeutic agents. Click here for information about this course.
Some have confused the ONS Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Course with a certification course. After successful completion of the ONS Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Course, a registered nurse is eligible to receive an ONS Chemotherapy Provider Card. This card indicates he or she has completed the course successfully and has been given the didactic knowledge to care for patients receiving chemotherapy. It is not, however, a competency or certification course. It is the responsibility of the employing agency to determine competency.
Determination of clinical competency is an ongoing process and is the responsibility of the employing agency. The employing agency is responsible for defining clinical competency in chemotherapy administration based on internal policies and their state registered nurses licensing board. In addition, the employer should clearly define the process of determining competency (e.g., the employee must attend a didactic course followed by peer review of a certain number of chemotherapeutic agents and a certain number of vesicants) and how often the competency is required (annually, biannually).
Oncology nurses sometimes confuse chemotherapy certification with the process for becoming an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®). This certification does not offer a hands-on competency for chemotherapy administration. However, it does signify that nurses have met or exceeded rigorous criteria for knowledge and experience and possess a measured competency in a demanding practice area. More information on this certification can be found at www.oncc.org.