Core Competencies

Oncology Nursing Core Competencies

As part of our mission to promote excellence in oncology nursing, ONS has developed role-specific core competencies for a variety of oncology nursing responsibilities. These provide the fundamental knowledge, skills, and expertise required for nurses to perform proficiently in their roles.

Who Can Use the Role-Specific Core Competencies?

  • Novice nurses who are identifying the qualifications they should possess or acquire during their first one to two years in a role
  • Experienced practitioners who are standardizing the expectations and requirements of a role
  • Administrators and institutions who are developing position descriptions, training methods and materials, evaluation processes, and personal or professional development tools
  • Nurses who are curious about how their position compares to ONS-developed role descriptions   

Our other competencies transcend specific roles to define the required skills and responsibilities all oncology nurses need to transform nursing and cancer care. These competencies empower the oncology nursing profession at multiple levels.

Draft Oncology Advanced Practice Nurse Competencies

The competencies for the oncology advanced practice nurse (OAPN) are currently being drafted.

A project team of experienced oncology CNSs and NPs has developed proposed competencies for the OAPN. The competencies are a single document, reflective of both the oncology NP and CNS roles. This is a departure from the earlier separate oncology NP (2007) and CNS (2008) competencies, because of the overlap of responsibilities in OAPN roles. The competencies were developed following an extensive review of the nursing literature, examining the knowledge, skills, and abilities of OAPN roles.

The competencies are organized into seven categories: clinical practice, mentorship and education, consultation, evidence-based practice, leadership, collaboration and ethical decision making. Each competency statement should be applicable to all OAPNs. The action statements listed can be used to measure whether the competency has been met in various settings or roles.

Leadership Competencies

The ONS Leadership Competencies were developed by ONS members to define the skills needed at the individual, group, and governance levels of leadership. Nurses are leaders in their personal and professional lives, and these extensive competencies will help nurses identify areas for growth across several domains.

Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Competencies

The Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist (OCNS) Competencies outline specialty entry-level competencies for OCNSs who care for adult and late adolescent patients through the continuum of cancer care. These should be used by clinical nurse specialists, educators, employers, physicians, nurses, and anyone else who seeks to understand the role of the OCNS.

To develop this important guide, ONS convened a national validation panel that included 23 representatives of nursing organizations and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers. The OCNS competencies were reviewed and critiqued further by 63 OCNSs.

Oncology Clinical Trials Nurse Competencies

The Oncology Clinical Trials Nurse (OCTN) Competencies were updated in 2016 to better reflect current OCTN practice. Significant changes have been made to the competencies, including addition of a more advanced level of competencies, creation of an OCTN model and framework, separation of required knowledge from expected behaviors, and addition of recommended resources to aid in knowledge and competency development.

Developed with both novice and more experienced OCTNs in mind, the competencies can help individuals and organizations address role standardization and advancement while providing a resource for position descriptions, training materials, evaluation processes, and professional development plans.

Oncology Nurse Generalist Competencies

In an effort to identify the fundamental knowledge, skills, and expertise required for oncology nurses to perform proficiently in their roles, ONS has developed the Oncology Nurse Generalist Competencies to define and guide oncology nurse generalist practice. The competencies reflect the cancer-specific knowledge base and clinical expertise needed in the first one to two years of oncology nursing, building on basic nursing knowledge and skills established in school or in practice. Potential methods of measurement accompany each competency statement.

Oncology Nurse Navigator Competencies

The updated Oncology Nurse Navigator (ONN) Competencies (2017) outline the fundamental knowledge, skills, and expertise required for ONNs to perform proficiently in this role. The competencies add new sections on financial hardship and patient resources, leadership, and shared decision making as well as new expert level competencies. Read more about the updates included in the 2017 ONN Competencies

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Competencies

The Oncology Nurse Practitioner (ONP) Competencies outline specialty entry-level competencies for ONPs who care for adult and late adolescent patients through the continuum of cancer care. It should be used by NPs, educators, employers, physicians, nurses, and anyone else who seeks to understand the role of the ONP.

To develop this important guide, ONS convened a national validation panel that included 20 representatives of nursing organizations and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers. The ONP competencies were reviewed and critiqued further by 127 ONPs.

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