What is an Oncology Advanced Practice Nurse?


In Canada, oncology advanced practice nurses (APNs) are clinical experts involved in the specialized care of patients and families affected by cancer.  Two APN roles are recognized in Canada: the clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner.  APNs are registered nurses with a master’s degree who have increased autonomy and expertise in the care of specific populations.  Oncology APNs work to improve patient health through innovation in nursing practice and in the delivery of cancer services.  They work in community, ambulatory and inpatient settings and provide nursing services across the cancer journey from cancer prevention, early detection and screening, treatment, recovery and palliative and end-of-life care.  In addition to their clinical expertise, APNs require competencies in education, research, organizational leadership and professional development.  

Research has shown that well designed APN roles in oncology and other specialties have a significant impact on patient and health system outcomes including: improved access, coordination and continuity of care; improved patient and health provider satisfaction; reduction of side effects and complications; improved health, functional capacity, quality of life and survival rates especially for high risk populations; lower acute care costs due to reduced hospital lengths of stay and readmissions; and improved patient and health care provider uptake of evidence-based practices.  From a global perspective, there is significant demand for APN roles due to: the increased complexity of therapies and health care services; increased patient acuity; the need to contain health care costs; provider shortages; greater emphasis on evidence-based practice, quality, accountability and patient safety; and the need for highly skilled and flexible roles that are responsive to changing patient and health systems needs.