Certifying oncology nurses since 1986

History of ONCC




The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) was founded with a primary focus on educating and developing oncology nurses and the specialty of oncology nursing. As ONS grew, the membership became interested in developing a means to formally recognize professional expertise in oncology nursing.


The ONS Board appointed the Certification Task Force to develop a plan to implement a certification program.


This task force met with more than 800 ONS members during the ONS Annual Congress in San Diego to identify members’ views on certification. It was clear that certification was a high priority for many of the organization’s members.


The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) was separately incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania and the first Board of Directors meeting was convened to finalize the ONCC structure and develop corporate policies.


The American Cancer Society (ACS) awarded ONCC a $35,000 grant to develop a certification program.

April 30, 1986

ONCC administered the first OCN® examination to 1,607 nurses during the ONS Annual Congress in Los Angeles; 1,384 (86%) passed.


ONCC Board appointed a task force to explore advanced certification.


ONCC obtained accreditation of the OCN® credential from the American Board of Nursing Specialties. The first role delineation study of advanced oncology nursing practice was completed.

April 25, 1995

256 nurses took the first Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN®) Examination; 219 passed (86%).


ONCC created the Roberta Scofield Memorial Certification Awards to assist nurses in becoming certified by offering free registration for a certification test or renewal. 50 recipients received the awards the first year.


ONCC purchased the Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON®) Examination from the Certification Corporation of Pediatric Oncology Nurses. ONCC offered the first CPON® exam in October 1999 during the annual conference of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses (now the Association of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurses). 183 nurses took the first CPON® examination administered by ONCC; 141 passed (77%).


ONCC obtained accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), whose purpose is to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of certification programs/organizations that assess professional competence. At the time, ONCC offered the OCN®, AOCN®, and CPON® credentials. Since then, all ONCC certification programs have obtained NCCA accreditation as soon as eligible and maintained it continuously.


ONCC introduced two role-specific advanced certification examinations: the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP®) and Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS®). 268 nurses took the AOCNP® test during its first year; 232 passed (87%). 113 nurses took the AOCNS® test in 2005, and 94 passed (83%). With the introduction of the AOCNP® and AOCNS® examinations, the AOCN® credential was placed in retired status, meaning nurses could maintain the credential through professional development but the test would no longer be offered.


ONCC began offering the Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN®) examination, the first subspecialty certification test. 381 nurses took the CBCN® test in its first year; 329 passed (86%).


Following a role delineation study of pediatric oncology nursing practice, ONCC introduced the Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON®) examination. Of the 519 nurses who took the CPHON® examination, 374 passed (72%). With the introduction of the CPHON® credential, the CPON® credential was placed into retired status, meaning it could be maintained by nurses through professional development, but the test would no longer be offered.


There were 30,449 oncology certified nurses, including 25,986 OCN®, 1,053 AOCN®, 1,910 CPON®, 315 AOCNS®, 754 AOCNP®, 513 CBCN®, and 374 CPHON®.


Announced the Individual Learning Needs Assessment would become the primary renewal method in 2016. ILNA provided certified nurses an opportunity to focus their professional development on specific knowledge areas represented by their certification credential.


Collaborated with ONS to develop the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate Program. ONS provided the educational component of the course and ONCC developed a post-test. Completion of both provided the earner a Certificate of Added Qualification in Chemotherapy and Biotherapy.


Offered the first Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse Examination (BMTCN®). 524 nurses earned the BMTCN® credential.


Began offering year-round testing in North America for all ONCC examinations to help nurses earn their certification sooner.


Approved the first certification renewals by the ILNA method.


Launched ONCC FreeTake, an employer support program that enabled nurses from participating institutions to apply to test without payment and have a free retest if needed.


Retired the AOCNS® examination, meaning nurses who were already AOCNS® certified could maintain their certification through professional development but the exam would no longer be offered.


Implemented new eligibility criteria for basic level certifications requiring nurses have more RN experience and specialty practice than previously required for initial certification. The change acknowledged that both education and work experience are crucial to the acquisition of specialized knowledge and skill.


Introduced Emeritus status enabling certified nurses to continue to demonstrate their specialized knowledge and experience after retiring from active nursing practice. Launched a digital badge program, helping certified nurses demonstrate and share their certification achievement in a trusted, verifiable, online format.


Created an ONCC Emerging Leaders Scholarship through the Oncology Nursing Foundation to support leadership development training for certified nurses.