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Cancer Systemic Therapy Certification Course

Cancer systemic therapy is an umbrella term for the types of drug treatments that are sometimes prescribed to address certain diagnoses of cancer. They work throughout the entire body or “system”, travelling throughout the body via the blood to cure, manage, or palliate a patient’s cancer. Chemotherapy (or “chemo”), hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy are all types of medications that can inhibit the growth of, or destroy cancer cells. At Nova Scotia Health, cancer systemic therapy is provided to patients in our cancer centers, as well as our regional facilities.

Administration of cancer systemic therapy is a high-risk, complex treatment and is a beyond entry level competency (ELC) for Registered Nurses (RNs). As such, in order to safely and competently administer systemic therapy, RNs need additional education to meet the knowledge, skills, and performance requirements for this clinical competency to practice safely in oncology practice settings. Building on the de Souza Institute’s  Provincial Standardized Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Course (PSCB), Nova Scotia Health Cancer Care Program in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Learning Institute for Health Care Providers has incorporated Nova Scotia specific treatment and practice guidance for Registered Nurses working in systemic therapy treatment areas, to offer a Cancer Systemic Therapy Certification Course (CSTCC) tailored to the needs of oncology nurses in Nova Scotia.  This performance based CSTCC is designed to meet learning needs of Registered Nurses to safely administer and respond to the complex care needs of cancer patients and their families.

This certification course is comprised of the following components:

  • Knowledge: online, independent, interactive learning modules and final exam in collaboration with the de Souza Institute’s Provincial Standardized Chemotherapy and Biotherapy (PSCB) course
  • Skills: In-person skills and simulation day with the CSTCC faculty
  • Performance: Integrated clinical preceptorship throughout CSTCC

At the completion of the CSTCC, Registered Nurses will be competent in the independent administration of cancer systemic therapy at the advanced beginner level and able to provide safe and effective interventions to cancer patients and their families.

Pre-requisites to being accepted into this program include:

  • Health Service Manager approval
  • Employment in a Nova Scotia Health nursing unit that administers systemic therapy for cancer

Health Care Providers enrolled in programs with clinical components are required to maintain their Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. The Learning Institute follows the Nova Scotia Health Code Blue/Pink Umbrella Policy, and requires a copy of your most recent certification on file. You will be provided with directions on how to submit documentation with your acceptance/welcome letter. If your BLS is going to expire during the program, faculty recommends you recertify prior to entering the program.

The online portion of the course will take approximately 35 hours to complete. You will also require time to complete the final assignment and exam, skills and simulation day, and preceptorship. This time will be arranged in consultation with your manager/CNE.

By providing approval for the course, the Manager is agreeing to:

  • Support the time required to complete the online learning requirements
  • Support the employee to travel to the skills and simulation day in Halifax (for learners outside of CZ)
  • Support the time required for clinical preceptorship
  • Provide support to the RN to consolidate and transition their learnings into independent practice
  • Provide opportunities for the RN to administer cancer systemic therapy drugs to maintain competence
  • Support the RN to participate in continuing education related to cancer systemic therapy

Future CSTCC preceptors may also register for the PSCB via the Learning Institute CSTCC course page.  Manager support and approval is necessary to begin the registration process. Preceptors will be responsible to fulfill all online and in-person requirements within the allotted cohort timeframe.  No preceptorship or submission of the skill assessment checklist will be necessary for currently certified staff.

Cohorts:  4 Yearly Offerings

Regular 11-week

Week 1-7

Self-directed online learning: Estimated at 1 day biweekly dedicated education time to complete online, independent online learning modules (+/- 35 hrs) scheduled as 4 x 7.5 hours or 3 x 11.25 hours

Week 8-9

In-person skills and simulation lab day (7.5 hrs)

Week 10-11

Virtual final exam - 2 hrs with proctor


Clinical practice: Integrated clinical preceptorship throughout; Minimum 3 shifts

Upcoming offerings:

  • May 16 - August 1, 2022; In Session
    • July 12 or 13 **
    • Accelerated 6-week June 16 or 17
    • Skills and simulation lab day
  • September 12 – Nov 28, 2022; Registration deadline August 24, 2022
    • November 1 & 2 **
    • Accelerated 6-week October 12 or 13th
    • Skills and simulation lab day
  • January 9 – March 27, 2023; Registration deadline Dec 7, 2022
    • March 2 & 3rd **
    • Accelerated 6-week Feb 9 & 10th
    • Skills and simulation lab day
  • March 6 – May 22, 2023; Registration deadline Feb 15, 2023
    • April 26 & 27th**
    • Accelerated 6-week April 5 & 6th
    • Skills and simulation lab day

A 6-week accelerated CSTCC is only offered in special circumstances and in collaboration with CSTCC Faculty.  Please contact the Learning Institute for any specific registration requests.

**Further dates may be added to respond to all registration requests

Dates are subject to change.  For all inquiries, including questions regarding specific registration requests, or if the registration deadline date has passed, please contact the Learning institute