Graduate Diploma Cancer Nursing (Adult, Breast, Children, Colorectal) - F/Time (X546); P/Time (X747)

The Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing is an academic and clinically based programme designed for students who wish to deepen and broaden their knowledge and expertise in cancer care in order to provide safe, effective and holistic care to people with cancer. There are four strands in this programme (Adult Cancer Nursing, Breast Care Nursing, Children’s Cancer Nursing, and Colorectal Nursing). Students undertaking the programme will choose one of these strands. Established in 1988 at diploma level, the UCD Cancer Nursing programme was the first specialist course in oncology nursing in Ireland. Over the years, hundreds of oncology nurses throughout the country have successfully completed what is now a Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing.

The Graduate Taught Orientation will take place online on Monday 5th September 2022. The schedule and links will be available in the coming weeks.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is aimed at further advancing the registered nurse’s repertoire of knowledge and skills in caring for people affected by cancer* (PABC)). The Adult and Children’s Cancer Nursing strands are particularly aimed at nurses who are based in oncology/haematology wards and/or oncology/haematology day wards while the Breast Care Nursing and Colorectal Nursing strands are aimed at nurses working in surgical wards/clinics who care for patients with breast cancer and colorectal cancer, respectively.

*PABC: those at high risk of developing cancer, patients, cancer survivors, families/significant others.

Course Features

The UCD Cancer Nursing programme offers 4 specific strands: Adult Cancer Nursing strand, Children’s Cancer Nursing strand, Breast Care Nursing and Colorectal Nursing. Applicants who apply for the Graduate Diploma have the option of undertaking the programme over one year as a full-time student (full-time programme code is X546) or over two years as a part-time student (part-time programme code is X747). Once accepted onto the programme and having chosen either the full-time or part-time option, applicants will then register for the modules applicable to their strand (speciality). Nurses need to be working in this specialty area prior to and for the duration of the programme.

All the teaching and assessing on the programme is undertaken by tutors/clinicians who have national and/or international clinical expertise in cancer care. Many of the tutors will also have extensive research and teaching expertise.

Supernumerary clinical placements and continuous assessments which are central to the programme encourage and enable students to broaden and deepen their expertise in cancer nursing over the course of the programme.

Aims of the Programme

The programme aims to further develop the practitioner’s capacities for caring and competent practice in cancer nursing, so that she/he can continue to provide person-centred care to PABC.

The specific aims of the programme are:

  • To build upon and advance the student’s repertoire of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and professional values that were developed during his/her undergraduate programme and arising out of his/her experiences in clinical practice.
  • To provide the student with the requisite knowledge, skills, attitudes, and professional values for the advancement of his/her role in the care of PABC, including critical analysis, creative thinking, decision making and communication.
  • To develop a greater understanding of the theory which underpins cancer nursing practice including theory in the social and behavioural sciences and theory in the biomedical sciences.
  • To provide learning experiences that advance the student’s professional development and personal growth and experiences that affirm the student’s capacity to be a self-directed learner.
  • To advance the student’s sense of professional awareness, and commitment and a sense of professional responsibility and accountability in cancer nursing.
  • To enable the student to value learning as a continuous process and as a necessary process in the context of his/her professional role in cancer nursing.
What will I learn and how will I benefit?

Programme outcomes

On completion of the programme, it is expected that you will be able to further enhance your knowledge and skills in the care of people affected by cancer (PABC). More specifically, it is expected that you will be able to:

1.     Critically analyse (nursing) knowledge, philosophy and practice informed by specialist practice in cancer nursing and contextualized in both health and social care.

2.     Apply best practice (nursing) care interventions and /or new insights informed by evidence based knowledge in cancer care.

3.     Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of health-related research across a variety of settings.

4.     Articulate a thorough understanding of the established principles of patient safety, leadership and quality care.

5.     Apply critical, creative, reflective, independent thinking and problem-solving skills to ensure clinical decision making and care is safe, effective, evidence based and person-centred.

6.      Apply critical, creative, reflective, independent thinking and problem-solving skills in the evaluation of health care needs in culturally diverse consumer groups.

7.     Integrate and consolidate competency and skills in cancer nursing.

8.     Self-evaluate and take responsibility for continuing academic and professional development

How will I benefit

On successful completion of the programme, you will receive a Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing. This is a highly regarded qualification for nurses working with PABC in Ireland.

Information Technology

It is essential that you have access to a personal computer and an email account as communication with students is primarily undertaken by email/announcements via Brightspace (a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that supports online learning and teaching.

Lecture recordings (in some cases), handouts, learning resources, assessments (in some cases) and assessment guidelines are made available to students via Brightspace. Messages from the university regarding examination policy and procedures are also sent via email.

The Cancer Nursing Programmes at a glance

Graduate Diplomas

There are four strands available on the Graduate Diploma Cancer Nursing (Adult Cancer Nursing, Children’s Cancer Nursing, Breast Care Nursing, and Colorectal Nursing).

Please click on the following links for a graphical representation of the modules related to the strand and programme you are interested in.

Adult Cancer Nursing:


Breast Care Nursing:


Children's Cancer Nursing;


Colorectal Nursing:


Careers/where can I go?

Possessing a broad and deep understanding of the theory and skills required for caring for people affected by cancer, you will be well positioned to work in a variety of settings specialising in your chosen area both nationally and internationally. Many nurses will continue to provide excellent evidence-based, person-centred care in the clinical area. Some nurses will go on to take up positions such as clinical nurse specialists, and liaison nurses and some may undertake further study required for the role of ANP in cancer care. Many nurses will also proceed to assume clinical nurse manager/educational/clinical facilitator roles while others may work in community-based cancer organisations such as cancer charities like the Irish Cancer Society and the Marie Keating Foundation.

Entry requirements


Applicants for this programme must be registered nurses. Normally, applicants will have a primary degree in nursing. Nurses who do not have a degree may apply for recognition of prior experiential learning (RPEL). Criteria to be used in assessment of the RPEL application includes number of years of experience, and evidence of recent and ongoing professional development. Please see below for more information on RPL.

Applicants must be entered onto the appropriate division of the Nurses Register maintained by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) (be registered as a registered general nurse (RGN)/ registered children's nurse (RCN). 


Specific requirements
  • Applicants must have at least one year’s experience in nursing in their specialist area at the time of commencing the programme.
  • Applicants for the Adult and Children’s Cancer Nursing strands will be required to demonstrate competency in the administration of systemic anti-cancer treatments and will therefore normally be based on oncology/haematology wards and/or oncology/haematology day wards (preferably rotating across both settings) prior to and for the duration of the programme. Applicants for the Adult and Children’s Cancer Nursing strands who are caring for patients with cancer but who are not based in the aforementioned settings will require a letter of support from their Assistant Director of Nursing undertaking to facilitate a placement in oncology/haematology for at least 6 weeks over the course of the programme.
  • Applicants for the Breast Care Nursing strand and the Colorectal Nursing strand must be employed in a unit caring for patients with breast cancer or colorectal cancer, respectively prior to commencing and for the duration of the programme.
  • All applicants must have identified a clinical assessor who is willing to undertake their clinical assessments over the duration of the programme. The clinical assessor must have the experience and qualifications relevant to the speciality.
Documents to be submitted with your application

PLEASE NOTE - The official closing date is July 31st, however, as places on the programme are subject to clinical placements which are limited, you are advised to have all of the required documentation submitted by July 1st.

Original transcript(s) including date and grading of degree award (non UCD Graduates only) & notarised English translations where relevant

Applicants: A current photocopy of NMBI registration

Copy of Birth Certificate or Personal Page of Passport

Signed Declaration Form from Employer (original form)

Completed Professional Reference Form (original form)

Applicants: Completed Clinical Competence Assessor Nomination Form signed by the nominee

Evidence of proficiency in English language (applicants whose first language is not English)

Completed accreditation of prior experiential learning (RPL) form (if no degree)

Letter of support (to facilitate placement in oncology/haematology ward/day ward) from ADON for applicants to the Adult Cancer Nursing and Children’s Cancer Nursing strands if not normally based in an oncology/haematology ward/day ward.

How to apply

Applications are made online through UCD Applications. ​Applicants may be required to undertake an interview (either face-to-face or via telecommunication) as part of the admission process.

Please note that all applicants are required to pay a €50 application fee. Your application cannot be processed fully unless the application fee has been paid. This fee will be refunded if a decision is made not to run a programme strand due to insufficient numbers.

Apply online


The fees for your programme can be found at the links below. Search using your major code (the four-digit code beginning with 'X' which can be found in the key information box on this page).

· EU fees information

· Non-EU fees information

Please note that UCD fees are subject to change annually. The fees shown include the student centre levy which must be paid by all students. 


If the fees for your programme are being paid by a third party (full or partial), please ensure your funding organisation/sponsor/hospital contacts Please note this is not a student facing email address.

Student Queries:

If you have any queries about your fees, please contact the Student Desk:

Application Fee:

Please note that all applicants are required to pay the €50 application fee. Your application cannot be processed fully unless the application fee has been paid.

More information about fees is available on the UCD website at the link below:

General information about UCD Fees

Recognised Prior Learning

Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) applications must be submitted online through your SISWeb account.

There are two instances in which you can apply to have recognised prior learning taken into account when applying for a programme in UCD.

1. RPL for admission to a UCD programme

If you are a prospective student seeking admission to UCD and you do not meet the required admissions criteria as set down for a particular programme of study in UCD, you may apply to be admitted based on prior learning. Please click here for a link to the policy and guidance on  admission based on experiential learning.

2. RPL for exemption from a module or modules on a UCD programme

If you have been accepted onto a UCD programme and wish to have credit transferred towards the requirements of the UCD programme of study, you may apply for RPL from a module or modules.

When applying for RPL, please note the following:

  • You must submit your application for RPL as early as possible and preferably before you commence the relevant module/stage/programme.
  • An application for RPL relating to a particular module should be submitted before the third week of the trimester in which it is offered. Applications made after this date will only be accepted under exceptional circumstances.
  • Your application will be reviewed by the Taught Graduate Standing Committee and Programme Board. You can expect to hear of the outcome or status of your application typically within four to six weeks of submitting it (depending on committee schedules).
  • Please note that in some cases your application may not be successful or you may not receive RPL for the amount of credit for which you applied, therefore you must register for, attend and participate in the module or modules until you have been informed of the decision of the School Programme Board.
  • If your application is not successful, you are responsible for all assessments associated with the module.

To apply for RPL please click on the following link: LINK:

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I apply for the programme and when do I need to submit all the required documentation?

The closing date is generally on August 1st each year. However, in order to ensure a place on the programme (which is limited by the availability of placements), please aim to have your application submitted by early June and all of the supporting documentation submitted by mid June

Is Garda Vetting Required?

YesGarda Vetting is required for this programme. Once you submit an application, you will automatically receive details of the vetting procedure.

How often do I have to attend college and on what day of the week is attendance required?

(Please note that some changes may need to be made to the normal schedule for attendance and placement in light of Covid-19)

Your level ot attendance depends on whether you undertake the programme over one year (full-time) or two years (part-time).

Full-time programme

If you wish to undertake the programme over one year, you will be completing six 10 credit modules over a year (starting at the beginning of September and finishing at the end of May). (Please see more information under Programme Structure above.

You will be attending class every Monday in trimester 1 and trimester 2. You will also need to attend college for two block weeks (one starting on the first week in September and the second in early/mid-January. The Orientation Day (Introduction Seminar for all postgraduate students) normally takes place on the Monday of the September block week. (Please note, in some years, the programme start date may fall on a date at the end of August).

There will also be a requirement to attend college on additional days for assessments. Finally, you will be required to undertake supernumerary clinical placements (7 days in total: normally scheduled as 3/3/1 day placements across trimester 1 and 2). These placements will be organised in advance by the Programme Director and the exact dates will not be available until the end of August when all the applications have been processed.

Part-time programme

If you wish to undertake the programme over two years, you will be completing three 10 credit modules in year one (two core modules and one specialist module) and the remaining three specialist modules in year 2. Please click on Programme Structure and then on the link for your specialist strand (Graduate Diploma). Two of the modules in year 1 (the core modules) are largely delivered in blended learning format. Heretofore, the specialist modules have primarily been delivered face to face.

How many assessments will I have to do for each module?

The number and type of assessments will vary across the six modules and more information will be provided regarding assessments by the module leaders at the commencement of each module. Some information regarding the assessments for each module will also be provided on the module descriptors on Brightspace (the Virtual Learning Environment). In the main, there will be 2-4 assessments per module and different assessment approaches will be used including for example, MCQs, assignments, case presentations and clinical assessments.

Professional Diploma in Breast Care Nursing, What days do I need to attend?

The Professional Diploma in Breast Care Nursing is run over one trimester (second trimester, starting early/mid-January), however, you will need to apply for the programme at least 6 months in advance in order to ensure clinical placements can be facilitated.

Attendance is required for a block week in January (normally lectures take place in UCD on Monday, St Vincent’s University Hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday and in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital on Thursday and Friday. You will also be required to attend college on the three following Mondays and two additional Mondays later in the trimester.

You will be required to undertake 7 days of supernumerary clinical placements (3 days each a few weeks apart in different breast care units, and one day in a radiotherapy unit).

What assessments will I have to do?

For the Breast Care Nursing module, you will be required to undertake a short written examination following block week and a case presentation in early March.

For the Breast Care Nursing Clinical Practicum, you will need to complete a clinical portfolio which includes clinical learning outcomes, a clinical competency assessment tool and a reflective diary. You will also be required to undertake a group project focusing on quality, safety and leadership (due in trimester 2) but based on a short reflective assignment which needs to be submitted in the prior December. Finally, you will undertake an assessment at the end of trimester 2.

Please see the module descriptors on Brightspace for the final details of assessments and attendance as the details provided above are intended to provide a broad overview and may be subject to change.

Should I undertake the Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing over one or two years?

That really depends on your work schedule, how busy you are otherwise in your life, how recently you have studied and your prior work experience in cancer care.

Some nurses who already have busy work schedules and a busy family life may find it easier to undertake the programme over two years. This may also be a better option for those who have not studied for several years and for those who are relatively new to the specialty. The reason for this is because programme content extends across many areas of cancer care with a particular focus on systemic cancer treatments,  radiotherapy, surgery, epidemiology, the biology of cancer, the assessment and management of disease and treatment related complications and the assessment and management of psychosocial issues.

In conclusion, the Graduate Diploma in Cancer Nursing is a very busy programme, and successful completion requires a steady and committed focus from the outset and for the entire duration of the programme from September until May.