Hospice nurse


The hospice nurse deals with terminally ill patients and their families in a home care setting. This nursing profession requires the nurse be conversant with normal nursing duties as well as have extensive training in pain relief, the grieving process, and the physical and psychological process of dying.

The goal of the hospice nurse is to keep the patient comfortable and pain-free during this final stage of their life. This type of nursing is not for every nurse graduate as it requires a large amount of compassion and emotional stamina.

Hospice Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

The nurse who provides hospice care will see patients who can no longer benefit from medical treatment to halt their disease. These terminal patients require nursing support to stay comfortable during this final stage.

The hospice nurse may maintain IV drips, give injections to relieve pain, or other support services.

The hospice nurse may also serve as an advocate for the patient allowing them control of their health decisions. The emotional support a hospice nurse offers the family and patient help are an essential component of this nursing specialty. Most hospice patients die within 30 days of enrolling in the hospice program and this can be difficult for the nurse.

How to Become a Hospice Nurse

Hospice nursing is a nursing specialty which is chronically short of well qualified nurses. Many people, nurses included have a difficult time dealing with the final stages of life. The scarcity of the individual who can help alleviate pain and provide comfort for the family and patient during this difficult time, makes the true hospice nurse a valued member of the hospice team.

A nurse interested in joining a hospice team may find opportunities plentiful and may work with organizations providing in home hospice care or inpatient hospice care in hospice facilities. Nurses who provide in home hospice care can expect to be on call periodically. RNs planning on continuing their education with an advanced degree, may work as RNs in hospice situations for the 2000 hours required before applying for graduate school.

Hospice Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

  • Hold a valid and unencumbered nursing license either an RN or LPN/LVN.
  • There are a few advanced practice nursing programs which offer specialties in Hospice nursing.
  • Many continuing education programs for nurses offer pain management, and palliative care courses.
  • To obtain certification as a hospice nurse, candidates must work full time for at least two years in a hospice setting and pass an exam give through the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHPN). Applicants are screened according to education and experience before being given one of six exams offered by the NBCHPN. Exams offered include the Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN), Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN), Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN), Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse (CHPLN), Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant (CHPNA), and the Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator (CHPCA). Each exam covers more than 150 topics from all domains of hospice care. Certification is accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS). Those seeking to become a hospice care giver are encouraged to join the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA). Certification is not required in order to work in a hospice setting, but it is encouraged as many agencies seek certified professionals for their teams.

Most hospice agencies and facilities also offer extensive training for the hospice nurse during orientation as well as continuing education courses.

Hospice Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The career outlook for a nurse is predicted to be excellent through the year 2018. 587,000 new nursing jobs are anticipated over the next 8 years. Skilled nursing specialties such as hospice nursing will grow at the same or greater rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The salary of a Hospice nurse with an RN license is around $59,000 a year which is similar to nurses with the same license and degree.

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