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Hospice Nurse

Hospice nurses work with terminally ill or near end of life patients (hospice patients) and their families. Hospice care provides 24/7 supportive care for those with six months or less to live. Their focus is on helping the person live as comfortably and as independently as they can in their final days by providing pain management, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual support.

Education Requirements

All nurse specialty areas require an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state’s NCLEX-RN exam. There is an increasing need for hospice nurses, so ADNs, LVNs, and CNAs can fill many positions, and BSN degreed nurses may branch into more managerial roles.

How to advance/career pathway

You can apply for a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) after 500 hours of hospice and palliative nursing practice in the previous 12 months or 1,000 hours within 24 months before applying for the examination.

Another way to advance is to get your Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN) certificate. You will need an MSN or doctoral degree as a Certified Nurse Specialist (CNS) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) with hospice and palliative advanced nursing practice after 500 hours in the previous 12 months or 1,000 hours within 24 months before applying for the exam.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Provide care for elderly or terminal patients of any age
  • Patient assessments: vital signs and physical exams
  • Wound care and preventive skin care to prevent breakdown
  • Medication administration: pain and secretion management
  • Supervise and coordinate other home care staff: CNAs, bereavement support, and social workers 
  • Educate and provide emotional and spiritual support to the patient and family members

MOST COMMON CASES

  • Cancer
  • Pain management
  • Dementia/Alzheimer's disease
  • Heart and Respiratory Failure
  • Progressive chronic diseases

How to become a

Hospice Nurse

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN program in nursing.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license.
  3. Work one to two years in the hospital or a skilled nursing facility
  4. Apply to hospice positions through your Visiting Nurse Service (VNS), community, or in a hospital setting. 
  5. Apply to be a Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN) after meeting prerequisites.

Specialty Groups and Communities

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

  • Mission: As the leading organization representing hospice and palliative care providers, NHPCO works to expand access to a proven person-centered model for healthcare—one that provides patients and their loved ones with comfort, peace, and dignity during life’s most intimate and vulnerable experiences.
  • Cost: Varies depending membership program, most of which are geared toward facility resources and support.
  • Perks: Vary based on membership type and facility needs.

Hospice & Medicare

  • Mission: The United States government’s national healthcare insurance program.
  • Cost: Varies.
  • Perks: Find more information here.

Hospice & Palliative Credentialing Center

  • Mission: “The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation have leveraged strategic and operational synergies and adopted shared mission and vision statements and common pillars of excellence.”’
  • Cost: $55-$210, annually, depending on membership type.
  • Perks: Online e-learning courses, access to CEUs, Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center certification and recertification exam discounts, online subscriptions to two professional journals, and more.

The Pros

  • Develop close relationships with home care patients and their families
  • Able to focus on one patient at a time
  • You become your patient's primary advocate
  • Make independent but collaborative decisions with the hospice team

The Cons

  • Can feel isolated from newer medical trends unless in a hospital hospice unit
  • Workload can be heavy at times
  • Can be stressful dealing with death and feelings of attachment and loss
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Personality Traits

  • Empathetic
  • Comfortable with end of life decisions
  • Confident nursing skills
  • Strong patient advocate
  • Independent practice
  • Patient and flexible
  • Excellent communicator
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Average Salary

Hospice nurses make between $53k and $80k, with a median salary of $65,997, while a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) earns an average salary of $75k. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC)

  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) 
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN)
  • Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN)
  • Certified in Perinatal Loss Care (CPLC)
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Work Setting

  • Patient’s or family’s homes, nursing homes 
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Hospital hospice units
  • Skilled nursing facilities

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Hospice Nurse? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Hospice Nurse Do?