Hospice Nurse Career Overview
Updated August 29, 2022 · 6 Min Read
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Hospice nurses provide care to patients with terminal conditions, typically in hospitals, residential care settings, or the patient's home. This challenging career can prove very rewarding to nurses passionate about end-of-life care.
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Hospice Nurse Career in Brief
Hospice nurses care for patients with terminal conditions, often focusing on keeping the patient as comfortable as possible and minimizing pain. They work under the supervision of physicians or advanced practice nurses and may supervise nursing assistants.
- Administering medicine, particularly pain management medication
- Treating and dressing wound sites
- Monitoring vital signs
- Providing psychological and emotional support for patients and families
- Emotional resilience
Credit: LWA / Stone / Getty Images
Where Do Hospice Nurses Work?
Hospice nurses work in hospitals, residential care centers, and in patient homes.
Provide care to ease symptoms and keep the patient as physically comfortable as possible; collaborate with clinical and non-clinical staff; communicate with family
Administer medical treatment; meet patients' needs; educate family caregivers
Hospice Care Centers
Admit new patients; communicate with family; provide care; supervise nursing assistants
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Why Become a Hospice Nurse?
Advantages To Becoming a Hospice Nurse
Hospice nurse jobs pay above-average compensation
Generally predictable schedules
Disadvantages To Becoming a Hospice Nurse
Requires establishing relationships with patients with terminal conditions
Homecare requires reliable transportation
Must maintain emotional equilibrium during contact with patients and families
How To Become a Hospice Nurse
Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or a master of science in nursing (MSN)
Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure
Gain required nursing experience
Consider a certification offered by the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center
Certification Options for Hospice Nurses
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator (CHPCA)
This certification is no longer offered to new applicants, but hospice nurses with current CHPCA certification can continue to recertify through ongoing clinical work and accruing continuing education hours.
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)
For CHPN certification, hospice nurses should hold at least 500 hours of experience in the last year as a palliative care or hospice nurse, or 1,000 hours in the last two years of work, hold an unrestricted RN license, and pass an examination.
Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN)
Hospice nurses seeking CHPPN certification need at least 500 hours of experience in the last year of palliative care and pediatric nursing, or 1,000 hours in the past two years. They also need an unrestricted RN license and a passing grade on the examination.
Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN)
The ACHPN certification is for advanced practice nurses and requires either certified nurse specialist or nurse practitioner status, recent experience as a palliative care or hospice nurse, an unrestricted RN license, and a passing score on the certification exam.
How Much Do Hospice Nurses Make?
RN jobs are projected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029. Hospice nurse jobs may likely grow faster, given the aging U.S. population and the growth of hospice care in general, especially in-home hospice care.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a hospice nurse?
Hospice nurse jobs require a two-year ADN or a four-year BSN, and then typically 2-3 more years of experience as an acute care nurse, depending on certification type.
Can hospice nurses prescribe medicine?
Only advanced practice hospice nurses, such as certified nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, can prescribe medicine, such as controlled substances. Hospice nurses without this certification cannot prescribe medication.
What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?
Palliative care involves reducing pain and distress for those with serious chronic conditions, whether or not the condition is terminal. Hospice care emphasizes managing pain and psychological distress specifically for those with terminal conditions.
Who do hospice nurses work alongside on a hospice team?
Hospice nurses work alongside physicians or advanced practice nurses who prescribe treatments. They often supervise certified nursing assistants and collaborate with chaplains, social workers, psychologists, and others who provide non-clinical care.
Resources for Hospice Nurses
Hospice and Palliative Nurses AssociationThe Hospice and Palliative Nurse Association offers education, certification, networking, and professional development resources to its members. It also engages in advocacy for hospice and palliative care as part of healthcare. Membership is open to RNs and nursing assistants.
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative MedicineThe American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine provides education, resources, and networking for physicians engaged in hospice and palliative care. However, membership is also open to hospice nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals in hospice or palliative care.
National Hospice and Palliative Care OrganizationThe National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's membership consists of hospice and palliative care providers, provider networks, and individual healthcare professionals. It provides resources for hospice and palliative care administration and also engages in advocacy to enhance access to holistic healthcare.
Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW
Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.
Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
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