Palliative Care Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook

November 12, 2021 , Modified on April 27, 2022 · 4 Min Read

If you want to become a palliative care nurse but aren't sure where to start, we have all the information you need. Learn about education and licensing requirements and find nursing schools and programs near you and online.

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Individuals who want to work with elderly or terminally ill patients must research how to become a palliative care nurse. What is a palliative care nurse and what does a palliative care nurse do? This guide details the profession, covering topics like palliative care nurse degree options and where palliative care nurses work. Readers can also explore palliative care nurse requirements for licensure, salary data, and helpful professional resources.

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What is a Palliative Care Nurse?

What does a palliative care nurse do? Palliative care nurses work with patients who are near death and provide bereavement support to families after death occurs. To that end, palliative care and hospice nurses help create an environment of pain relief and comfort for their patients, tending to their physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs. These nurses often work with other healthcare providers to meet the unique needs of patients and their families.
What Do Palliative Care Nurses Do? Palliative care nurses care for patients approaching the ends of their lives. They sometimes work with long-term clients, but most care is short-term, depending on the condition of the patient. Although these nurses face emotionally challenging work, they are increasingly important, especially as the United States population ages. Palliative care nurses provide comfort, both physically and mentally, and counsel and educate patients and family members on what is to come. They help patients accept their mortality and help them complete unfinished tasks. Palliative care and hospice nurses perform many job responsibilities. These nurses not only work with their patients to ensure their comfort, but they also work closely with their patients' families, answering questions about the patient's condition and progress. They also help families make decisions regarding the patient's end-of-life care.
Where Do Palliative Care Nurses Work? Palliative care nurses can work in any healthcare setting where patients need their skills and services, though most work in private homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. They also work with patients who have chronic conditions, which can mean hospitals or critical care units.
Skills That Could Affect Palliative Care Nurse Salaries Palliative care nurses need specific, technical skills to succeed in the field. They also need strong communication skills to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals. The ability to communicate effectively with patients is one of the most powerful skills a palliative care nurse can possess. Palliative care nurses also need empathy and compassion, because many end-of-life experiences can be very emotional. These nurses work closely with patients and their family members, who are often unsettled and experiencing emotional trauma before even losing their loved ones. Nurses can provide better care by understanding patients and their families.

How to Become a Palliative Care Nurse

There are many different pathways to becoming a palliative care nurse. Professionals from different nursing backgrounds can refocus their careers to become palliative care nurses. Those with experience working with terminal diseases, including heart disease and cancer, or nurses who previously focused on geriatric care can easily transition into palliative care nursing. Aspiring nurses who want to work in palliative care must earn a nursing degree, pursue a registered nurse license, and seek certification opportunities in palliative care, which will allow them to seek specialized roles.


Before professionals can practice as palliative care nurses, they need a registered nurse license. To successfully complete a registered nurse licensing program, individuals must first earn a bachelor of science in nursing or an associate degree in nursing. While palliative care nurses do not always need a bachelor of science in nursing, some employers prefer to hire candidates with a BSN rather than an ADN. Many colleges and universities allow aspiring palliative care nurses to enroll in courses specific to the specialty.

Training and Certification

After completing a nursing degree and obtaining registered nurse licensure, professionals can seek certification opportunities in palliative care nursing. The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center offers seven certification opportunities, including advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse, certified hospice and palliative nurse, and certified hospice and palliative pediatric nurse. Palliative care nurses should consider their specific career goals and interests when choosing a specialization. Nurses with certification credentials can seek more specialized job opportunities and differentiate themselves from other candidates. Aspiring palliative care nurses should review certification requirements to understand what it takes to earn their credential.

Palliative Care Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

How much does a palliative care nurse make? Palliative care nurse salary figures vary depending on nurses' location and experience. The occupation's national median salary is $67,345. Entry-level palliative care nurses earn a median salary of $64,086 while more experienced professionals earn an average salary of $72,983. Before working as a palliative care nurse, many professionals practice as registered nurses, earning the most pay in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. The state with the highest salary potential for registered nurses is California, which also boasts the occupation's highest employment levels.

Median Salary for Palliative Care Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: N/A
  • Early Career: $64,086
  • Mid Career: $68,594
  • Experienced: $67,989
  • Late Career: $72,983
  • Source: PayScale

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    Registered Nurse (RN) Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Registered Nurse (RN), Critical Care
    $63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $47,613 $72,656

    Source: PayScale

    Palliative Care Nurse Resources

    • Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association HPNA is the national professional organization representing the palliative nursing occupation, which includes the country's hospice and palliative care nurses. HPNA supports the occupation by providing research initiatives, advocacy, and educational programs. Because it is the industry's only organization that offers specialty certification, HPNA grants credentials to more than 18,000 healthcare professionals.
    • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization The nation's largest membership organization for professionals and providers who care for people impacted by serious or life-threatening illnesses, NHPCO supports palliative care providers and local hospice providers. The organization includes members from all over the United States and advocates for holistic healthcare and the well-being of wider communities.
    • Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center HPCC offers specialty certifications in palliative and hospice care and provides formal recognition for professionals seeking certification and recertification in the specialty. The center also has continuing education offerings, providing professional development in hospice and palliative care.
    • Job Search offers a job search function that allows nurses to browse jobs by title or discipline. Users can also search for jobs in a particular location, inputting distance parameters to find opportunities in a desired location.
    • Center to Advance Palliative Care A national organization devoted to increasing the availability of quality healthcare for people struggling with serious illnesses, CAPC is the nation's leading resource for the palliative care field. Funded by the community and private philanthropy, the organization provides tools, training, and technical assistance for professionals. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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