Hospice Nurse

Hospice NurseGrace. Gratitude. Compassion.

If you are searching for a truly inspiring specialty in nursing, you may want to become a hospice nurse. A hospice nurse employs emotional support to help people live as independent and comfortable as possible near the end of their lives. Theses nurses are part of a holistic health care team, which administers nursing care to individuals and their families. According to studies conducted by national organizations, a steady increase exists in the demand for hospice and palliative care nurses. If you think you will flourish in this setting, your next step is to review the essential requirements for taking the Hospice and Palliative Nurses certification exam.

Hospice nurses are vital to terminally or critically ill patients. They are needed to provide palliative care during the final stages of the patient’s life. In general, the role of a hospice nurse is summarized into two simple points:

The nurse ensures the patient is comfortable and as pain-free from their health condition as possible. Nursing care is only one of many hospice services. Other hospice services include medical social services, physician services, spiritual services, and respite care.

Hospice care is an important aspect of medical services. It allows terminally ill patients to receive medical care in a hospice unit or in their own home at the time of their death. This is especially important for people who would rather die at home and not in the hospital. A 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey reveals there were well over a million people cared for through a hospice home health agency. Most of these patients consisted of advance care planning and approximately one-fourth had more than three advance care planning equipment. Because of this, hospice nurses play a significant role not only for the patients, but not only with the patient’s family as well.

Education Requirements

Dreams of becoming a hospice care nurse requires you to earn your degree in nursing and become a licenced practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). It is momentous to equip yourself with enough knowledge and skills prior to working with patients in the health care setting. After obtaining your degree in nursing you will  need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is given by the Board of Nursing in your state. After working for two years in the hospice setting you are elligible to take the Hospice and Palliative Nurses certification exam. LPNs and RNs each take a certification exam through the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses geared to their abilities.

A hospice care nurse needs to be knowledgeable with the nursing skills needed to provide care. The nurse should know the basics of assessment, anatomy and physiology, fundamentals, and pharmacology. The exam for certification as a hospice nurse consists of 150 questions regarding eight domains of practice for the nursing care of and adult and his or her family.

Job Description & Duties

Hospice care nurses have an array of responsibilities. They are responsible for making the life of a terminally ill patient as comfortable as possible. In addition, they are assist the patient’s family with the stages of grief. The nurse’s emphasis is on both the patient and family’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and psycological needs during the life-limiting illness.

Typical day for a hospice nurse includes the following:

  • Maintain patient’s comfort and safety
  • Provide basic nursing care, which may include wound care and catheters
  • Supervise LPNs if you are an RN
  • Provide medication
  • Create care plan
  • Provide emotional support to the patient and family
  • Ensure quality care is provided
  • Educate the family of the patient
  • Provide spiritual support if needed
  •  Coordinate with priests, chaplains, or ministers of the patient
  • Order needed supplies

Hospice nurse characteristics:

  • Compassionate
  • Good communicator
  • Observant
  • Sympathetic
  • Resilient
  • Emotionally stable
  • Physically fit

Job Outlook and Salary

The growth of hospice care and the projected demand for these services will require a unique assembly of talents and traints. Surveys from the Hospital Salary and Benefits Report reveals the hourly rates for hospice registered nurses rose 7.4%  in 2005. Registerered nurses average annual salary in 2010 was $64,690. Hospice nurses can expect a very competitive salary. Although it is important to note the salary will depend on many factors such as experience and location. In general, it is one of the good-paying nursing specialties. Hospice care nurses may receive higher salary compared to other nurse specialties such; however, some nurses may volunteer as a hospice nurse and receive peace in exchange for giving compassion.


Written by

Sarah Gehrke MSN, RN

Sarah Gehrke, RN, MSN, has 15 years of professional experience in infusion services. She specializes in providing intravenous (I.V.) nutritional therapy by administering [...]