Hospice Nurse: Job Description Career Requirements
Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a hospice nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.
Registered nurses are required to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. They must also be licensed. Those interested in hospice nursing may also be required to complete national certification in hospice nursing for some states and employers.
Hospice nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who provide care for terminally ill patients. They work with patients, their families and other healthcare professionals during the final stages of life. An undergraduate degree and national licensing are necessary to become a nurse, and graduate training in hospice nursing is also available. Certification in hospice nursing is recommended and may be required for some jobs.
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for a Hospice Nurse
Hospice nurses work to maintain the comfort and quality of life for those who are diagnosed with terminal diseases. They work in private homes, residential care facilities, nursing centers and other hospice care environments. They may also supervise licensed vocational nurses (also known as licensed practical nurses) and nursing aides in hospital settings.
They must be capable of compassionate communication with patients and their families. Hospice nurses need to have keen observation skills, high ethical standards and knowledge of when to alert doctors and others about changes in patient conditions. They must be resilient and sympathetic, and they should have emotional and physical stability to deal with the challenges of severe illness and death.
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Obtaining a career as a hospice nurse requires becoming a registered nurse. RN prospects must complete an undergraduate education and gain relevant work experience. Options include earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A combination of classroom education and training in a clinical environment is required. Common class topics include:
- Health assessment
- Anatomy and physiology
- Nursing skills and fundamentals
In order to become a RN, individuals must pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This is required by all territories and states in the U.S. Passing this exam proves nurses have the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct treatment in the real world. Additional requirements vary by state and employer.
Further Training and Certification
Hospice nurses often pursue a master’s degree in hospice and palliative nursing, according to the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association. Those with a master’s degree are typically considered advanced practice nurses rather than RNs. Training for advanced practice hospice nurses includes taking classes in medical and biological ethics, acute care, geriatrics and psychology.
Employers or state laws may require additional certification in order to provide hospice care. The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses offers nationally recognized certification across a variety of levels for hospice nurses. Hospice experience and a current RN license are required in order to take these certification exams. Renewal is necessary every four years.
Salary Information and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov), predicts that jobs will increase by 16% for registered nurses between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for registered nurses was $67,490 in May, 2015.
With 16% job growth expected from 2014-2024, the job prospects for qualified hospice nurse applicants are excellent. Those interested in hospice nursing may be required by their state or some employers to obtain national certification in hospice nursing. Those who complete internships or practica working with the elderly or terminally ill should experience improved job prospects.