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Hospice Nurse: Education and Career Information

Being a nurse is a dynamic career. It takes someone who has compassion and resiliency to care for patients day in and day out, making sure their needs are met. If you enjoy this type of career, and want to work in a specialty area, a hospice nurse may be the career path for you.

What is a hospice nurse?

A hospice nurse has a number of roles to fulfill. They work as an advocate, liaison and case manager for individuals who are in hospice care. Hospice care facilities or individuals who are hospice nurses care for patients who have about six months left to live. This takes a special person to attend to the needs of these severely ill individuals. Hospice nurses provide emotional support, administer medications, monitor vital signs, and take care of the terminally ill.

This is a special type of person that must be able to withstand situations that could be sad. Being able to operate as a support system and liaison that will assist with any medical needs or needs that will keep the patient comfortable throughout their transition. This is the time where families will need to cope with situations, and may not be able to speak to a physician. The hospice care nurse will speak to the physician and relay the information to the family in a way that they can understand.

They work with families in coordinating schedules and helping them adjust to the situation so those final days will be filled with joy and love. Essentially, a hospice nurse works to maintain the quality of life for the terminally ill. You will find them working in private homes, nursing centers, residential care facilities, and hospice care facilities. Depending on the level of experience they have, they may supervise vocational nurses and nursing aides in a hospital.

How much does a hospice nurse earn?

The median annual salary for a registered nurse is about $65,470, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2013. Nurses specializing in hospice care make well over that, usually making over $75,000 per year. This range can go up to as high as $90,000 per year, contingent on a number of factors, including the level of education and degree earned, years of experience, state and city where working, type of work being performed and specialty. This is a career growing in demand as the elderly population is growing.

What skills are needed to become a hospice nurse?

A hospice nurse needs the following skills:

Attention to Detail: There must be a high attention to detail, as a hospice nurse must assist in administering medications, monitoring vital signs and observing any changes that are taking place in the patient.

Organizational Skills: There are a number of situations and areas where organization is crucial. Being able to prioritize different things will work to the benefit of this role.

Critical-Thinking Skills: Being able to assess a patient and their current situation, in addition to observing any changes in their pain and symptoms is important. A hospice nurse should be able to detect these things and implement action.

Compassion: A high level of compassion is needed to be able to deal with patients and their families. A hospice nurse must be sympathetic to the needs of the patient, and work with the doctors to make the patient as comfortable as possible.

Patience: Having patience when working with hospice care patients is imperative. There are a number of changes the body is going through, and being able to work with the physicians and communicate with the family on the condition of the patient is key.

Communication Skills: Patients must be able to communicate with you to give you the information you need. They must be able to let you know how they are feeling and where their body is changing. A hospice nurse must be able to speak with the doctors and the family on the condition.

Internship Requirements

Clinical and laboratory internship requirements are necessary to complete these nursing programs. The number of internship hours required depend on the nursing program and how extensive the internship component is in relation to completion of the degree.

Education Requirements

The requirements for becoming a hospice nurse are the same as a registered nurse (RN). Obtaining an associate’s degree through a two-year program, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in a four-year program is the right route to take. Coursework in both programs is extensive, with the associate’s degree program concentrating on a combination of general studies and nursing curriculum. The four-year program is more extensive, and will provide a greater foundation for the career path.

Once the degree is obtained, taking and passing the NCLEX-RN exam is necessary to become a licensed registered nurse. Students may also sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) given by the Board of Nursing. Once working as an RN for a couple of years, the student will be eligible 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 have 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.

If you are looking for a rewarding career where you help individuals in improving their quality of life, and assisting families in getting over the challenges they face, this is the career for you. A hospice nurse is definitely someone who needs to have a big heart, and open mind in being successful.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
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