How to Become a Hospice Nurse
Hospice Nurse Careers & Degrees

Hospice Nurses provide the same type of care that general Registered Nurses do with one major difference; they solely work with patients who are terminally ill.

Hospice Nurses have to work with patients that know their life is coming to an end and must not only use their medical expertise to treat them, but their interpersonal skills to help families cope as well.

The way a candidate can become a Hospice Nurse requires them to first acquire certification as a Registered Nurse.

After achieving certification, candidates may seek a job as a Hospice Nurse.

A Hospice Nurse must be able to provide emotional support to a patient and their family.

Someone who wants to become a Hospice Nurse must be able to handle end of life situations and remain composed in order to provide high quality care to patients.

Hospice Nurses work in a variety of environments including private homes, hospice centers, nursing homes or residential care homes.

People interested in this type of profession should look at other careers in the medical industry that require similar training and skills.

Some possible alternatives include:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Dental Assistant
  • Physician Assistant
  • Palliative Care Nurse

Education Requirements to Become a Hospice Nurse

In order to become a Hospice Nurse, candidates must first seek training and licensure as a Registered Nurse.

In order for candidates to qualify for licensure, they must complete and pass a nursing program.

Nursing programs can be offered at many levels including Certification, Associate’s or a Bachelor’s Degree.

The majority of registered nurses complete an Associate’s or Bachelor’s program due to the fact that employers seek candidates with more education.

Candidates seeking a four year degree must complete a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN).

Candidates who complete a four year program are more likely to secure an entry level position right out of school.

Candidates with a BSN have fulfilled experience requirements in clinical or non clinical settings.

Employers also seek candidates with a BSN because of the increased complexity in caring for patients.

BSN degree holders also have experience with general courses such as communication, leadership and critical thinking which are considered important skills to have amongst applicants.

Students in a Nursing program receive training in a typical classroom setting as well as clinical experience in several areas.

During a program, students will learn about the human body by taking classes such as anatomy, psychology, chemistry, microbiology, physiology, nutrition and some courses in the liberal arts for candidates in a BSN or Associate’s program.

After completion of an accredited nursing program, candidates must prepare to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Passing this exam assures that candidates are capable of fulfilling a nurse’s job description.

Passing this certification exam is a requirement enforced by all 50 states.

More information can be found at: NCLEX-RN

Hospice Nurse Job Description

Hospice Nurses provide health care services to terminally ill patients.

Their goal is to provide the best care possible that doesn’t diminish a patient’s quality of life.

They offer care that is geared towards alleviating any pain or makes the patient as comfortable as possible towards the end of their life.

Hospice Nurses care for patients who are in the last six months of their lives.

They can care for them in private homes, hospitals or hospice centers.

They treat, educate families how to use specialized equipment, and can provide advice and support to grieving families.

Hospice Nurses also monitor a patient’s vital signs, administer medication, perform diagnostic tests and operate machinery such as breathing apparatuses and IVs.

Hospice Nurse Salary and Career Path

Registered Nurses compose the majority of job openings in the health industry.

The job outlook for all Registered Nurses seems excellent through the year 2018 although can vary between specializations.

Hospice Nurses will probably benefit from an aging population that is expected to grow in the coming years.

The national median wage for all Registered Nurses is approximately $62,450.

An entry level Registered Nurse can expect to earn less than $43,000 while the highest earners can earn a potential $92,000 per year.

Candidates looking for employment at a general medical hospital can expect to earn more than someone working at a nursing care facility.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$77,460
$52K
$60K
$77K
$90K
$111K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$60,230
Alaska$90,500
Arizona$78,330
Arkansas$61,330
California$113,240
Colorado$76,230
Connecticut$83,440
Delaware$74,100
District of Columbia$94,820
Florida$67,610
Georgia$69,590
Hawaii$104,060
Idaho$69,480
Illinois$73,510
Indiana$66,560
Iowa$60,590
Kansas$62,450
Kentucky$63,750
Louisiana$65,850
Maine$69,760
Maryland$77,910
Massachusetts$93,160
Michigan$73,200
Minnesota$80,130
Mississippi$59,750
Missouri$64,160
Montana$69,340
Nebraska$66,640
Nevada$88,380
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Ohio$68,220
Oklahoma$64,800
Oregon$92,960
Pennsylvania$71,410
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
Tennessee$62,570
Texas$74,540
Utah$67,970
Vermont$70,240
Virginia$71,870
Washington$86,170
West Virginia$63,220
Wisconsin$72,610
Wyoming$68,690
Guam$58,070
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Registered Nurses, OCC Code 29-1141, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a hospice nurse?

A hospice nurse is a nurse trained to work with patients who are nearing the end of their lives.

Working with terminally ill patients can be emotionally demanding and you have to be a resourceful and compassionate person in order to be able to do this job.

Registered nurses who work in hospice settings play the role of case managers and they are also an advocate for patients and their families.

Nurses with different backgrounds may be part of the hospice team, including registered nurses, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, nurse practitioners as well as nursing assistants.

If you’re seeking employment in a hospice setting you should have good communication skills and be able to work as part of a team.

Nurses who work in hospice settings may work night, weekend and holiday shifts to accommodate their patients’ needs.

QuestionHow much does a hospice nurse make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses who worked in nursing care facilities was $67,370, as of May 2018.

However, salaries in this field vary depending on the field of employment and the nurse’s level of experience.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a hospice nurse?

In order to become a hospice nurse, you must first become a registered nurse.

Registered nurses need at least an associate’s degree in nursing but a four-year bachelor’s degree program can give you better job prospects.

After completing your education you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain a state license.

Bachelor’s degree programs in nursing can cost anywhere between $40,000 and more than $100,000 a year, depending on the school you choose.

Several professional organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers, offer certification in hospice and palliative care.

Certification is optional and can usually be earned after having at least 3 years of supervised experience in your field.

QuestionWhat is the demand for hospice nurses?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment for registered nurses in hospice settings is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Registered nurses are expected to have good job prospects in the future but many employers prefer candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

As more people seek hospice services, more healthcare facilities will provide hospice services and this will create additional job openings.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a hospice nurse?

In order to become a hospice nurse, you must first get your state license as a registered nurse.

Registered nurses usually need at least a two-year associate’s degree program.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing, which can be completed in approximately 4 years, can give you better job prospects.

If you want to specialize and further advance in your career you can pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing which takes 3 to 6 years to complete.

After getting around 3 years of supervised experience in your field you can seek voluntary certification.

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