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Hospice Nurse: What It Is and How to Become One?

Hospice Nurse: What It Is and How to Become One?

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hospice nursing


Life’s fragile. If anything, we’re all temporal over time. As you grow older, your body gets more and more susceptible to physical weaknesses and incapability. These inabilities only increase with time. The aging population’s dependency on hospice nurse care increases accordingly.

Terminal illnesses and other diseases have also augmented the need for hospice nurses in the healthcare sector.

But you may ask:

What Is a Hospice Nurse?

Hospice nurses are registered nurses who cater to terminally ill patients. Hospice nurses play many roles. Their key role is to provide comprehensive care for people nearing the end of their lives. They also help their patients and their families with end-of-life transitions.

Hospice nursing is a special field by itself. It’s far more than a job or responsibility. It requires innate passion and dedication to be a hospice nurse. So, let’s understand more about this particular profession through the most pressing FAQs.

What Is Needed to Be a Hospice Nurse?

The first step is to become a licensed registered nurse. After this, an experience of around 3 years in acute care is recommended. One must then get certified in hospice care through the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHPN).

If you or a loved one is considering hospice care, you may feel worried about the type of nurses available. Since hospice care is considered the end of the line, you’d naturally want nothing but the best. You can be sure that hospice nurses are well equipped for the job.

The following are the steps to be classified as a hospice nurse in the US:

1. Becoming a registered nurse

It all starts with completing a degree. It can be in either Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). Some nurses may additionally choose to pursue a degree in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

2. Sitting for the NCLEX-RN

The NCLEX-RN exam is required to become a licensed registered nurse. The exam is one of the most significant hospice nursing tests. It’s recommended to take it after completion of the nursing degree.

3. Gaining some on-field experience

After having passed the NCLEX-RN exam, a stint of 2-3 years of experience is crucial. This experience will further add to a nurse’s background.

4. Getting certified

Nurses can distinguish themselves by sitting for the Hospice & Palliative Nurses Certification exam.

The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHPN) offers this exam. Nurses can get certified for many roles within hospice care. You can definitely feel a sense of relief once you know how much effort goes into hospice nursing.

how to become a hospice nurse

What Are the Qualities of a Good Hospice Nurse?

A good hospice nurse possesses all skills of an acute care nurse. As they’re caring for a patient who is nearing the end of their life, they need to be resilient, more than anything else. Empathy, patience, and compassion are also vital qualities. 

One thing that people often forget is that hospice nurses are people too. Dealing with emotions positively is a major part of this profession. They have to go through demanding situations, physically and emotionally. It’s quite a difficult task to come on top of such situations while helping the patients. Critical thinking and organizational skills always come in handy when they have to deal with such instances. You can learn about some other important caregiving qualities here.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Hospice Nurse?

Talking about how long it takes to be a hospice nurse, the average time is between 2-8 years. This period includes the time necessary to register to be a nurse, complete the NCLEX-RN exam, and gain a few years of relevant experience.

Though being a hospice nurse is more of a calling, there’s a certain level of expertise and skills required to become one. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the time it takes to become a licensed hospice RN:

  • 2-5 years to pursue a degree in nursing. It depends on whether you’re looking at ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing), BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), or MSN (Master of Science in Nursing)
  • Sitting (and passing) the NCLEX-RN exam
  • A nursing experience of 2-3 years in acute care

Optional Step:

Certification from the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHPN)

Is Hospice Nursing a Hard Job?

Every patient interaction transcends death over the course of time. Hence, it takes courage and compassion before anything to choose this profession. According to many hospice nurses, it’s an emotionally rewarding experience. Yet, since there is significant grief involved, it can take a toll on a person.

The natural desire of a nurse is to improve their patients’ health. However, for hospice nurses, healing the patient is no longer the main objective. The goal is to comfort the patient and to ease their everyday life. Many hospice nurses feel it’s a privilege to look after someone at the end of their life. While it’s a job that requires one to be selfless, hospice nursing is a fulfilling journey. There are significant monetary benefits and privileges. Hospice nurses also get to be involved with their patients’ lives. Hence, while hospice nursing seems hard on the surface, there’s so much more to it if you look closely!

What Are the Different Types of Hospice Registered Nurses (RN)?

Generally, there are many tasks associated with hospice nurses. Different kinds of hospice nurses cater to each of those tasks. These responsibilities may change from one healthcare provider to another.

The following are the different kinds of hospice RNs:

1. Admission nurse

Admission nurses admit a patient into the hospice facility. They have to see that the facility meets the specific requirements set by you and your family.

2. Case manager

For hospice care, you will be assigned a case manager. The manager looks after your requirements. They look into what particular needs aren’t met and help allot a specific care plan for that purpose.

3. Visit nurse

Visit nurses are responsible for providing care for the patient. They coordinate with the case manager to understand your needs. They also cater to those needs.

4. Triage nurse

There are cases of emergencies where nurses have to take immediate action. Triage nurses are the ones who are on-call for such situations.

5. Dieticians

In hospice care, a well laid-out diet plan is important to help the patient keep their health in check. Like any other dietician, they look after your condition and refer a diet plan specific to your case.

6. Hospital liaisons

Hospitals often recommend hospice care to patients who are nearing the end of their lives. Hospital liaisons work with you and your family to find suitable providers specific to your needs.

Do Hospice Nurses Draw Blood?

Hospice nurses are authorized to draw blood if there’s a need for it. This is possible because every hospice nurse is a licensed registered nurse.

Drawing blood isn’t necessarily a hospice nurse’s main task. One will only look for drawing blood if there’s an absolute need for it. The nurse will need to examine the patient and determine whether there’s a need for a medical examination.

Holding hands

What Are the 4 Levels of Hospice Care?

As classified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there are 4 “kinds” of hospice care. A patient may need Hospice Home Care, Continuous Hospice Care, Inpatient Hospice Care, or Respite Care.

Let’s take a closer look at the different levels of hospice care:

1. Hospice Home Care

Patients prefer an environment that’s comforting for them. For most, that environment is their home. Hospice Home Care enables you to be around your family. It also enables your family to track your health conditions at all times.

2. Continuous Hospice Care

Patients in terminal conditions often consider 24/7 Hospice care. Such patients often need round-the-clock care and supervision. This scenario is when continuous hospice care comes into the picture.

3. Inpatient Hospice Care

At times, due to deteriorating health, you may require an advanced level of care. Such care usually involves a short stay in an inpatient hospice facility. The hospice team in the facility can provide immediate relief from intense pain if needed.

4. Respite Care

This type of hospice care is for the benefit of your primary caregivers. It’s usually a family member or a volunteer caregiver. The primary caregiver can take a break (or time-off) from looking after the patient. In such cases, you’ll spend time at a medicare-certified inpatient hospice facility.

What Is the Role of Your Hospice Nurse?

Hospice nurses help you or a loved one to manage painkeep track of vitals, and take care of other needs. They also offer emotional support to your family. Hospice nurses play several roles when looking after patients. 

If there’s one profession in healthcare that comes close to doing it all, it’s this one. The detailed list below captures the roles and responsibilities that hospice nurses have:

  • Assessing patients and their admission into hospice
  • Evaluating the patient’s needs
  • Educating patients and their families on end-of-life hospice care
  • Monitoring the patient’s medications or special care needs
  • Monitoring patient’s vitals
  • Documenting all care that the patient undergoes
  • Providing emotional and spiritual support to the patient and their family
  • Providing respite care
  • Taking care of daily errands for the patient (in-home care)

In short, hospices nurses’ role is to ensure that you or your loved ones can pass your last days in peace; that you’re well cared for.

How Often Do Hospice Nurses Visit?

The frequency of visits from the hospice nurse depends on your requirements. If it isn’t round-the-clock care, the hospice nurse might on average visit 3-4 times a week.

According to this report, most Americans are now opting for hospice care. It’s now deemed as a more and more acceptable choice to take. A majority of terminally ill patients now prefer Hospice Health Care.

how to become a hospice nurse

What Is the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of their lives. It revolves around easing the emotional pain of the patient and even their families. In contrast, palliative care aims at attenuating problems from a long-running illness. One of their key differences is the time period when the two types of care begin.

Palliative care can either begin at diagnosis or at the time of treatment. In contrast, hospice care usually begins after the patient has stopped their treatment for the disease. This is when a doctor establishes that the patient won’t survive the ailment – usually 6 months or less.

When Should You Consider Hospice?

Hospice care is usually for patients with established terminal illnesses. Usually, patients with less than 6 months to live certify for hospice care. Yet, there are many cases of people who fail to receive valuable hospice care in time.

So, we urge you to consider the following signs that may tell you that it’s time for hospice:

  • Recurring infections
  • Repeated trips to the hospital/ER
  • A dramatic decline in health over a period of time
  • Unrecognizable pain or nausea
  • Declining response to existing medications


A hospice nurse is a specialized nurse who provides care to patients with terminal illnesses. They provide comfort and support to the patients and their families and help them make the most of the time they have left. To become a hospice nurse, you must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) and become a registered nurse (RN).  

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a hospice nurse and this is not a job for everyone! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Medicare pay for hospice in a skilled nursing facility? 

Yes, Medicare pays for hospice in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home. 

Why do nursing homes push hospice? 

There are a few reasons why nursing homes may push hospice. First, many nursing homes are understaffed and hospice can be a way to free up nurses to attend to other residents. Additionally, many nursing home residents nearing the end of their lives may prefer to spend their final days in a more comfortable setting like a hospice. 

Can an LNP be a hospice nurse? 

Yes, an LNP can be a hospice nurse. Hospice nurses provide care to patients who are terminally ill and have chosen to forgo treatment aimed at curing their illness. They provide comfort and support to the patients and their families during the last stages of their lives. 

If you like what you’ve read, share these FAQs with friends and family to help them know more about hospice care. In case of any queries/questions, leave us a comment down below and we’ll get back to you at the earliest!

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