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Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing

Hospice and palliative care nurses provide care to patients who are incurably ill. These nurses focus on symptom control and quality of life care to help their patients spend their remaining days as comfortably as possible. Since 2008, nearly one million people have availed themselves to hospice services—over one-third of those diagnosed to be dying of incurable illness. Hospice care is a part of palliative care nursing. Medicare regulations define hospice care to be care administered during the last six months of life. There are currently over 4,700 hospice programs in the United States administering the hospice concept of care, 80 percent of which occur within a patient’s home setting.

What Is Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing?

Hospice nurses perform many different functions within the hospice. Some are case managers; others concentrate on initial intake procedures, and most make home and clinic visits to hospice patients.

What Are The Educational Requirements For Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing?

To work as a hospice nurse, an individual must first become a registered nurse by earning an ADN, BSN, or MSN from an accredited nursing program.

Hospices are Medicare-certified. There are currently five available certifications for hospice nurses, each valid for four years:

  • Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator

The certifying body is the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses. It is the only organization recognized in the United States to certify hospice nurses.

What Is The Average Hospice Nurse Salary?

According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for a hospice nurse is $64,000.

What Is The Job Description/Purpose For A Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse?

Hospice nurses work in a variety of settings as part of an interdisciplinary team caring for patients who are incurably ill and who are diagnosed to be in the last six months of life. Home hospice nurses generally see patients within the home setting. They are responsible for intake, case management and meeting the goals of the patient and the family. Hospice nurses let patients and their families know what to expect when it comes to living with the patient’s condition, and they also provide comfort for these patients. Palliative care nurses work to control the symptoms of the incurably ill patient and also operates as part of an interdisciplinary team. In most cases, a hospice and palliative care nurse is synonymous.

What Are Some Skills and Qualifications For Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing?

  • Current state licensure
  • One year of acute care experience
  • Understanding and complying with accepted professional nursing standards and practices
  • Medicare, Medicaid and insurance knowledge
  • Ability to work as an interdisciplinary team member
  • Work with little or no supervision
  • Flexibility in nursing role
  • Compassion
  • Teaching patient to become a functioning member of his team by assisting in own care, if possible
  • Adhering to state and agency quality standards of care
  • Infection control
  • Charting daily care and progress notes
  • Meeting with members of the team
  • Maintain patient confidentiality
  • Recognizing family members as part of the interdisciplinary team
  • Troubleshooting equipment such as oxygen tanks and IVs
  • Maintaining in-home nursing supplies
  • Continuing education maintenance
  • Pediatric nursing care knowledge
  • Geriatric nursing care knowledge
  • Clear, concise communication skills
  • Hospice care knowledge
  • Palliative care knowledge
  • Daily routines vary depending on the hospice and palliative care venue, individual patient and family needs, and nurse experience. Direct patient intake and assessment, nursing care, patient and family counseling, medication education and disbursement, meetings with the patient’s interdisciplinary team and medical and progress note charting occur as needed.

    What Are The Employment Outlook/Opportunities For Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing?

    The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for registered nurses is positive, with 26% expected job growth between 2010 and 2020.

    Additional Resources

    The National Association for Home Care & Hospice: The website for the trade organization representing hospices, home care aide and home care agency organizations. Fosters educational opportunities and disseminates information on legislative, regulatory, clinical and legal issues.

    The Hospice Foundation of America: This website provides end-of-life care resources for nurses and other members of a patient’s interdisciplinary team.

    The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine: This link is to a peer-reviewed journal released six times a year for hospice and palliative care nurses and their interdisciplinary staff. This journal was formerly known as the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care.

    Home Healthcare Nurse Journal: This is the website of the professional journal for home healthcare and hospice nurses. The journal focuses on interdisciplinary care and end-of-life issues.