hospice nurses

Hospice Nurses

hospice nursesWhat do Hospice Nurses do? In short, a Hospice Nurse deals strictly with terminally ill patients nearing the end of their lives. Hospice nurses have a very emotional and difficult job to do given the nature of their job. They are often called angels and develop strong emotional bonds with their patients and the family of the patient. One of the largest roles a Hospice Nurse does is giving emotional support to the family of these end of life patients and making them feel as comfortable about death as possible.

Not everyone is cut out to be a hospice nurse. It is a calling, as it takes a tremendous amount of emotional strength, patience and compassion to do the job they do. A hospice nurse needs to have the right temperament and personality to be successful at their job.

Hospice is a time when patients have stopped life prolonging treatments because their illness has progressed to the point where no treatment available will keep them alive and have had to start pain management and other measures to keep them as comfortable as possible as they near death.

A hospice nurse also serves as a Case Manager and advocate for their patients. They monitor vital signs, manage all medications as well as pain medications. Their hours are long and varied and hospice patients are sometimes able to go home for their final days and the hospice nurse will be there in the patient’s home for the duration. They tend to not only the personal needs of the patient, but also tend to household duties such as doing laundry, cooking, washing dishes, general cleaning of the home to allow the family to tend to and focus on spending their time with their loved one.

Hospice nurses must be fully capable of compassionate communication with the patient and their family. They also need to have high ethical standards, very keen observation skills and a knowledge of when to alert Physicians and others to changes in the patient’s condition. They must be sympathetic and highly resilient and the need to have the emotional and physical stamina and stability to deal with the multiple challenges of severe illness and death.

 To even become a Hospice nurse, you have to attend and graduate from an accredited nursing school with at the very minimum an Associates Degree and then take the standard nursing certification test, the (NCLEX-RN).All Hospice nurses are full RN’s, (Registered Nurses). If you plan to become a Hospice Nurse it is a good idea to train in multiple specialties such as, but not limited to, Oncology, Palliative care and Critical care.

Hospice nurses most often have a Master’s degree in hospice and palliative care. Some of the additional classes that hospice nurses often take are medical and biological ethics, geriatrics, acute care and psychology. In addition, employers and state laws may require additional certifications to provide hospice care. To prepare for the hospice environment, RNs should gain acute care experience and pain management assessment skills.

Hospice and Palliative nurses must also be able to posses a unique talent of maintaining a perspective that is sensitive to a variety of cultural and religious differences that is part of our lives, as everyone has their own unique perspective and outlook that comes with the varied cultures and religions.

As with any Nursing position, Hospice nurses need to have a very strong attention to detail. They need to be highly organized in all aspects of their duties so that as they continue to observe, monitor and treat their patient’s they will be able to give treating Physician’s accurate information. Whether it concern medicine intake amounts or reactions to any medications, food and / or liquid intake, any new health issues that may arise and even just subtle changes in the overall patients health that may need more direct attention.

Excellent Communication skills are a must for any person seeking to become a Hospice Nurse. Hospice Nurses have and maintain a very close relationship with not only the patient but the family members and friends of the family and patient. These folks will have many questions and want answers. There is also the element of fear of death and in addition to the patient, the family members are scared as well and they will need to be consoled in ways that only a highly skilled and dedicated Hospice Nurse can handle and perform. Coming to grips with death is not easy and when it is a long and drawn out process as is the case with terminally ill patients, the emotional toll on everyone involved is very taxing and there are many emotional moments involved during a terminally ill patient’s last days.

A Hospice Nurse knows that their patient is going to die from their illness and therein lies the difficulty of this particular part of the Nursing profession. As most nurses fight and do everything they can to save their patient’s, such is not the case with a Hospice nurse’s patients. There is tremendous emotional stress imposed on everyone involved with a terminally ill patient and that is what set’s these special nurses aprt from regular Nurses.

There are also Hospice CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants), who work directly with and under the direct supervision of the Hospice RN’s and it is these CNA’s that take on the majority of the daily duty leg work. CNA’s again are limited to what they can legally do medically, but they perform a wide range of the same non-medical duties that the Hospice RN does. These duties can range from and are not limited to, starting IV’s, ensuring the patient takes their medications, maintain eating and breathing tubes and ensure that the port lines are kept clean and sterile. They also help educate the patients guests about the best practices and ways to interact with the patient who may be more prone to infection than normal or the fact that the patient will become tired more easily due to their illness.

The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses, (www.nbchpn.org), 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. Certification Renewal is necessary every four years.

The average base pay for CNA’s is around $25,000 annually and Hospice RN’s salaries vary depending on the education and experience level of the individual nurse. But the median average base pay for them is between $45,000 and $75,000 per year.

Are you a Hospice Nurse? Are you interested in becoming one? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment below, and thank you for reading!


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George Tall

Author at Hug Your Nurse
George Tall works in the legal field, is a father of three, and a husband of a RN for 25 years. He enjoys writing about everything, especially nursing! He has been writing for a living, at least partially, since around 2000. As an author on dozens of websites, he enjoys being factual, while spinning a bit of humor where possible.
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