What is a Hospice Nurse?

A hospice nurse works with dying or terminally ill patients ensuring their end-of-life care and comfort. All hospice nurses practice care according to the guidelines of Medicare Benefit Act of 1983 – a federally funded program allowing terminally ill patients to die with dignity in their homes or other appropriate settings surrounded by friends and family. These patients are provided with quality care either in their homes or at hospice facilities.

Skills and Requirements

Hospice nurses are typically RNs, but the job requires a set of special personality traits to work with patients who are preparing for their demise. Hospice nurses dispense the medication, monitor health conditions, use appropriate equipment and control current prognosis. They detect any changes in the patient’s health status and take action when necessary. They pay great attention to detail as they deal with people who are suffering from different stages of trauma, pain or tragedy.

Hospice nurses must possess exceptional organizational skills and superb levels of patience, which are needed when in charge of patients with different needs, health problems and risks. A hospice nurse is also an excellent communicator and great listener, serving as a liaison between the patients, their physicians and families who are coming to terms with the possibility of death.

Job Roles

Hospice nurses work in a team of highly trained professionals who understand the concept of critical illness and bereavement. Hospice nurses expertly manage pain and practice cultural sensitivity in different kinds of settings including nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and assisted living facilities. They emphasize meeting the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs with the participation from the family. They also offer specialized counseling sessions to the families during the entire course of the hospice care. As the public’s awareness increases, many nurses also participate in legislative process along with advocacy through the public forums for the terminally ill and in ongoing research.


Hospice nurses must graduate from an approved and accredited nursing school. In addition, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) is preferred. While different licensure requirements apply depending on the state’s rules and regulations, classroom and clinical training combination is mandatory. Most common class subjects encompass anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, health assessment and fundamentals of nursing. Future hospice nurses typically also complete coursework related to grief.

Future Predictions

The present median salary for hospice care is $68,910 and the industry is expected to grow 26 percent by the year 2020.  As hospice care evolves, many nurses choose to specialize in different disciplines, including positions in administration. They may also pursue speciality certification such as oncology, geriatrics or pediatrics. The salary is respectively higher when specialty certification is earned.

Hospice care requires dedication, diligence and the highest levels of professionalism. Whether caring for patients in their homes or at hospice care facilities, a hospice nurse plays an imperative part in the final chapter of the patient’s life.