A hospice nurse is a registered nurse who is specially educated to work with patients nearing their end-of-life. Hospice nurses need special education and additional experience in environments to perform this unique, challenging and multi-faceted role, which can take an emotional toll on those who are not prepared. If you think this specialty could be your calling and want to follow a successful career in hospice nursing, read on to find out more about this unique position and how to qualify.
What Is A Hospice Nurse?
A hospice nurse is a nursing professional who is educated to work closely with patients in a hospice environment. While nurses who work in hospice environments are, in fact, licensed registered nurses, hospice nurses are specially educated and trained with the knowledge and experience to work closely with terminally ill patients. Moreover, hospice nurses have the experience and psychological stamina to consistently overcome the emotional toll of working with patients who inevitably pass away. Equipped with these skills, nurses deliver on the mission of hospice care — to assist all patients (and their families) by relieving the pain, distress, and angst caused by a terminal illness, and attending to their holistic (social, emotional, and spiritual) needs.
What Do Hospice Nurses Do?
Hospice nurses work with terminally ill patients who are expected to live 6 months or less, providing care in a variety of settings, most often in the patient’s home, or in a facility. Also, by leveraging their unique position in the hospice care environment and their background in nursing, nurses serve as the primary case managers for patients in hospice care. Hospice nurses will work directly with patients to administer and oversee their care, determine what types of counseling are necessary and document all provided care. A hospice nurse will also work with doctors and other hospice support staff to advocate the well-being of patients, ensuring that all their care is aligned with a patients’ wants, needs and care goals.
Nurses also may assist with hospice admissions, often being the first, if not the primary point of contact for many patients beginning their care experience. Many nurses, for example, will assist with patient on-boarding and work with local hospitals to advocate hospice care within their communities. Once patients are admitted, a hospice nurse may assist them in providing a variety of hospice services, including:
- Managing pain and discomfort
- Monitoring vitals
- Caring for a patient in-home
- Providing on-call support for at-home emergencies
- Helping patient families cope
- Providing emotional support
- Working with hospice staff to advocate their needs
- Coordinating patient and patient-family care
Whatever their primary responsibilities within the hospice care setting, nurses make up an integral part of the hospice care team’s ability to administer, monitor and deliver quality hospice care to patients who need it.
Requirements Needed To Become A Hospice Nurse
The first step to becoming a hospice nurse is to become a professionally registered nurse, by earning an associate (ADN) or bachelor of science (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. After graduation, you must then pass the NCLEX-RN examination in your state to obtain a RN license. Once you have obtained official RN licensure you can then begin to obtain professional nursing experience in a hospice or palliative care environment.
For nurses who wish to further their education, an advanced practice certification is available to become an advanced practice hospice RN (ACHPN). This requires current licensure plus a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing practice, as well as a minimum of 500 hours of clinical practice in hospice nursing within the most recent 12 months.
Hospice Nurse certification (including specialty certification) is valid for 4 years. The renewal requirements may vary from state to state.
Speak To KidsCare Of The Rockies For More Information
We hope this informative article has helped you better understand the invaluable role nurses play in hospice and palliative care. Whether providing hands-on, direct-care services for hospice care patients, or working to oversee (and advocate) patient care behind the scenes, nurses are an indispensable component of the hospice care experience. Interested in becoming a hospice nurse? Contact KidsCare of the Rockies for more information!