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Hospice Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

Daily responsibilities for hospice nurses vary widely depending on where they administer care, the number of patients they care for, and the number of family and other medical staff members they interact with. These core job duties, however, are common despite those variables:

Evaluate Patients Hospice nurses perform ongoing evaluations of patients and document their findings in patient charts with detailed observation notes.

Develop and Implement Care Plans Hospice nurses develop care plans for individual patients and adapt these plans as patient needs change. Hospice nurses follow these plans by administering medication and various treatments as outlined. To fulfill this duty, they collaborate with other nurses, attending physicians, and medical team members.

Check Vital Signs Hospice nurses check and record patient vital signs in charts, alerting other medical personnel to any potentially dangerous readings.

Support Family Members Hospice nurses prepare family members for the eventual death of patients and direct them toward available support services to help them through this process.

Notify Necessary Parties of Patient Deaths Hospice nurses notify attending physicians, staff members, and family members of patient deaths when they occur.

Follow Physician Orders Hospice nurses follow orders set forth by physicians regarding patient care. This can include administering IV drips, ventilators, and other treatments as needed.


Hospice Nurse Skills and Qualifications

Hospice nurses are caregivers who help patients and their family members manage the symptoms and emotions associated with terminal illness and death. Employers and individuals hire hospice nurses who display the following essential skills:

  • Communication skills – hospice nurses work in collaborative team environments and speak frequently with patients and family members, which both require excellent verbal communication skills
  • Analytical thinking – hospice nurses use analytical thinking to assess and evaluate patients and determine their current care needs
  • Interpersonal skills – hospice nurses are caregivers who use exceptional interpersonal skills to work closely with deathly ill patients of all ages
  • Attention to detail – hospice nurses take vital signs and make notes in patient charts, which requires strong attention to detail
  • Time management – hospice nurses use good time management to work in fast-paced environments and follow care plans that require medications and treatments to be administered at precise times

Hospice Nurse Education and Training

In order to become hospice nurses, candidates must first obtain a license as a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Professionals obtain these licenses by attending and completing an accredited nursing program and fulfilling the requirements set forth by each individual state regarding nursing certification or licensing. Some hospices additionally require hospice nurses to have previous nursing experience in a care setting. Hospice nurses who travel to patient homes to administer care must also have a valid driver’s license. Hospices and other medical facilities provide a brief paid training program to hospice nurses once hired. This training period varies by employer but is typically brief, lasting no more than a few weeks at most. During training, hospice nurses learn standard procedures and protocols followed by the hiring facility. Hospice nurses who are hired by individuals receive no training and begin performing their duties immediately.


Hospice Nurse Salary and Outlook

Data provided by PayScale shows that hospice nurses earn $29.82 in median hourly pay. According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earn $70,000 in annual median salary, or $33.65 an hour. The BLS projects employment of RNs to increase 15 percent through 2026. This rate is much faster than the average national job growth rate. A majority of medical facilities who hire full-time hospice nurses provide complete benefit packages that include health, dental, and vision insurance. Retirement options and life insurance usually come standard in these packages. Paid vacation and sick days are also typically provided. Hospice nurses hired by individuals and families do not receive benefits and are responsible for their own healthcare and vacation needs.


Helpful Resources

Use these resources to seek hospice nurse job openings, find education and certification programs, and learn valuable tips and techniques for managing the responsibilities associated with this career:

American Nurses Association – browse the ANA website to find information about certification programs, explore educational resources, look for upcoming professional events, and read news updates about the nursing industry

Fast Facts for the Hospice Nurse: A Concise Guide to End-of-Life Care – this reference guide provides quick, practical information about caring for the terminally ill, as well as tips for managing end-of-life issues and ongoing patient care

Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association – created for hospice nurses, HPNA provides information about certification programs, nursing research materials, and a career center that displays job opportunities in the field

Seven Keys to a Peaceful Passing: A Hospice Nurse’s Step-by-Step Guide to Hospice – written by an experienced hospice nurse, this straightforward, step-by-step guide helps nurses manage difficult decisions and the daily trials associated with providing end-of-life care

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization – learn more about working as a hospice nurse with the NHPCO website, which provides extensive study resources, education information, job listings, and information about the industry

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying – written by two hospice nurses, this book provides insight and tips for other nurses who administer care to patients facing death