How to Become a Hospice Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Certification

Doctor and nurse discuss information with patientA hospice nurse provides care to terminally ill cancer patients at the end of their lives. The main objective of a hospice nurse is to help patients live as comfortably and independently as possible. Hospice nurses provide emotional support and help patients and their families feel more comfortable about death.

A hospice nurse provides palliative care, which means the nurse helps patients live with as little pain and suffering as possible during the final days of life. According to its guidelines for benefits, Medicare loosely defines hospice care as occurring in the last six months of a patient’s life.

Hospice nurses may provide this care in a variety of settings, including private homes, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities, correctional facilities, group homes or hospice-run residential facilities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to the field of hospice nurses but the website does offer an overview of registered nurses that may provide hospice care.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $59,414
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary information courtesy of Healthcare Salaries

How to become a hospice nurse

Anyone hoping to become a hospice nurse:

  • Must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in hospice care and cancer care

Education requirements

To become a hospice nurse, the candidate must get an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The nurse must then work for two years in a hospice-related field.

Wilkes RN to MS


Job description

Hospice nurses provide palliative care, meaning the treatment hospice nurses provide focuses on making the patient comfortable rather than working to cure the patient. A hospice nurse can provide this care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes or in patient homes. The hospice nurse works as part of a healthcare team that provides care to the patient, monitors health conditions, administers medication, uses medical equipment and provides advice about the patient’s prognosis. Hospice nurses provide comfort and care to dying patients and their families.

Personality traits:

  • Possess critical thinking skills
  • Highly organized
  • Independent
  • Compassionate
  • Patient
  • Calm under pressure
  • Good communication skills

Hospice nurses report to the patient’s physician or a hospital or agency nursing supervisor.

Career options

Typical workplaces for a hospice nurse include:

  • Private homes
  • Personal care homes
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Group homes
  • Hospice-run residential facilities

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not produce employment statistics for hospice nurses, it does project a 19 percent increase in RN jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Healthcare Salaries says that the average yearly wage for hospice nurses is $59,414. Salaries vary by state, with Illinois hospice nurses earning around $50, 684 per year and Georgia hospice nurses earning $46,890 annually.

Certification information

The Hospice and Palliative Care Credentialing Center offers seven certifications:

  • 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 Nursing Assistant
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator
  • Certified in Perinatal Loss Care

Each has its own eligibility standards.

Professional organizations

Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association:

National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization: