Hospice Nurse Skills and Duties

A hospice nurse is a nursing professional who helps terminally ill patients. Because these patients are facing the ends of their lives, hospice care nurses must be extremely compassionate, ethical and attentive to the needs of individuals and their families. Prospective health care professionals who are highly empathetic and who possess strong personal skills should consider careers as hospice nurses.

Education Requirements

Individuals who are interested in pursuing hospice nursing must first become certified as registered nurses. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses are required to hold an associate degree in nursing, a nursing diploma or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The BLS notes that a bachelor degree is typically completed in four years, while an associate degree or a nursing diploma usually requires two or three years. Whichever path nursing students take, they will need to complete courses in anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, physiology and other relevant subjects.

Students must also pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX- RN), which covers the following four topics: safe and effective care environment, health promotion, psychosocial integrity and physiological integrity. Depending on the state in which a nurse wants to practice, he or she may also have to fulfill additional state requirements on top of national standards.

The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses also offers certification exams for hospice nurses. In order to sit for one of the exams, nurses must be licensed RNs and have experience in hospice nursing. The certification exam covers psychology, geriatrics, biological ethics and acute care, among other topics.

Career Options for Hospice Nurses

Hospice nurses often have careers that provide variety as well as an abundance of meaningful experiences. According to the University of Mary, these nurses typically work in nursing homes, in the homes of patients or in in-patient hospice facilities. Many nurses go through hospice agencies to find work in these various settings.

Because they are providing end-of-life care, hospice nurses must be very comfortable addressing the emotional as well as the physical needs of their patients. Many patients go through various stages of grief as they approach the end of their lives, so hospice nurses should feel at ease when providing support, compassion and a listening ear. A hospice nurse may also have to provide similar emotional assistance to a patient’s family members, particularly if the nurse is offering in-home care to patients.

Hospice nurses should possess strong assessment skills so they can alert other healthcare professionals or family members of any changes in the patient’s condition. These nurses will also use their assessment abilities to determine a patient’s level of pain so they can work with the medical team to help ease that discomfort.

Much of the care a hospice nurse provides will focus on making patients as comfortable as possible and providing them with the physical and emotional support they need to achieve that comfort level. Hospice nurses should have a genuine concern for helping people approach the ends of their lives while retaining their dignity.

What to Consider if you Pursue Hospice Nursing

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the overall job outlook for nurses is positive. In fact, the BLS projects that employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020. This increase is very favorable, as the average rate of growth for all occupations is only 14%.

The average salary for registered nurses is also higher than the overall average salary for all occupations reported by the BLS. Registered nurses across all specialties receive a median annual salary of $64,690. The lowest 10% of earners receive less than $44,190 pear year while the highest 10% of earners receive more than $95,130. For registered nurses working in home health care services, the average salary is $60,690 and for nurses in nursing care facilities the average is $58,180.

Hospice nurses not only have promising employment projections and robust salary ranges, but they also experience variety during their careers and they are able to focus on providing quality patient care. Prospective nurses who are empathetic and passionate about patients’ needs should strongly consider pursuing this rewarding nursing career.

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