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Hospice Nurses: What Do They Do and How Do I Become One?

Specialty Spotlight: Hospice Nurse Appreciation Month

Hospice nurses are a wonderful piece of the nursing field and deserve just as much recognition as any other specialty. They handle the toughest situations with grace and bring compassion to the patients that need it most. This month is Hospice Nurse Appreciation Month so we are going to take a deep dive into this nursing specialty in their honor. 

What Does a Hospice Nurse Do? 

A hospice nurse is a registered nurse that works with patients who are at the end of life or have a terminal illness with less than six months of expected life. Rather than treating injuries and illnesses, hospice nurses focus on sustaining quality of life and comfort for their patients. Each of their patients receives individualized care based on their unique needs and wishes for the end of life.

Responsibilities of a Hospice Nurse

Hospice nurses have some overlapping responsibilities as other nursing specialties, but they also have some that are unique to them. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: 

  • Patient and family education of diagnosis, prognosis, medication information, and more
  • Patient assessment and history
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Provide comfort care tasks
  • Assess pain levels
  • Prevent and monitor pressure ulcers
  • Obtain and execute physician’s orders
  • Create a plan of care for all members of the hospice team
  • Inspect your care space for safety hazards
  • Supervise other members of the hospice team like Home Health Aides
  • Review and discuss the “Do Not Resuscitate” order
  • Confirm the time of death
  • Documentation of all care
  • Providing emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial support to patients and family

How to Become a Hospice Nurse

There are a few steps to becoming a hospice nurse that is divided into three main areas: education, experience, and certification.


The initial education for becoming a hospice nurse is the same as many other nursing specialties. You must complete an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Once you have your RN license, it is time to get some experience. 


For most hospice nurse positions and to be able to obtain a certification, you will need to complete two to three years in an acute bedside position as a registered nurse. This experience should be obtained by working in a high-needs environment such as the Emergency Department or Intensive Care Unit in order to hone important skills needed for hospice care.


Though certifications may not be required for all hospice nurse positions, they are recommended to distinguish yourself in the specialty. There are several certifications offered by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses (NBCHPN) that are appropriate. Three of the most common certifications include: 

  • Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN)
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)
  • Certified Hospice and palliative Care Administrator (CHPCA)

Where Does a Hospice Nurse Work? 

A hospice nurse can work in the hospital, though most commonly, they provide in-home care. Other places a hospice nurse can work include:

  • Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home
  • Rehabilitation Facility
  • Inpatient Hospice Centers

Hospice Nurse Salary

The question we all want to know is “how much do hospice nurses get paid”. Whether you are thinking about switching to hospice care or just want to see how specialties compare, looking at salary is always an important piece of the puzzle. 

Though according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for all registered nurses is just over $73,000 per year, a ZipRecruiter survey estimated that for hospice nurses specifically, the average salary is just over $81,000.  


From all of us here at Capsol, we’re sending a big thank you to all of the hospice nurses out there!

Do you know a hospice nurse? Shout them out in the comments below! 

Katelyn Johnson

Katelyn Johnson


Katelyn has a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and five years of clinical experience. She has made the shift to full-time freelance writing and enjoys covering topics on nursing careers, lifestyle, and community. Her goal is to help start a conversation and spread awareness around the many ups and downs of the healthcare field.


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