The Role of a Hospice Nurse

Becoming a hospice nurse is truly a special calling. Unlike most fields of nursing, there is virtually no chance that a patient admitted to hospice care will ever recover. This means the nurse is typically providing palliative care only. This can be very stressful for some caregivers, while others find it to be quite rewarding. A hospice nurse does not simply give care to the patient, however. They also will often be called upon to have a more active role with the patient’s family as well.


To become a hospice nurse, you must be a registered nurse and have completed the hospice certification process through your state health department. Knowledge of pain management, symptom management, end-stage disease processes, patient advocacy, and excellent communication skills are all very important for a hospice nurse.


A hospice patient is nearing the end of their life’s journey. If they are conscious, they are aware of this. Therefore, the two types of patients you will encounter are those who are close to death and unaware and uncommunicative and those who are aware of their circumstances. Both circumstances are equally challenging.


Almost as important as the role you will play with the patient, is the one you will have with family members. While the families of many hospice patients have had time to emotionally prepare themselves for what is to soon occur, others will only recently have found out about the terminal diagnoses and may have had little, if any, time to prepare themselves.

Locations for Hospice Care

A hospice nurse can work in a variety of locations. Usually, end of life care is given in the home of the patient or in a nursing home, depending on the level of care that is required. The environments are as varied as the patients you will care for. Each location will have its own merits and limitations which will affect your ability to give care.

A hospice nurse will often be the one to apprise the family of the impending death, or eventual death of a loved one. They may also be the only outside contact the family has with a medical professional towards the end. Because of this experience in grief counseling and knowledge of local resources are useful.

What made you consider becoming a hospice nurse? What have you found to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career decision? What advice would you give to those considering a career in hospice nursing?

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