Hospice Nurse Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a career as a hospice nurse? Be certain to get real information on salary details, job duties and educational requirements to see if this career is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career as a Hospice Nurse

Hospice nurses, also known as palliative care nurses, are registered nurses (RNs) that work with patients who are nearing the end of their lives and need special attention. Read the pros and cons below for more information on this career.

Pros of a Hospice Nurse Career
Median annual wage of $67,530 in 2014*
Job growth was expected to be 19% from 2012-2022*
Job opportunities expected to be high (especially in long-term care facilities that treat stroke, head-injury and Alzheimer's patients) *
A 2-year degree is usually sufficient, in addition to licensing*

Cons of a Hospice Nurse Career
Hours may be erratic due to all shifts needing coverage*
Physical demands may be great due to extensive standing, walking, bending or kneeling*
Potential contact with infectious diseases*
Work in hospice care can be stressful*
Strict guidelines to remember and adhere to*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

A job as a hospice nurse may be a stressful and emotional position. You'll perform normal nursing duties, such as monitoring and recording vital signs, helping with treatment plans, evaluating diagnostic tests and maintaining accurate records. As a hospice nurse, you'll work mainly with patients that are experiencing a terminal illness. Consequently, there is an emphasis placed on the psychological and emotional needs of the patient, in addition to the physical needs. Moreover, you'll also need to be available to counsel and give support to the family members of the sick/dying patient in your care.

Salary Info and Employment Growth

As of May 2014, the average median annual salary for a registered nurse was $67,430, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10% of RNs had a median annual salary of about $46,930 or less, while the highest 10% had earnings of around $93,850 or more. RNs were expected to see faster-than-average employment growth at around 19% in the 2012-2022 decade.

Education and Training Requirements

If you want to become a hospice nurse, you'll need to complete a 2-year registered nurse (RN) educational program and become licensed. To obtain a license, you'll need to graduate from an accredited program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-NR). According to the BLS, there are 4-year bachelor's degree programs, 2-year associate's degree programs and accelerated programs for people who have already completed a bachelor's degree in another field.

No matter which program you enroll in, you'll take courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology. Additionally, you'll study psychology and the social sciences. You'll also receive supervised experience in a number of specialties, such as maternity, surgery and pediatrics.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers typically look for the minimum of a year of experience and a 2-year degree. Take a look at the following sampling of real life job postings from May 2012 to see what potential employers may require:

  • In Ohio, a hospice is looking for a hospice nurse that holds a 2-year degree and has at least a year of experience in the field. This position also requires that the applicant be able to travel in order to provide in-home patient care and also must act as a patient/family advocate.
  • A healthcare group in Connecticut is looking for a hospice nurse that can make up to 4 patient visits a day and also has experience working in hospice care/home care. This job also requires a 2-year degree.
  • A hospice group seeks a hospice nurse that holds the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) certification as well as a bachelor's degree and state certification. This position also requires that the applicant has an understanding of hospice care and the principles of death and dying.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Earning a voluntary certification from the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHP) is one way for you to make your skills stand out to potential employers. One such certification, the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) is offered by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHP). This certification can be completed by successfully passing an examination, and all candidates must have at least 2 years of experience working in hospice or palliative care in order to be eligible. This certification will demonstrate to potential employers that you're knowledgeable and competent in the hospice specialty.

Other Careers to Consider

Dental Hygienist

After reading about hospice nursing, maybe you feel you're not ready to take on the emotional stress of working with dying patients. If you're still interested in helping people and working with others, you might consider a career as a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists' main task is to clean teeth. However, they also help educate their patients on the maintenance of good oral hygiene and other preventative dental health measures.

According to the BLS, this career had a median annual wage of around $69,000 in May 2011. This salary is similar to that of a hospice nurse, but the work is not as emotionally stressful. Furthermore, the employment growth is expected to be much faster than average at 38% between 2010 and 2020. Employers typically require only a 2-year degree and on-the-job training.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Another potential career that might interest you is that of a diagnostic medical sonographer. These professionals use special equipment that utilizes sound waves, instead of radiation, directed into the body in order to diagnose various medical conditions. According to the BLS, employment growth was projected to be 44%, much faster than the average for all occupations, in the 2010-2020 decade. An additional 23,400 jobs were expected to be added to the field. The median annual salary for this career was about $65,000. Moreover, the job usually only requires a 2-year degree.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
    Certificate
      • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
      • Adult Gerontology Practitioner Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • M.S. in Nursing (MSN) - Nurse Leadership & Management
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • M.S. in Nursing (MSN) - Nurse Educator
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Gerontology
      • B.S. in Professional Studies - Nursing Home Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
    Master's
      • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Informatics
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
      • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
  • Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Iowa City, IA

    University of Iowa

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • M.S. in Nursing (MSN) - Nurse Leadership & Management
  • B.S. in Gerontology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
  • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Informatics
  • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education

What is your highest level of education?