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. Loyola University New Orleans

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • MSN to DNP
      • MSN to DNP - Nurse Practitioner
      • MSN to DNP - Executive Nurse Leader
    Master's
      • RN to MSN
      • RN-MSN Bridge
      • MSN - Nursing Leadership
      • RN to MSN - Nursing Leadership
      • RN-MSN Bridge - Nursing Leadership
      • MSN - Nurse Educator
    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • DUAL MBA-MSN
      • Master of Science in Nursing
      • Accelerated MBA Health Administration
      • MBA Health Administration
      • MPH - Health Management and Policy Focus
      • Nurse Executive Leader MSN
  • Online Programs Available
    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Sacred Heart University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing
      • MSN - Clinical Nurse Leader
      • MSN - Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
      • RN-BSN-MSN - Clinical Nursing Leader
      • RN-BSN-MSN - Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
      • MSN - Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • RN-BSN - RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
    Certificate
      • Post-Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Online Programs Available
    5. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Widener University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Primary Care
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Nursing Administration (Post-MBA)
      • M.S. Nursing and Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Nursing - Post Licensure (RN-BSN)
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Certificate
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Primary Care
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Administration
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Education
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Featured Schools

Loyola University New Orleans

  • MSN to DNP
  • RN to MSN
  • RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

What is your highest level of education?

Benedictine University

  • DUAL MBA-MSN
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Accelerated MBA Health Administration

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Sacred Heart University

  • RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing
  • RN-BSN - RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Post-Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
  • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Widener University

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing

What is your highest level of education completed?