Hospice Nurse Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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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.
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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. Kaplan University

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      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
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      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
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      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
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    2. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA/Health and Human Services - Long-Term Care Management
      • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
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    3. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
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      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
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    4. Utica College

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    5. Colorado Technical University

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      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
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    6. Colorado State University Global

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    7. Saint Joseph's University

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  • Online Programs Available
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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

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

Which subject are you interested in?

Ashford University

  • BA/Health and Human Services - Long-Term Care Management
  • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • BS/Health Information Management

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?

Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • RN to Bachelor of Science

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Health Admin

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • Master of Science - Nursing With a Concentration in Family
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?