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Hospice Nurse: Job Description and Salary

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 8, 2024
Hospice Nurse Sitting on a Couch With a Patient.

Hospice Nurse: Job Description and Salary

Patients who have a terminal medical prognosis of six months or less can opt for hospice care. Hospice nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who provide care for patients who are terminally ill. A primary goal of hospice nursing is to provide comfort and dignity to patients at the end of their life. In this emotional time, hospice care provides physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual support to patients and their families.

In the United States, the number of people aged 65 and older grew almost five times faster than the total population from 1920 to 2020, reaching 55.8 million people in this group in 2020. According to the National Library of Medicine, about 22 million people around the world require end-of-life care. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization also found that 1.72 million Americans chose hospice care in 2020.

With so many individuals requiring this specialized care, hospice nurses are expected to continue to be in high demand. In fact, employment opportunities are projected to grow much faster than the U.S. job market as a whole.

Those interested in a career as a hospice nurse should understand the importance of the role, including the hospice nurse job description, salary expectations, and the educational requirements.

What Is a Hospice Nurse?

Hospice nurses work with terminally ill patients. To qualify for hospice care, patients typically need a prognosis of six months to live or less. A hospice approach focuses on quality of life and comfort in situations where treatment options aren’t possible or aren’t chosen by the patient.

Hospice Nurse Job Description

Hospice nurses play an essential role in providing, innovating, and customizing hospice care; assisting patients seeking comfort and quality of life improvements. While the specific job can vary depending on the work environment and patient requests, common duties performed by hospice nurses include:

  • Monitoring patient vital signs
  • Assessing comfort levels
  • Identifying ways to personalize care
  • Offering physical, emotional, and mental support to patients and their families
  • Collaborating with specialists to provide care

Due to the nature of the work, it’s important for hospice nurses to seek support and resources for their own physical and mental well-being. Self-care for nurses can provide the necessary support to successfully work with patients in end-of-life care situations.

Specialist Hospice Nurse Positions

Specializations can alter the usual hospice nurse job description to include other duties in a hospice setting. Some positions require additional steps to become qualified, so prospective candidates should be aware of the job specifications to ensure they fit with their career goals.

Specialist hospice nurse positions include:

  • Admission nurse. Typically one of the first to assist a patient in a hospice department, an admission nurse works to identify immediate requirements and explains the process to families to set proper expectations.
  • Triage nurse. This specialist role is typically on-call to quickly address any emergencies. Triage nurses respond to calls at homes or care facilities and determine whether additional support is needed.
  • Case manager. Managers review treatment plans, coordinate care, and organize hospice care to ensure the entire care team works together to assist patients.
  • Visit nurse. As a nurse who performs routine visits, these hospice nurses may assist patients in completing recommended tasks, administering medication, or redressing wounds.

Hospice Nurse Work Environments

Because of the focus on comfort and quality of life, hospice care typically occurs in patients’ homes, though it can also be provided in residential care facilities, nursing centers, and hospitals. Some hospice nurses travel around an area to visit patients in their homes, while others remain in a care facility to work directly with patients.

Salary and Career Outlook of Hospice Nurses

As registered nurses, hospice nurses earned a median annual salary of $81,220, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2022. Because of the increased demand for health care workers, the number of employment openings for registered nurses is expected to increase by 6% between 2022 and 2032.

A number of factors can affect annual nursing pay, including the nursing job description, work environment, location, and the number of available jobs. For example, the median pay for registered nurses in government settings was $92,310 in May 2022, but the median annual pay for nurses in educational settings was $65,450.

How to Become a Hospice Nurse

While the specific requirements can vary based on the employer, here are the basic steps to become a hospice nurse.

  • Most employers prefer a hospice nurse first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree
  • Become a registered nurse
  • Consider taking either the Certified Hospice or Palliative Nurse Examination

Explore the Hospice Nurse Education Options Today

If the hospice nurse job description fits your career goals and skills, you would do well to investigate your educational options. Consider learning more about this specialist health care field, plus other areas of nursing, with the online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at The University of Tulsa. This program for registered nurses helps you study online to enhance your knowledge and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in as little as 12 months.

Learn more about how the program can help you advance your nursing career today.

Recommended Readings:

How the Theory of Human Caring Applies to Nursing

What Can You Do With a BSN?

What Is Roy’s Adaptation Model of Nursing?

Source List:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hospice Care

Houston Chronicle, “The Role of a Nurse in Hospice Care”

Indeed, “What Does a Hospice Nurse Do? (Plus Skills and Salary)”

National Institute on Aging, “What Are Palliative Care and Hospice Care?”

StatPearls, “End-of-Life Care”

U.S. Census Bureau, “2020 Census: 1 in 6 People in the United States Were 65 and Over”

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, “Facts and Figures Report Shows Growing Number of Hospice Patients”

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