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Hospice nurses work with terminally ill or dying patients to help ensure their comfort and quality of their remaining days, rather than working to cure or fix a patient. Hospice nurses typically work in one of two places, in hospice facilities, where patients come to live their final days in comfort, or in a person's home who is terminally ill or whose life expectancy is less than a year. Hospice care is designed to help patients who no longer respond or want medical treatment to live out their final days in comfort, and prepare themselves and their families for their death.

Hospice nurses are typically registered nurses (RNs) and work as part of a team to provide care, monitor health conditions, administer medication, use medical equipment, advise patients and their families on current prognosis.

Hospice nurses are caring and kind, but the nature of the work takes a special person, who understands that their patients will eventually die, and their job is to help them celebrate what life they have left.


Hospice nurses must have one of the following: a bachelor's of science in nursing, an associate's degree in nursing, or have graduated from an accredited and approved nursing program.

In addition, licensure is required, and may be obtained from graduating an approved nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Depending on the state, there may be other requirements. Additional specialization and certification in hospice nursing may be required.


  • Critical-Thinking Skills: Hospice nurses will need to assess a patient's situation, as well as detect changes in symptoms, health or pain, and will need to know when action is necessary.
  • Compassion: Hospice nurses help people at the end of their lives. They need to be sympathetic to a patient's needs, and be able to deal with people in various states of pain, trauma and tragedy.
  • Attention to Detail: Hospice nurses can help doctors administer medications, monitor vital signs and subtle changes in a patient's health. Attention to detail is crucial.
  • Organizational Skills: Hospice nurses will face patients with differing needs, stages of health and risks. Being organized and knowing how to prioritize will be helpful.
  • Calm Under Pressure: Hospice nurses might face emergency situations. Being able to function in the heat of emergency will be necessary.
  • Patience: Giving care under stressful circumstances requires patience.
  • Communication Skills: Hospice nurses have a close relationship with patients who are scared, in pain or still coming to terms with their death. Families will have questions and want answers. Hospice nurses will need to be a patient listener and good communicator to help keep everyone calm and help them understand the situation.


With aging baby boomers and more medical advancements, all registered nursing jobs, which includes hospice nursing, will grow steadily through 2020, according to the BLS. Jobs are expected to grow 26% in that time period, must faster than the average.

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