Working in hospice care can be an incredibly rewarding calling. While some people think that it might be a difficult or sad job, those who work in hospice care generally speak very highly of the experience.
Being able to give a dying person support in their final weeks of life can be very uplifting and is a job that enables you to truly make a difference in someone’s life.
If you’ve ever considered a career in hospice care, whether as a hospice nurse or another role, the outline below details what it takes to work in hospice.
Being A Hospice Nurse
One common role in hospice care is a nurse. Hospice nurses are generally registered nurses who have completed a BSN or ADN and have undergone training in caring for terminally ill patients.
A hospice nurse provides comprehensive care to patients approaching the end of their life, and they also offer support to caregivers within their families.
What Does A Hospice Nurse Do?
Hospice nurses are lead caregivers for patients with a terminal illness in hospice, and they provide their patients’ medical needs with the aim of giving them the highest quality of life possible and maximum comfort.
They tend to work one on one with patients in their homes or wherever they happen to live and receive hospice care, and they often form a strong bond with their patients and their loved ones during their time together.
Hospice nurses might administer medication, document care, respond to emergency calls, care for wounds, ensure that medications and specialty care equipment is made available to patients who need it, evaluate patients’ needs, assess patients for hospice admission, and communicate the patient’s condition to the hospice team. They also assist with patients’ hygiene.
How To Become A Hospice Nurse
Below are the foundational steps involved in becoming a hospice nurse.
If you are interested in becoming a hospice nurse, you will first need to become a registered nurse. This means earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You may also elect to spend another year studying to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Once you have earned this degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to gain official licensed registered nurse status in your state.
You will also need some experience before you can start working on your own as a hospice nurse. A minimum of two to three years in a high-needs environment such as an emergency department or an intensive care unit will give you the experience needed with immediate assessment, management and attention to be able to help hospice patients.
This can also help you develop the coping mechanisms that you may need to deal with the eventual loss of your patients and determine whether you can handle the stress of working in this type of environment.
You might also choose to pursue certifications offered by the National Board For Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses (NBCHPN). These certifications can help you distinguish yourself as a specialist in hospice care, and there are certifications designed for palliative care administrators, palliative care nurses and pediatric palliative nurses.
Hospice care nurses must be recertified every four years using a process laid out by the Hospice and Palliative Accrual for Recertification. This involves meeting practice hour requirements and taking part in professional development and continuing education activities.
It is also necessary to successfully complete the situational judgment exercise, which aims to ensure hospice nurses remain capable of handling the real-life clinical situations they encounter in their job.
What Does It Take To Be A Hospice Nurse?
A hospice nurse needs strong clinical skills in order to regularly assess patients’ needs and respond to them swiftly, as well as strong communication skills for liaising with physicians and patients’ families.
What Other Roles Are Available In Hospice Teams?
In addition to serving as a hospice nurse, there are several other roles available to people who wish to work for hospice.
- Volunteers: Trained volunteers can be thought of similarly to neighbors who visit people who are ill. If the patient and their family would like a volunteer to visit, they will come on a regular schedule to spend time with the patient and help with light tasks around the home. Volunteer coordinators are in charge of recruiting, training and supervising hospice volunteers and pairing volunteers with patients.
- Hospice Aides: Hospice aides visit patients regularly to help with personal care tasks like bathing, dressing and positioning patients.
- Therapists: Many hospice teams use massage therapists, music therapists and other types of therapists as part of their holistic approach toward patient care.
- Office Manager: Not all roles in a hospice are patient-facing. Those who wish to work in a hospice environment might also consider becoming an office manager, who is responsible for billing and financial operations as well as other administrative work.
Reach Out To Harbor Light Hospice
If you are interested in working for a hospice team in any capacity, get in touch with Harbor Light Hospice to find out about the roles we have available and how you can help make a real difference in someone’s life.