A Day in the Life of a Hospice Nurse Practitioner

What is Hospice Care?
What Does a Hospice Worker Do?
How to Become a Hospice Worker
Required Credentials

This guide provides information about clinical environments and patient populations for hospice nurse practitioners (NPs), along with relevant skills, how to become a hospice worker, and required credentials. Individuals interested in becoming hospice nurse practitioners can also review education and licensing requirements.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care differs from other medical environments. In most types of nursing, NPs focus on providing treatment to patients to improve their condition and promote their overall health and wellness. On the other hand, hospice care NPs focus on keeping their patients comfortable during the end of their lives.

Since every hospice patient has their own needs, hospice nurse practitioners provide many different treatment methods. NPs focused on hospice care sometimes assess patients after six months to determine whether they need to continue receiving hospice care, although hospice patients typically die within about 29 days of beginning care.

Hospice care NPs should possess a strong sense of empathy to respect their patients’ wishes and needs, and are expected to help their families cope with end-of-life situations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that NPs nationwide currently earn an annual median income of $110,030.

What Does a Hospice Worker Do?

Clinical Environment and Patient Population

Hospice care can take place in many different environments, including the patient’s home, a hospital, or an assisted living facility. During hospice care, nurses ensure that patients remain comfortable, often leading to the patient, rather than an NP or a doctor, deciding where they would like to spend the last days of their lives.

Most hospice patients receive hospice care in their homes, including private residences, residential facilities, and nursing homes. In home healthcare settings, NPs must meet unique challenges that professionals in hospitals or assisted living facilities might not encounter. Hospice workers in these settings must be more responsive and flexible for their working hours.

Some patients who experience hospice care in their homes might need to end up moving to an acute care facility if their home becomes unsuitable for proper palliative care.

Skills and Duties

Hospice nurse practitioners work specifically with patients who have decided to seek hospice care due to life-limiting illnesses and diseases. Hospice nurse practitioners provide care for patients diagnosed with illnesses such as cancer, heart failure, dementia, or other diseases that could end patients’ lives within six months.

Palliative care and hospice care share some similarities, but palliative care focuses more on pain management and comforting care, often provided alongside curative care. Hospice care teams often include therapists, hospice medical directors, social workers, personal physicians, and bereavement or spiritual counselors.

Hospice nurse practitioners work closely with their diverse treatment teams to make sure their patients remain comfortable and supported. These NPs assess their patient’s status to ensure their medications do not interact in a way that causes them discomfort.

How to Become a Hospice Worker

Palliative care nurse practitioners focus on providing treatment for patients with serious illnesses. Care for these patients primarily focuses on providing relief from the stress and symptoms of their illnesses.

The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center offers nurse practitioners the advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse certification, requiring them to complete and pass a 175-question exam along with at least 500 hours within one year or 1,000 hours in a two-year period working as a palliative care nurse practitioner.

During their degree program, palliative care nurse practitioner students focus on providing nursing care for adult patients and their families, and learn to diagnose patients and plan effective care plans.

The certification process also requires each candidate to hold a current, active registered nurse license, along with a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice from an accredited college or university. Candidates should provide official academic transcripts demonstrating courses in advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced physical assessment.

During their degree program, palliative care nurse practitioner students focus on providing nursing care for adult patients and their families, and learn to diagnose patients and plan effective care plans. Throughout their coursework, learners focus on the disease process, diagnostic tests and procedures, and responses to illness, grief, loss, and bereavement. Professionals can review this page to learn more about their potential career pathways.

Required Credentials

Nurses can consider several options for certification in palliative care nursing. The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC) features the following certification options:

  • Certified in perinatal loss care
  • Certified hospice and palliative care administrator
  • Certified hospice and palliative nursing assistant
  • Certified hospice and palliative licensed nurse
  • Certified hospice and palliative pediatric nurse
  • Certified hospice and palliative nurse
  • Advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse

The HPCC offers specialty certification to hospice and palliative nurses, along with other members of the interdisciplinary team. HPCC features certification exams for RNs, advanced practice nurses, pediatric palliative nurses, those dealing with perinatal loss, and nursing assistants.

HPCC also offers two hospice and palliative credentials for licensed practical/vocational nurses and administrators. Nearly 17,000 healthcare professionals hold credentials from HPCC, demonstrating a commitment to ethical, safe, evidence-based care. Professionals can access information about their examination requirements on the HPCC website.

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