Nurses must deal with dying patients at all points in their careers. It’s a fact that they’re aware of when they choose to enter the nursing field. While it’s never an easy part of the job, it’s one that is often expected and dealt with in a rational manner.

For some nurse, a patient’s impending death is the reason for their job. These nurses specialize in what is called comprehensive palliative medical care, or hospice care, and their job is to assist terminally ill patients with all aspects of their medical needs, typically in their own homes. Their resume examples may include working in a oncology ward, palliative care or old-age home, helping to care for patients in multidisciplinary teams.

While this might not be the ideal job for some nurses, for others it’s a way to implement some of the basic aspects of the nursing profession. Patience and compassion combined with superb medical training are some of the core skills needed to take on the role of a hospice nurse.

If you’re a nurse considering advanced education, learn more about the personal and professional aspects of the medical specialists who have taken on the important role of hospice nurse.

What Is a Hospice Nurse?

When a patient is given a terminal diagnosis, and a physician has determined that any care at that point is not focused on a cure but rather on the patient’s comfort, the patient may, at that time, elect to receive hospice care. The patient and his or her family then work with a team of professionals, which includes the physician, a social worker, home health aides, and, the most important person, the hospice nurse.

A hospice nurse is many things at once. First of all, a hospice nurse is a licensed registered nurse who has had previous experience in acute patient care. A hospice nurse must also have training in pharmacology, pain management and patient assessment skills, and he or she should excel at general nursing duties.

The duties of a hospice nurse include the administration of pain medicine and other drugs, assessing the patient’s vital signs, implementing the physician’s care plan and working with other members of the team to ensure that the proper care is being delivered. A hospice nurse can also act as a liaison between the patient’s family and insurance companies, as well as ensure that medical supplies and other equipment is ordered and delivered as scheduled.

A hospice nurse is not only tasked with the care of the patient, but with the care of the family, as well. A hospice nurse provides emotional support to the patient’s loved ones and assists them with clarity during an uncertain and emotional time. Many hospice nurses would agree that it’s the family members of the terminally ill who are in need of the most care and support.

Why Choose a Career in Hospice Care?

For many in the nursing field, the decision to enter the hospice field can be a difficult one. The choice to care for terminally ill patients is one that is not without its own set of challenges and obstacles.

In addition to an exacting medical skill set and good organizational and communication skills, a hospice nurse must be in possession of a calm and compassionate nature. He or she must be prepared to address the medical needs of the patient as well as to assist the patient’s friends and family with the impending death of their loved one. This is in many ways the most important aspect of hospice work.

For some nurses who desire a more intimate connection with patients and families, a career in hospice might be a wise choice. Nurses who enjoy the process of gently assisting a patient through the final months or days of their life, and who see this process as a natural one that deserves respect, are perfectly suited for this field.

Any nurse who seeks a position where they can focus on patient care and be instrumental in the health and healing of a family should absolutely consider a career in the hospice field.

As medicine moves more toward a place where patients are seen as active participants in their own health care, and as our population continues to age, there will be an increased demand for nurses who are willing to work in the field of hospice care. This intensely challenging yet rewarding field of nursing will continue to expand.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Is Hospice Nursing the Right Career for You?," in Medicalopedia, April 4, 2014, [Permalink:].