What Do Hospice Nurses Do?

Russ Krengel Hospice

If you have ever had, or currently have, a family member in hospice, you may have interacted with a hospice nurse before. These healthcare providers can have versatile roles depending on the needs of their patient.

It’s a challenging job, according to Iowa River Hospice Nurse, Jeni Mohr. Mohr sees around 14 patients per day, mainly helping them manage their pain and relieve stress. She often works outside of her given shift of 8:00am to 4:30pm, and if she is notified of a patient’s death, she will travel to their bedside to pronounce time of death, no matter what time of day it occurs.

Hospice nurses are compassionate and talented caregivers, and after witnessing your hospice nurse provide care for your loved one, you may wonder what would lead a nurse to specialize in hospice nursing, or what kind of training they would receive.

What Training Do Hospice Nurses Receive?

Hospice nurses can have one of two certifications: your nurse could be a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant (CHPNA) or a Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse (CHPLN). Both qualifications indicate that they are trained to work with terminally ill patients to help them with end of life care.

How do these certifications differ?

A CHPNA requires only a high school diploma or a GED, plus 500 hours of experience as a hospice or palliative care nursing assistant. In contrast, a CHPLN should have a degree in nursing, either from a 4-year college program or from a vocational nursing program and be a licensed RN with at least 2 years of hospice and palliative care experience.

Once these qualifications are met, the nurse only needs to take a HPCC standardized exam to be certified as a hospice nurse. The certification must be renewed every 4 years.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

What would a day in the life of a hospice nurse look like? Well, it can vary depending on what their patients’ needs are, but in general, their day might look like the one described below.

The Day Doesn’t End when the Shift Ends

According to nurse Mohr, she often works outside of her scheduled hours, whether she’s on call, doing paperwork, or responding to a patient’s emergency call.

A hospice nurse visits their patients wherever they are, whether they’re receiving care at home or in a designated hospice care facility. This requires nurses and medical professionals to spend significant time traveling.

Hospice Nursing Involves Varied Daily Tasks

In the course of advocating for their patients, hospice nurses have a variety of daily duties. They must interact with their patients’ medical teams, relaying information to them about their patients to ensure their wishes and comfort are attended to.

Hospice nurses do more than provide medical care; they often distill medical language into terms easily understood to family members of the patient. When a patient passes away, family members may rely on the hospice nurse for advice or comfort in their time of emotional distress.

Help Friends and Family Process the Death of a Loved One

Although the hospice nurse is crucial to the patient, to provide care and advocacy, they are also important to family members, particularly after the patient passes.

Mohr says her presence can calm and comfort the family when they’re anxious and don’t know what to do. She will sometimes bathe the patient’s body, comb their hair, and dress them in clean clothes before calling the funeral home. She’s able to help her patient’s family with the mechanics and logistics of the death of their loved one, so they may process their grief.

Why Do Nurses Specialize in Hospice Care?

While they may find it sad to see patients pass away, many hospice nurses find their work rewarding. They enjoy having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of not just the patient, but also their friends and family members.

A hospice nurse can help their patients’ families by taking on the responsibility of managing their loved one’s pain and maintaining their comfort levels.

Additionally, hospice nurses can provide essential information to their patients’ families about their loved one’s condition, helping them understand not just the disease, but also how the medical team is actively advocating to get their loved one the best care available.

The nurses who specialize in hospice care are talented at educating patients and their families and are committed to achieving the best quality of life for their patients as they can.


Learn More about Hospice Care

Curious to learn more about how a hospice nurse can help you and your loved ones? Or maybe you’d like to learn more about hospice care in general. Contact us at Kindful Hospice. Our caring professionals can provide you with the answers you’re looking for.