Hospice Residential Nurse (RN): Job Description and Requirements

Hospice care nurses manage pain and ensure quality end-of-life care for patients and their families. Hospice care can be provided at home or in a hospital unit, but residential hospice nurses work in a specialized facility devoted strictly to terminal patient care.

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Job Description for Hospice Residential RNs

Residential hospice RNs are charged with pain assessment and administering pain medication to ensure quality of life for their terminally ill patients. RNs in a hospice residential setting work as an integral part of a professional palliative care team that includes physicians, chaplains, social workers, administrators, LVNs, LPNs, nursing assistants and volunteers. The interdisciplinary team ensures the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of the terminally ill patient and their family members.

RNs may choose a residential hospice care environment that is either privately funded or is a non-profit venue. Non-profit residential settings may offer AIDS hospice care to the homeless and terminally ill. Residential settings that specialize in treating AIDS or cancer patients may require the nursing staff to have additional specialized knowledge or training.

Requirements for Hospice Residential RNs

Registered nurses must obtain a degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN, which is the national exam for licensed RNs. To prepare for the hospice environment, RNs should gain acute care experience and pain management assessment skills. RNs also need excellent communication skills in order to function as a member of a team and to communicate with patients and family members about end-of-life treatment. Palliative care nurses must possess a perspective that is sensitive to cultural and religious differences. Nurses must also understand the emotional stages of dying and grief, and be prepared to assist with financial difficulties and family dynamic issues.

Some hospice RNs opt to obtain a master's degree in palliative care, which may qualify them for advancement as nurse practitioners or administrators. Accredited certificates in palliative care are also available to nurses and may be helpful in distinguishing them as candidates for career advancement. A Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) certificate requires advanced study of communication, assessment, ethics, grief study and interdisciplinary teamwork. The CHPN documents a competency level and does not constitute advancement in the field.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The most recent information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that employment growth for registered nurses, which could include hospice RNs, is expected to be 19% during the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). Registered nurses working for home health care services earned an average yearly salary of $65,530 as of May 2012, the BLS states, while those in outpatient care centers were paid an average annual wage of $71,200.

For those who have advanced to nurse practitioner, the BLS reports that the average annual salary paid to these workers as of May 2012 was $91,450. Nurse practitioners in outpatient care centers made an average of $92,510 annually, while those in home health care services earned an average annual salary of $82,300.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics