Caring for people, even in their last moments, has been part of history for a long time. During the Middle Ages, people established hospice networks where monks and nuns would clean, feed, and clothe their dying patients. Later on, we modernized these institutions, and thus hospice nursing, as a profession, was born. Nowadays, millions of Americans receive hospice care each year.
Witnessing death is never easy. However, helping and supporting patients as they prepare to face it is incredibly fulfilling. This career path also provides excellent job security and a high annual salary. Read on and learn more about a hospice nurse’s salary and what it takes to become one.
What Is a Hospice Nurse?
A hospice nurse is a type of palliative care registered nurse who provides care and support to terminally ill patients. The primary difference between hospice nurses and other types of nurses is that they provide patients with comfort care rather than care with curative intent. Their patients’ condition is no longer considered curative, or they have personally chosen not to pursue further treatment for various reasons. Still, as is the case with a majority of RNs, hospice nurses work to develop plans for individual patients to meet their needs. Furthermore, they perform regular checkups and support the patient’s family members.
Because their patients are generally within the last six months of their lives, it is common for hospice nurses to operate in the patients’ homes. They try to ease the transition from receiving treatment to stopping it and considering the case fatal by maintaining the patient’s quality of life and providing comfort in their final days. In other cases, they also work in hospitals or private care facilities.
How To Become a Hospice Nurse
On your road to becoming a nurse, you need to obtain some of the highest levels of education to work in your chosen nursing field. To become a hospice nurse in particular, you must first obtain the title of a registered nurse and then combine it with experience and other certifications to be eligible for the role. The following steps are generally key to pursuing a career as a hospice nurse.
Become an RN
The first criterion you must fulfill to become a hospice nurse is to become a licensed registered nurse. Generally, the fastest and safest way to become an RN is to pursue an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. Then, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
The exam is designed to test your knowledge in nursing to ensure you are well-prepared for the responsibilities of the field. To obtain your state license, you must pass the exam. If you don’t, you can retake it after 45 days.
Experience is of paramount importance in nursing. By gaining clinical experience, you are better exposed to the work environment and the challenges that come with it. Furthermore, it helps you improve your knowledge and skills and gain insight into the field of nursing and the possible career opportunities you can pursue.
In addition, the experience can also help you stand out from the competition when it comes to securing various positions. Statistics show that 91% of employers prefer candidates with prior work experience. So, the more time you spend working and improving yourself, the better the chances of landing your dream job.
Certifications pair well with work experience. They are yet another stepping stone to improving your knowledge and skill set. Furthermore, certifications help demonstrate your level of expertise in the field of nursing as well as your initiative to keep up with the trends and developments made in hospice care.
Some of the best hospice nursing certifications you can pursue include:
- The ACHPN certification (Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse)
- The APHSW-C certification (Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Worker – Certified)
- The CHPCA (Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator)
- The CHPLN (Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse)
- The CHPNA (Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant)
- The CHPPN (Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse)
- The CPLC (Certified in Perinatal Loss Care)
Hospice Nurse Average Salary
Hospice nursing is a highly lucrative career. Reports show that, as of March 2023, the average hospice nurse’s salary in the United States is $80,519 a year. That amount equates to approximately $38.71 per hour.
However, keep in mind that this is only an estimated average—the exact amount varies. The average hospice nurse’s salary differs by location, experience, employer, and other factors. For example, some hospice nurses earn up to $111,000. Whereas some others, in entry-level jobs, earn around $39,500 per year. Therefore, there is plenty of room for you to advance and increase your pay by managing the factors that influence it.
Salary by location
You can benefit significantly from the opportunities provided for economic advancement by changing location. The top ten highest-paying states in the U.S. have average salaries that exceed the national average. Therefore, working in one of the following states provides better salary opportunities:
- Hawaii – $92,249
- Nevada – $90,779
- Massachusetts – $89,732
- Rhode Island -$87,808
- Oregon – $87,664
- Alaska – $86,457
- North Dakota – $85,387
- Washington – $83,822
- New York – $81,958
- South Dakota – 81,883
It is especially important for you to consider switching locations if you are working in one of the following areas as the ten lowest-paying states:
- Iowa – $66,420
- Utah – $66,007
- Kansas – $63,993
- New Mexico – $63,607
- North Carolina – $63,114
- Alabama – $63,060
- Mississippi – $62,767
- Florida – $59,39
- Georgia – $58,016
- Louisiana – $56,963
Benefits of a hospice nurse
Although the competitive salary and fulfillment that come from the job might be enough to attract you to this career, there are many more additional benefits to becoming a hospice nurse. Some typical non-base-pay benefits include:
- Sign-on bonuses
- Paid time off
- Tuition assistance (if you decide to further your education)
- Social security
Hospice nurse salary compared to similar jobs
Nursing encompasses many different positions. Hospice nursing stands somewhere in the middle in terms of annual salaries. Plenty of nursing positions offer less than hospice nursing. But, still, some other RNs earn more.
Keeping in mind that the national average hospice nurse salary is $80,519 a year, this is how similar jobs compare to it:
- Geriatric nurse – $69,535 a year
- Oncology nurse – $93,270 a year
- Pediatric nurse – $68,186 a year
- ER nurse – $102,665 a year
- Staff registered nurse – $75,379 a year
- Orthopedic nurse – $104,111 a year
- Perioperative nurse – $75,909 a year
Job Outlook for a Hospice Nurse
Hospice nursing provides a promising job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses, which encompasses hospice nurses, is expected to grow in the following years by 6%—as fast as the average for all occupations. There are projected to be 203,200 openings for such nursing positions each year throughout the decade.
Becoming a hospice nurse and dealing with death is not easy at all. The path to becoming a hospice nurse is quite similar to other RN professions, but the challenges faced after can be quite different. Still, this nursing path is also highly rewarding—emotionally and financially.
If you are compassionate but still can cope with patient loss, hospice nursing could be your calling. You can find great benefits in this line of work and be well-compensated for your kindness.