The duration it takes to become a hospice nurse will vary based on the education route you choose. Note that an ADN will require two years to complete while a BSN will take four years. Add about one to two years of general nursing experience and six months for certification and the timeline will fall in within four to six years.
The primary aim of hospice nursing is to make the dying process as comfortable and painless for the patient as possible, and it will take about five years, or even six years to become a certified hospice nurse. Have it in mind that it takes a special kind of individual to become a hospice nurse.
The hospice career is an opportunity to care for patients during the final moments of their lives, and it should be an honor to be by their side during those critical times. Hospice care can be provided in the patient’s home to make them feel more comfortable.
A hospice nurse primarily provides care for critically ill patients who are near death. They have to work closely with the family members and other healthcare professionals to ensure all the needs of the patient are met. Hospice nursing requires deep compassion, and also requires nurses to be able to disconnect the emotional aspect of their work from their personal lives.
Note that hospice nurses are part of a larger interdisciplinary healthcare team that provides nursing care to individuals and their families. A hospice nurse’s role will more or less depend on the certification they hold (i.e. CHPNA, CHPLN, or CHPN).
Since they’re RNs, Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurses (CHPNs) are renowned as the senior nursing professionals on the hospice team and are tasked with offering education, supervision, and direction to other nursing staff.
Meanwhile, Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistants (CHPNAs) and Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurses (CHPLNs), are tasked with offering around-the-clock hands-on nursing care. They are responsible for the day-to-day nursing activities such as handling the patient’s pain symptoms, and comfort level.
They will also be expected to maintain the patient’s hygiene and ensure they take their prescribed medication when necessary.
Educational Requirements to Become a Hospice Nurse
Just like it was noted above, there are different types of hospice nurses. When individuals refer to themselves as hospice nurses, they are more or less employed as one of the following kinds of nurses: Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistants (CHPNA) or Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse (CHPLN).
However, if you have an interest in hospice nursing, there are several specific education and training skills you will need to acquire;
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistants (CHPNAs)
- CHPNAs will need to have a high school diploma or GED
- They are expected to also have at least a minimum of 500 hours of hospice and palliative nursing assistant experience in the last or recent 12 months, or 1,000 hours in the past 24 months, all under the supervision of a registered nurse in the United States.
- Will have to pass the standardized HPCC CHPNA® Examination to obtain the credential
- Certification is valid for four years; to renew one’s certification, one will have to retake and pass the recertification examination and ensure they stay current in the field through continuing education courses.
Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurses (CHPLNs)
- These nurses are expected to have attended college or university and obtained a BSN, ADN, or have graduated from a state-approved program in vocational nursing
- Will have currently been a licensed RN or LVN in their state of residence
- Should have at least two years of related experience
- Expected to have passed standardized HPCC CHPLN Examination
- Certification is valid for four years; recertification is available to those that take and pass the recertification examination and they will have to stay current on events in the field through continuing education courses
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurses (CHPNs)
- To be a CHPN, you will need to attend college or university to earn either a BSN or ADN
- You will have to be currently licensed as an RN in state of residence
- Should have at least two years of related care settings
- Expected to pass standardized HPCC CHPN Examination
- Certification is valid for four years; recertification is acquired either by taking and passing the recertification exam or by submitting an approval for continuing education and other approved activities
Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurses (ACHPNs)
- These nurses are expected to hold a master’s or doctoral degree in advanced practice nursing program from an accredited university that includes both clinical and didactic segments
- Should currently have an unrestricted active registered nurse license in the US.
- Expected to be a functioning Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) with 500 hours of hospice and palliative nursing practice in the most recent 12 months, or 1,000 hours in the past 24 months before applying to take the ACHPN Examination
- Must pass standardized ACHPN Examination
This field of nursing is a unique specialty area, and nurses who are looking to pursue this career can acquire more knowledge about the role by seeking guidance from the numerous organizations, societies, and agencies that support this specialized field.
Coupled with unflinching clinical excellence, hospice nursing will also need a massive level of dedication and a deep well of emotional resilience.