Hospice nurse practitioners have a tough job. Unlike nurse practitioners, they are not in the business of saving lives. While just as committed to patient care, the outcome is different. Like everyone on the hospice care team, it is a hospice nurse practitioner’s responsibility to help individuals through the end-of-life process. Their emotional and physical support helps patients die with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Becoming a hospice NP is not for every nurse. All nurses should exude compassion and sympathy and remain calm under pressure. That is just part of what it means to deliver excellent patient care. Nurses struggle every time they lose a patient. It can wreak havoc on your emotional health and well-being. Imagine if every patient you cared for you lost. That is what it means to be a hospice nurse practitioner. These nurses must have the right attitude and coping skills to deliver top-notch care in a hospice setting.
In this article we will explore:
- What is hospice nursing?
- What are the roles and duties of a hospice nurse practitioner?
- What are the education and certification requirements for a hospice NP?
- What are the salary and job outlooks for hospice NPs?
What is hospice nursing?
Hospice nursing is an umbrella term used to describe end-of-life care for patients from several different nursing professionals. This can include Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistants to Hospice Nurse Practitioners. Each has a unique role in delivering hospice care to patients.
Hospice nursing centers help patients and their families feel more comfortable with death and ensure they have the emotional support needed throughout the process. The place of a hospice NP on the hospice team is unique. They serve as a sort of spokesperson for the patient and their family, relaying details about changing medical information and adjusting the care protocol, as needed.
What are the roles and duties of a hospice nurse practitioner?
Hospice NPs are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who specialize in hospice care. They primarily provide care to patients with diagnosed illnesses like cancer, dementia, heart failure, and other diseases that typically shorten the patient’s lifespan to around six months. Hospice care focuses on pain management to improve the quality of life for however long the patient has left to live. Hospice NPs collaborate with other members of the hospice care team, including physicians, social workers, spiritual advisers, and bereavement counselors. A large part of their job involves continually assessing hospice patient medications to ensure they do not cause the patient discomfort.
Some other common duties of a hospice NP include:
- Advocate for patients and their families to ensure they receive the best possible care
- Administer and interpret diagnostic tests
- Create, manage, and update patient care plans, as needed
- Dispense medications and other treatments to patients in hospice care facilities
- Perform physical exams
- Record medical symptoms and patient health history
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What are the education and certification requirements for hospice NPs?
Like other NP specialties, hospice NPs must obtain some of the highest levels of education to work in their chosen field. Extensive experience in a hospice care setting and optional certification help prepare them for their work. Here are the steps involved in the process.
1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree
This is the first step in the journey to becoming a hospice NP. The program can take 3 to 4 years to complete depending on availability for taking courses. If someone is not currently working as a nurse, it could take the full 4 years between working and schooling. Registered nurses (RNs) can accelerate the process with an RN-to-BSN program.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN
Some nurses already hold RN licensure before they decide to advance their career by becoming an hospice NP. If they already hold an RN license, this step can be skipped. All other candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
3. Gain Relevant Experience
Once you have your RN license, most nurses choose to gain some experience in hospice care at the RN level. Other nurses opt to go directly to the next step, which is to apply to graduate nursing school.
4. Earn a Graduate Degree in Nursing
The minimum education requirement for hospice NPs is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). It takes between 18 and 24 months to earn a graduate degree. There are RN-MSN programs available, as well as RN-DNP. Candidates who pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) often choose to work in academic or research settings.
5. Become a Certified NP
Certification from an accredited national certification organization is the final step in the career path as a hospice nurse practitioner. The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC) offers several certification options. Another recognized credentialing body is the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
What are the salary and job outlooks for hospice nurse practitioners?
Nurse practitioners from all specialties are in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs can expect a 45% growth between now and 2029. Hospice NPs earn a median annual salary of $93,911 according to the most recent data from Salary.com, which tracks occupational earnings in real-time. The best places to work as a Hospice NP include New York City, NY; San Mateo, Calif.; Juneau, AK; and Boston, MA.
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