A hospice nurse works with people who are terminally ill. Hospice nurses usually work within the patient’s own home, because the hospice doctrine states that patients have the right to spend their last days in their homes with their families. The job of a hospice nurse is, needless to say, intense and difficult at times, but it can be extremely meaningful. It takes a special kind of person to be a hospice nurse.
Most of the hospice nurse’s job involves offering pain relief therapy that will reduce suffering to the lowest level. They also try to reduce other troubling symptoms as needed. This type of care is called comprehensive palliative medical care. Their goal is to help the patient be as comfortable as possible in every way.
Hospice nurses have the unique focus of working with patients who know their lives are coming to an end. Because of this, the hospice nurse must be emotionally strong, stable, patient, and genuinely caring. A hospice nurse must be willing to comfort patients emotionally even while they are caring for their physical needs. Most hospice patients suffer from cancer, but many have other diseases and conditions, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, heart or lung disease, or AIDS. The hospice nurse acts as the case coordinator, working with the physician, caring for the patient, informing family members of the patient’s condition, and being the point of contact for other workers such as home-care aides, speech or physical therapists, or social workers.
Hospice nurses must be licensed as registered nurses. They must have at least two years of experience working in a hospice practice before they can take the exam to become certified as hospice nurses. They earn an average of $49,000 per year, although salary ranges can vary widely.