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Hospice Residential Nurse (RN): Job Description and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a hospice residential nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Residential hospice nurses work in a specialized facility devoted strictly to terminal patient care. These nurses manage pain and ensure quality end-of-life care for patients and their families. Along with great communication skills, residential hospice nurses must have a good understanding of the stages of grief. Hospice nurses hold a minimum of an associate's degree in nursing and must also have a state nursing license. Although not required by all employers, hospice nurses may earn advanced degrees or certification in palliative care.

Required EducationAssociate's degree or bachelor's degree; master's programs available
Additional Requirements State nursing license required; Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse certification may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth* (2012-2022) 19% for registered nurses
Average Salary* (2013) $68,910 annually for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description

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 terminally ill patients 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.


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 is expected to be 19% during the 2012-2022 decade. According to the BLS, in 2013, the average annual salary for registered nurses was $68,910.

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