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Hospice Care Degree Program Information

Read about associate's and bachelor's degree programs in nursing with training in hospice care. See what courses are offered, and learn about career options in hospice nursing.

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Essential Information

Hospice care, or palliative care, is a field of healthcare that focuses on the reduction of symptoms and suffering for terminally ill patients. There are a few specific hospice care degrees, but most hospice nurses simply earn a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree in nursing. Nurses must pass a licensing exam and meet other requirements in order to practice.

In both types of nursing programs, students complete general education courses, as well as nursing courses such as human development, microbiology and anatomy. There are extensive clinical requirements that give the student nurses practice at area healthcare facilities. Working with end-of-life patients is often part of this experience.

Associate's Degree in Nursing

Community colleges and universities offer 2-year degree programs for students eager to enter the nursing workforce. These programs lead to general nursing degrees and qualify graduates to work in hospice care facilities. The curriculum covers healthcare technology, patient care and clinical decisions. Students learn about monitoring and diagnosing patients and working with other medical professionals. Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to become registered nurses (RNs).

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED. They must also hold a current CPR card and undergo a background check and drug screening.

Program Coursework

Clinical hours and lectures give students a balanced education in field experience and theory. Common class topics are:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Human development and growth
  • Family nursing
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing internship

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The need for home health care aides, including hospice care workers, was expected to grow by 69% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( As of May 2012, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for registered nurses working in home health care was $65,530.

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Universities have 4-year programs in general nursing, but a few also have hospice care degrees. Both tracks allow students to take courses in hospice care. Students learn to meet the emotional and physical needs of terminally ill patients and their families. Nurses are prepared to manage pain and symptoms and deal with the ethical dilemmas associated with hospice care. These programs prepare graduates to pass the NCLEX.

Educational Prerequisites

A high school diploma or GED is mandatory. ACT or SAT scores are often requested. A current CPR card, background check and drug screening are necessary.

Program Coursework

Students learn to work with terminally ill patients and focus on their comfort. Course subjects include:

  • Adult healthcare
  • Clinical practice
  • Geriatric nursing
  • Life span development
  • Wellness and self-help

Popular Career Options

Hospice care workers try to make terminal patients as comfortable as possible and gain a lot of experience on-the-job. Some positions are:

  • Hospice nurse
  • Hospice home health aide
  • Hospice RN case manager

Continuing Education Information

Hospice workers must be certified in addition to being registered nurses. They need to have at least two years of nursing experience to take an exam distributed by the National Board for the Certification of Hospice Nurses. Nursing students may go on to earn master's degrees in nursing in order to become specialists, such as physician's assistants or nurse anesthetists.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics