Hospice Care Degree Program Information

Hospice care, or palliative care, is a healthcare field focusing on the reduction of symptoms and suffering for terminally ill patients. Learn about different programs and courses available, as well as job outcomes and continuing education options.

Essential Information

In both associate's and bachelor's nursing programs, students complete general education courses, as well as nursing courses. 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.

Students must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent to enter these programs, as well as current CPR certification. In addition, they need to be able to pass a background check and drug screening, as well as possess satisfactory SAT/ACT scores. Programs or courses may be available online.

Associate's Degree Programs in Nursing

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). 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

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Nursing

Universities have 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. 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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The need for home health aides, including hospice care workers, is expected to grow by 38% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual wage for registered nurses working in home healthcare was $68,510.

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.

There are a few specific hospice care degrees, but most hospice nurses earn a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree in nursing. Both programs prepare students to become registered nurses and offer a variety of jobs to pursue after graduation, as well as certification and master's degree options for continuing your education.

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