Tips For New Hospice Care Nurses

It takes a special kind of person to be successful and feel fulfilled as a hospice nurse.

As one might imagine, it takes a special kind of person to be successful and feel fulfilled as a hospice nurse. You’re a nurse because you care about people. You want to relieve their suffering and help them heal. Offering hope is a natural response.

In hospice care, the nurse’s desire to heal is no longer at issue or even part of the job. When a patient has qualified for hospice care, it’s because they’re within the last six months of a terminal illness. Treatment for the purposes of prolonging life stops. Instead of healing, a hospice nurse provides comfort and works to maintain quality of life for the patient.

If you can make that switch in thinking, hospice nursing might be a good option.

Because the end result of every patient interaction is death, it takes a compassionate and courageous individual to thrive in the hospice environment. If you can live in the moment with your patient and help them navigate their physical and emotional responses to their impending death, you stand a good chance of succeeding as a hospice nurse.

In addition to the emotional support you’ll provide for both the patient and their family members, you’ll be following individual plans for each patient’s needs. There will always be the basic medical steps to take, like managing pain, checking blood pressure and other vital signs, and administering medication. Since you’ll be part of a team, clear communication and thorough notes are critical.

Many hospice nurses provide care at the patient’s home, and they are especially important when there appears to be a crisis. Family members might define crisis differently, but generally a crisis is indicated when there is severe pain, respiratory distress, extreme agitation, seizures, or if the patient is in the actual phase of dying. In times of a crisis, the nurse is required to remain in the home until the crisis is past.

Hospice nurses require many of the same skills as nurses in other specializations. They need to be compassionate, sympathetic, patient, and calm under pressure. In addition, they need to be good listeners. Whether they’re listening to the family or the patient, they’ll hear pain, tragedy, fear, and uncertainty in their voices and it’s the nurses job to help them come to terms with the situation.

If you think hospice nursing is for you, consider which of the most common environments would suit you best. 

  • In general, hospice patients want to be where they’re most comfortable, and if there is family in the home for support, a hospice nurse will come into the home to provide care.
  • Sometimes, a patient is admitted to the hospital for a specific medical difficulty but is then recommended for hospice care. If the hospital has a hospice section, they patient is often moved, especially if the patient lives alone.
  • Often older patients that are already in a nursing home are diagnosed and recommended for hospice care. In that case, the hospice nurse visits the facility to tend to however many patients in the nursing home are assigned by the hospice agency.
  • More and more there are stand-alone hospice facilities serving those end-of-life patients who can no longer live at home or who require round-the-clock care.

Depending on your lifestyle preference, working at the same hospice facility every day might be an advantage. For others, being on the road and seeing different patients in their homes or nursing homes is more appealing.

In the end, if you’re the type of person who celebrates life and can accept death as part of it, hospice nursing might be for you.

VNA & Hospice is an equal opportunity employer. There are many ways to become a part of our team. Visit our Career Opportunities to find a position that is right for you.


How to approach mom or dad about hospice care

How To Approach Mom or Dad About Hospice Care

Caring for an elderly parent is always difficult, and this task becomes even more of a struggle when they are dealing with an incurable illness.

Caring for an elderly parent is always difficult, and this task becomes even more of a struggle when they are dealing with an incurable illness. If there is not any sort of cure for the health problem that your parent is facing, they will eventually need hospice care to help ease them through this period of their life. Though it may be a difficult conversation, there will come a time when you need to speak to your mom or dad about hospice care. Many seniors do not want to face the knowledge that their health is failing, but it is important to help your parents make these decisions. Here is what you can do to make the hospice discussion easier for everyone in your family.

Make a Plan Before Having the Talk

Discussing hospice care is a very delicate subject, so it is unwise to spontaneously bring it up. Before speaking to the ill parent, make sure you discuss it with any siblings, your parent’s spouse, and other involved relatives. Look for hospice options in your area so that you can be well informed before beginning the conversation. If you can, try to casually mention the idea a few times before seriously discussing it, so that your parent does not feel like like the idea of hospice is coming out of nowhere.

Wait for the Right Time to Bring It Up

It probably is not best to discuss hospice when your parent is going through a particularly rough moment. Instead, try to choose an opportunity when everyone is calm, conscious, and relaxed. Try to keep the conversation reasonable and cheerful instead of resorting to overly emotional theatrics. A supportive and peaceful environment can help everyone to have this difficult discussion.

Stay Reassuring

No one wants to face their own mortality, and many parents in this situation get frustrated because they feel like their child is giving up on them. During the conversation, keep trying to emphasize the love and support that you want to give to your parent. Explain that the care provided by hospice will help you to focus on spending quality time with your parents instead of dealing with medical issues.

Listen to Their Concerns

Your parent may not be immediately receptive to the idea, so be prepared for some resistance. Instead of trying to argue or convince them to agree with you, stay calm and supportive. Just listen to them and reassure them that you are trying to understand what they are going through. Even though they may be ill, most seniors still desire to feel respected and listened to by their children.

Set Up an Appointment With a Nurse

After you first bring up the idea of hospice, it can be helpful to talk to a qualified medical care professional. They can answer any questions your parent has about hospice and explain more about how it works. Hospice care nurses are trained to deal with delicate subjects, so they may be even better than you at explaining the benefits of hospice.

Give Them TIme

Most seniors will not immediately hire a hospice care nurse after you suggest they start looking into hospice. Give them time to get used to the idea, and emphasize your continued support regardless of what they decide. Hospice is an important decision, so you should not try to pressure your mom or dad. Once they have a little space and time to think about it, they will probably realize that it is the best option.


VNA & Hospice is dedicated to providing the highest quality healthcare to residents of the Central Coast and Monterey County. Registered nurses and skilled staff members provide many services, including senior home care, hospice health care, palliative care, orthopedic rehabilitation, and more.