How do I Become a Palliative Care Nurse?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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If you wish to become a palliative care nurse, you will need to complete licensing requirements for nurses in the area in which you live, obtain appropriate experience in caring for patients, and in some cases complete additional training in palliative care. If you are aware of professional and trade associations for palliative care professionals, you may wish to work closely with them as you begin to prepare to become a nurse in this field. Depending on your memberships in various professional societies as well as your employer's standards, you may also need to complete continuing education courses on a regular basis.

Palliative care is the practice of reducing pain and suffering in, and improving the quality of life of, seriously ill patients. In some cases, it is a part of hospice care for those who are nearing the end of their life, while in other cases it is given to those who are not dying but who have medical conditions that are painful, disabling, and often chronic. When considering the decision to become a palliative care nurse, you may also wish to consider whether hospice care is something that you are interested in.


In many places, nurses must complete a course of study, pass an exam, and meet other licensing criteria in order to practice. In the United States, for example, you will need to complete a year-long educational program to become a practical or vocational nurse (LPN or LVN) or a two- to four-year program to become a registered nurse (RN). After completing your education, which will include time spent working in a health care setting as well as coursework, you will need to sit for and pass a standardized nursing exam. Finally, you will have to apply to your state board of nursing for permission to practice, which may involve a background check and other measurements of your integrity and ability to meet professional standards.

After you complete the requirements for nursing licensure, you will generally need some practical experience working with patients in health care settings before you can become a palliative care nurse. You can do this by working in a hospital or by volunteering in a hospice setting. You may want to focus on developing your assessment skills and becoming familiar with various methods of pain relief and control. You should also consider your long-term goals as a nurse, as your work in palliative care will be determined in part by your level of nursing licensure. For example, if you plan to become an advanced practice nurse, your role on a palliative care team will be different than if you are licensed as an LPN, so you should make educational and licensing decisions in accordance with the type of work you wish to perform.



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