A person who wants to become a hospice nurse must first complete the requirements for a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. Once the degree program has been completed, the individual must successfully complete a licensing exam. The next step for the person who wants to care for patients in a hospice environment is to complete at least two years of clinical work in a hospice setting. Once the on-the-job training is completed, hospice nurses who want to practice in the United States are required to pass an exam administered by the National Board for the Certification of Hospice Nurses.
The bachelor's degree program in nursing includes courses in English, chemistry and communications. The program also includes courses in psychology, pharmacology and nursing theory. Nutrition, anatomy, microbiology and behavioral sciences are covered in the required courses as well. In the last two years of the study, the courses become more focused, and the students learn about OB and pediatric nursing, as well as how to conduct research.
A registered nurse who chooses to continue his or her studies at the master's degree level may purse a program in palliative care nursing. The curriculum for the person who wants to become a hospice nurse covers the specific issues involved in caring for patients who are in their last six months of life. Pain management, dealing with grief and techniques for caring for patients who have a chronic illness are covered.
Not all nursing students have the combination of skills and abilities that are needed to become a hospice nurse. The focus of this type of care is to alleviate suffering as much as possible and to keep the patient comfortable. The hospice nurse knows from the outset that his or her patient is not going to recover, and this fact can be difficult to accept since the focus of medical care in other situations is to help the patient move toward recovery.
The requirement for the individual who wants to become a hospice nurse to spend some time working with terminally ill patients helps the nurse to decide whether this is the right placement for him or her. Palliative care requires a special kind of person to provide care for the patient in his or her home or in hospital. The hospice nurse frequently provides support for the patient's family as well, since the terminal illness and the anticipated loss affects all of them.