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Hospice Worker Job Description, Career as a Hospice Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree and state certification

Average Salary $60,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Hospice workers, also known as palliative medicine workers, are typically licensed nurses who are trained to work with people suffering terminal illness or who need major assistance while living in their home. Most hospice workers visit patients in their homes and stay with them for the majority of the day. Others work in nursing homes or hospital departments dedicated specifically for those in need of hospice care. Hospice workers most often work with the elderly or patients who have a terminal illness and need to be comfortable and taken care of in their last days. Some work under the supervision of a doctor to understand specific care recommended for patients by their doctor.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a hospice worker, a student will go to school for a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. To become a nurse, graduates are also required to take a state administered test to become licensed under the state board of nursing. From there, nurses who want to work in hospice care will often get a Master’s degree in Hospice or Pallative Nursing.

Hospice workers take a variety of medical courses including geriatrics, acute care, and medical and biological ethics. Hospice workers will have to go through the same training as a registered nurse, which typically involves working in a hospital under the supervision of a head nurse before becoming qualified to obtain a certification. Hospice workers will usually train in the hospice department of a nursing home or other residential care facility, and once they qualify to take the state board, can work independently and wherever they choose.

Getting the Job

Hospice care workers must first be certified to work through the state board of registered nurses. Aside from being certified and having experience working with elderly and terminally ill patients, hospice workers need to have a strong sense of patience and compassion for patients who are terminally ill or suffering from severe disabilities. They need a desire to help people and must be emotionally stable, especially if they are working with terminally ill patients. Many patients they work with will be under hospice care because they are expected to only have several days left to live. Patients in this situation will often be sent home to be with their family, but have hospice there working for them to make sure their last days are comfortable and they are well taken care of.

Hospice workers will also need experience working in a hospital environment. Those who wish to work as a hospice worker often gain experience working with patients and in a hospital environment while training to become a nurse. Some will even work as nurses before moving on to working solely as a hospice worker.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Hospice workers often gain experience in the medical workforce by first working as a registered nurse. Many nurses work as a hospice care worker on occasion, so over time many of them will decide they want to work solely as a hospice worker. From there, they can advance their education and obtain a Master’s in hospice care, and then work in residential care facilities and houses of people in need of hospice. Many workers are employed through a hospice agency and deal with a specific set of clients.

Employment outlook for hospice workers is on the rise due to the high demand for home care for elderly patients. As the baby boomer generation gets older, it is expected that more will be living in resident care facilities and looking for in-home care. There is almost always a higher demand for nurses working in the hospice field due to the fact that hospice work takes a great deal of emotional stability and the ability to deal with a stressful environment.

Working Conditions and Environment

Hospice workers most commonly work in the homes of their patients. They will have to be comfortable working in someone else’s home and perform duties for them including cleaning, doing laundry, cooking meals and helping them with activities such as showering, bathing or going to the bathroom. Hospice workers will also distribute medication and simply be there as someone the patient can talk to regarding their illness or anything else.

Working in hospice can be an extremely stressful environment, particularly for a worker who has patients that are on their last days. Hospice workers must be able to maintain a professional yet comforting demeanor if there is other family in the home, and be able to perform any duties needed for members of the household. They may also be expected to stay overnight in the event that there is an emergency and a nurse is needed right away.

The work environment for a hospice worker may also be unpleasant or call for unpleasant duties to be performed. Emptying bedpans, cleaning soiled sheets and bathing patients are common duties that hospice workers are expected to perform. Most duties are similar to what would be done in a hospital, but on an even more personal level if they are working in a patient’s home.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a hospice worker is about $60,000 per year. Hospice workers often make an hourly wage with plenty of overtime opportunities due to the occasional need for extra hours spent with certain patients, or even the occasional overnight stay. Depending on how many patients a hospice worker is working with at any specific time, the more hours they will work and the more money they will bring in.

Hospice workers are usually employed by hospitals or state agencies, which both provide excellent benefits for employees. Hospice workers receive full health insurance plans, vacation time and sick leave availability.

Where to Go for More Information

National Hospice and Pallatiave Care Organization
1731 King Street, Suite 100
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 837-1500

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
4700 W. Lake Avenue
Glenview, IL 60025
(847) 375-4712

Hospice Foundation of America
1710 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 457-5815

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