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What Are the Benefits of Being a Hospice Nurse?

Career News July 8, 2014

If you have decided to go into a field where you can truly help and meet the needs of others, nursing is a promising career with unlimited growth potential. Within the nursing sector, there are many different specialties that you can choose from. One specialty is hospice and palliative care. This is a form of certification that gives you the credentials needed to expand your nursing career and target your patient care around those who need hospice services. The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses certifies over 18,000 nurses and health professionals to provide care to those with serious illnesses. Here are just a few benefits that you will experience when you choose hospice nursing as your main career choice.

How do You Become a Hospice Nurse?

As a registered nurse, you may have determined that you want to expand your education and certification. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be a 19 percent job growth spurt for nurses over the next 10 years. The biggest benefit is that hospice is a rewarding career that gives you the opportunity to care for and make a dynamic impact on patients and families. After you receive your nursing diploma as a Registered Nurse, you can then undergo additional training to become a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care nurse, or CHPN. A hospice patient is diagnosed by a physician as being given six months or less to live or as long as it takes for their terminal illness to run its course. Each patient must be certified by an interdisciplinary care team in order to receive services. You will be part of your patient’s care team, and your expertise and additional education will allow you to determine the best way to meet the needs of your patient(s).

Diverse Work Environment

You along with other key members of the team will decide where the patient will receive care. A diverse and changing work environment is a key benefit to being a hospice nurse. There are generally four places for hospice patients to receive care:

•Inpatient hospital room
•Skilled nursing care facility
•Hospice care facility
•Home care setting

An inpatient hospital room is the most expensive, and not all insurance companies will pay for this type of care. You will visit daily or as needed to provide additional medication and wound care services. Skilled nursing facilities are similar to inpatient care and require frequent visits or as-needed services as well. Home care is a higher-paying and more in-demand nursing position. It involves working closely with family members and caregivers to make the patient comfortable and record vital signs throughout the visit.

Advanced Competence

Another benefit of being a CHPN is that you will acquire advanced knowledge of end-of-life care. Your education gives you advanced training in the field of death and dying. It also teaches you advanced material regarding medication dosages, wound care and terminal illness. You will administer medication for comfort measures only and as directed by the primary care physician. You will also educate family and caregivers on understanding the signs of approaching death and dying, such as:

•Pupils that are fixed and dilated
•Mottling of the skin or color changes
•Increase in body temperature or high fever
•Skin that is cold to the touch
•Gurgling or rattling sounds in the chest
•Loss of breathing and inability to locate a heartbeat

It takes sensitivity and expertise to be a CHPN. Because each family dynamic is different, you will learn the psycho-social skills to adapt to each situation. Especially if you are in the home, you will have to be present either before, during or after a patient death. From there, you will contact the family if needed and, finally, the funeral home to pass off care of the deceased.

Life as a CHPN is unpredictable, and you need to be available to work at any hour of the day and be on-call as needed. It can be a rewarding career that allows you to grow intellectually and as a person.

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