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How to Become a Hospice Nurse

As the career of a nurse unfolds, many career paths present themselves over time. One of the most recognized and respected career paths for nurses is hospice care. To be a hospice care nurse means exhibiting a highly developed level of knowledge related to end of life care, being able to communicate compassionately with family members in a time of crises, and being extraordinarily compassionate and composed when relating to the needs of a dying person. There is an inspiring history and strong professional support for nurses who undertake this particularly rewarding career path.

With the aging baby boomer generation and rises in terminal disease rates, hospice care workers and nurses who work with the elderly in general continue to remain in high demand. Below you will find information on hospice nursing organizations, certifications and how to join this respected group of truly caring and giving nursing professionals.

Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association (HPNA)

Celebrating their 25 year anniversary in 2011, the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association is a professional organization aimed at supporting the nurses who work in this field through networking, education, mentoring, online discussions, and many other services like conferences and webinars. The HPNA does not credential hospice care nurses, but rather supports professional and personal development in the field. Professionals seeking more information about this career will find many helpful resources at: http://www.hpna.org/.

National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses (NBCHPN)

The NBCHPN is the credentialing organization for hospice and palliative care nurses. Palliative care involves medical and other supportive treatments that help make a terminally ill patient as comfortable as possible in the dying process. Hospice care takes place when a patient’s death is imminent and also involves working closely with family members who are often at the dying person’s side at death. There are several levels of certification available which assure that professionals with the certification have a standard level of education and practical skills in place no matter where s/he practices. According to the NBCHPN website there are six certifications available:

Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant (CHPNA®)

  • Applicants must be working under the direct supervision of a registered nurse.
  • Applicants should have at least two years experience in related care settings.
  • Applicants must pass a standardized test.
  • Credential is good for four years; renewal involves passing a test so staying current in the field is essential.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse (CHPLN®)

  • Applicants must currently be a licensed nurse.
  • Applicants must have at least two years related care experience.
  • Applicants must pass a standardized test.
  • Credentials are good for four years; re-certification is granted through taking a test.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN®)

  • Applicants must currently be a registered nurse.
  • Applicants must have at least two years related care experience.
  • Applicants must pass a standardized test.
  • Credentials are good for four years; re-certification is granted through either taking a test or submitting approval for continuing education coursework and other approved activities.

Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN®)

  • Credentials are good for four years and require continuing education requirements for re-certification.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN)

  • In addition to the requirements of a (CHPN), the work experience must be in a pediatric environment; two years is the minimum suggest requirement before attempting certification.
  • Credentials are good for four years and require continuing education or re-testing requirements for re-certification.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator (CHPCA)

  • Applicants must verify at least two years of the last three years of administrative work was in direct line with NBCHPN guidelines.
  • Applicants must pass standardized test.
  • Applicants must apply for renewal every four years.

For more information about credentialing procedures you can visit the NBCHPN website at: http://www.nbchpn.org/.

When Considering Hospice or Palliative Care as a Profession

Competent and compassionate hospice and palliative care nurses are among the most respected and valued nurses in the profession. Families across all sectors of the population rely on the expertise, concern, and guidance of these extraordinary individuals in moments of extreme vulnerability. For this reason, hospice and palliative care nurses must be of the highest integrity, have the most stable personalities, and display a sustained energy level in an ongoing crises situation.

While excelling at this unique career path requires extraordinary human character, there is a strong mentoring and professional support system to tap into as you progress on this career path. The HPNA has a special place on their website devoted to connecting with professionals interested in this rewarding career. Engaging early in the education and professional mentoring needed to be successful in hospice and palliative care nursing will help build a strong network of support for years to come.

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