How to Become a Hospice Worker
Hospice workers care for patients who are terminally ill and typically have less than six months to live. Each patient is seen by several professionals who make up the hospice team, including nurses, aides, physicians, social workers and chaplains. All hospice careers require employees to be licensed, certified or otherwise recognized as experienced in their occupation. New hires receive special training on topics such as handling patient loneliness and dealing with patient or family fears.
Hospice jobs usually don’t require candidates to have volunteer or internship experience in a hospice, but having it provides a foundation of knowledge and may impress future employers. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization notes that volunteers are considered employees and receive training on general hospice topics, such as goals, services and philosophies. According to the Hospice Foundation of America, some hospices have minimum age requirements for volunteers, but they all try to find a spot for those interested. Volunteers may help in areas like child care assistance, family support or administration.
Hospice nurses are certified by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses, which issues credentials in several specialties, including pediatrics and perinatal loss care. The basic certification — Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse — requires candidates to hold an unrestricted and current registered nurse license. The NBCHPN also offers the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant credential to aides who have finished a minimum of 2,000 practice hours supervised by a registered nurse within the past two years.
After completing medical school and residency requirements, and passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, physicians must obtain licenses where they want to practice. According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, physicians gain certification to work in hospices by undergoing a yearlong fellowship and passing an exam administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
According to the National Association of Social Workers, social workers can obtain hospice certification with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and social worker license, and after completing a minimum of three years working under supervision in hospice and palliative care. The Center to Advance Palliative Care notes that social workers with a bachelor’s degree can apply to be Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Workers, while those with a master’s can apply to be Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Workers.
The General Council of the Assemblies of God’s Chaplaincy Department notes that there aren’t any universal qualifications for hospice chaplains it approves, but that chaplains must meet individual employers’ requirements. It says that desired prerequisites may include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a credential from the Assemblies of God, ministry experience and completion of a Clinical Pastoral Education course. Chaplains can also obtain certification through the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. upon meeting certain requirements, such as a minimum of three years of experience working in hospice and palliative care.