Palliative Care Nurse Jobs: 5 Specialties to Consider
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- A palliative care nurse focuses on pain management and improving quality of life care for patients.
- Salaries for palliative care nursing depend largely on education, experience and certification.
- Those in the nursing field may choose to specialize in palliative care.
People rely on healthcare not just to stay alive longer but to improve their quality of life. A palliative care nurse treats patients with the primary aim of providing pain management and improving quality of life for patients.
Palliative care nurses may work with the terminally ill to manage pain and other uncomfortable symptoms caused by the progression of their disease. They may also work with patients who can be cured through treatments to make their experience more comfortable. Here are some specialties to consider if you're interested in a palliative care nurse job.
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Ready to Start Your Journey?
How to Become a Palliative Care Nurse
Are you ready to pursue a career in palliative care nursing? Here's what the roadmap for palliative care nursing looks like:
- Obtain an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing and complete coursework in palliative care.
- Complete the NCLEX-RN certification and any required state certification.
- Complete the relevant palliative care certification from the Hospice and Palliative Care Credentialing Center (HPCC) for your desired role.
A bachelor's degree is not required to work as an entry-level palliative nursing assistant or licensed practicing nurse (LPN). Those interested in becoming a registered nurse (RN) or an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) will need an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing to qualify for the NCLEX exam.
Higher paying roles in palliative care nursing, like ARNPs, require previous experience and master's degree or higher in nursing. These programs usually take 2-3 years to complete. Those interested in these roles can start getting experience by starting at an entry-level position or by completing an internship. Those with experience working with the terminally or chronically ill can go on to work in palliative care nursing.
5 Types of Palliative Care Nursing Specialities
Home Health Nurse
- Average Annual Salary: $66,000
- Job Outlook: 33%
- Licenses/Certifications: NCLEX-RN certification (optional)
A home health nurse provides curative and palliative care to patients in their own homes or in assisted living facilities. They might dispense medicines, ensure that the patient's medical equipment is functioning properly, and ensure that the house meets safety standards.
They will supervise other at home health aides and coordinate with physicians and pharmacies to ensure the patient is receiving effective, compassionate care. A home health nurse might have several patients in their care at the same time. Those with managerial skills will be able to excel at this role.
Hospice Registered Nurse
- Average Annual Salary: $70,000
- Job Outlook: 9%
- Licenses/Certifications: NCLEX-RN certification, CPR certification
A hospice registered nurse works with patients in late stages of terminal illness. They will coordinate with the patient's team to create and implement a care plan. Hospice care workers may work or be on call during holidays. They may work in a hospital or in a patient's home.
Most hospice RN positions require you to have prior experience in geriatrics, hospice nursing, or as a professional nurse. Hospice nurses are expected to have knowledge of the hospice care program and their role in it.
Hospice Nurse Case Manager
Hospice nurse case managers manage patient care and ensure that proper procedures are being followed at all times. They record case-related information and create care plans. They must be proficient with basic office software and telephones to communicate with prospective patients, families, and other involved healthcare professionals.
Hospice nurse case managers should understand the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual or religious needs of terminally ill patients and their families. Those in this role should have communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with team members and communicate with patients and their families.
- Average Annual Salary: $77,000
- Job Outlook: 9%
- Licenses/Certifications: NCLEX-RN certification, oncology nursing certification (optional)
Oncology nurses specialize in treating cancer patients. They may assist oncologists by providing treatment to inpatients or outpatients. They may administer chemotherapy and educate patients on what therapies can be used to manage pain, discomfort or side effects caused from cancer treatment. They may work with those who are terminally ill.
Those interested in working in this role need to be compassionate and able to handle high-stress environments. They also need to be physically strong enough to assist patients with mobility when needed.
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner With Pain Management Skills
- Average Annual Salary: $102,000
- Job Outlook: 45%
- Licenses/Certifications: ARNP certification, state license
ARNPs have more extensive training than RNs and therefore can perform functions beyond the scope of an RN. These include:
- Prescribing medication
- Administering physical therapy and exams
- Ordering tests and procedures for patients
They can complete physician-level duties without the physician being present. The ARNP is responsible for relaying information about patients to the physician. ARNPs with pain management skills might choose to work in certain medical fields like:
- Acute care
Palliative Care Nursing Salary
Salary expectations in this field vary depending on education and role. According to Payscale, the median salary for LPNs is $48,000 while the median salary for ARNPs is $101,000. By continuing education through completing certifications or post-secondary education, you can access higher paying jobs in palliative care nursing.
How to Find a Palliative Care Nursing Job
Wondering how to find a palliative care nursing job? There are a number of organizations that offer networking opportunities, memberships, and job postings specifically for those in the palliative care field. You can browse job postings for palliative care nursing at:
You can also demonstrate expertise by completing certifications offered by the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center HPCC. Over 14,500 health care professionals hold HPCC credentials. The certification demonstrates a commitment to professional development and continued education in the field as certificants will increase their knowledge of hospice and palliative care by seeking and maintaining certification.
Take advantage of the career services colleges offer to students and alumni. Many career centers offer remote services. You can also network remotely by attending online events and virtual career fairs.
Palliative Care Nursing Professional Organizations
Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
HPNA offers resources to help professionals prepare for HPCC certification as well as membership and networking opportunities.
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
AAHPM offers courses in the field as well as a membership program that gives you access to networking and advocacy opportunities.
Center to Advance Palliative Care
CAPC posts open positions in palliative care from across the US. They also host online events, training, and courses.
Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care Nursing Jobs
What is the highest paid palliative care nurse speciality?
ARNPs are the highest paid palliative care nurse specialty, with top earners making an average salary of $126,000, according to Payscale data from June 2022. Nurse practitioner jobs are projected to grow by 45%, over five times the average growth for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
ARNPs need an RN certification to pursue a masters in nursing. They will then need to pass a national nurse practitioner certification exam and complete any other licensure requirements for the state they wish to work. This career pathway is great for RNs who want to increase their earning potential and work more independently in healthcare settings.
What palliative care nursing speciality is the most popular?
According to the BLS, there are currently over 3 million registered nurse jobs. Because patients benefit from palliative care regardless of their age or whether their illness is curable, chronic, or life threatening, palliative care skills are valuable for most jobs in healthcare.
Those interested in palliative care nursing can choose to develop skills like pain management, bereavement, and geriatrics. RNs can also choose to specialize in a wide variety of fields where there is an acute need for palliative care. Some popular palliative care nurse specialties are oncology and hospice.
Can I become a palliative care nurse with an online degree?
Yes, you can become a palliative care nurse with an online degree. Accredited online degrees are just as credible as degrees earned through traditional instruction. When a program is accredited, a third party evaluates the program to see if it meets educational standards.
Online degree programs have their perks. They tend to be cheaper than traditional in-person programs and offer more flexibility for students. Considering how beneficial continuing education and experience can be in this field, you should consider taking advantage of online programs and certification exam preparation materials. Some palliative care nurses may even be able to complete an online master's degree in nursing while working full time.
How much money can I make as a palliative care nurse?
Your earning potential as a palliative care nurse depends on specialty, education level, certification, and experience. For instance, according to Payscale data from June 2022, an LPN can earn $33,000-$64,000. Later, LPNs could complete their RN certification and become a registered nurse. RNs have a salary range between $48,000-$95,000, according to Payscale.
ARNPs can earn anywhere between $86,000-$126,000 annually but need a master's degree in nursing. With continuing education and experience, palliative care nurses can increase their earning potential and be able to perform a wider variety of tasks independently in their workplace.
What is the fastest way to become a palliative care nurse?
Though continued education can open a variety of pathways in palliative care nursing, you can become a palliative care LPN by completing an LPN program. LPN programs typically take 12 months to complete, but some accelerated programs take as little as six months to complete.
Aspiring palliative care LPNs must also achieve a passing score on the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses exam (NCLEX-PN). LPNs can later pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing and pivot to an RN role.