Home Health Care and Hospice Nurses


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a nurse, you should take mathematics and science courses, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Health courses will also be helpful. English and speech courses will help you develop basic communication skills that you will use with patients and coworkers. Psychology and sociology classes are also recommended. 

Postsecondary Training

Many home health care and hospice nurses are required to have some nursing experience, preferably in acute care, because they are required to work with patients with a wide range of health problems. Entry-level requirements depend on the home health care agency, the hospice organization, and the availability of nurses in that specialty and geographical region. Education may follow various routes, including a bachelor of science in nursing; an associate's degree in nursing; or a diploma from a nursing program. Nurses who wish to specialize in hospice or home health care may choose to attend graduate school. The University of Maryland offers a master of science in palliative care. Visit https://graduate.umaryland.edu/palliative for more information. 


Some colleges and universities—such as Madonna University, the University of South Florida, University of Maryland, and Drexel University—offer certificate programs in hospice and palliative studies, clinical aging sciences, and related fields.

Other Education or Training

The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, and other professional associations provide continuing education classes, workshops, webinars, and seminars. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification is a voluntary process. The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association offers several nursing certifications, including the certified hospice and palliative nurse, advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse, certified hospice and palliative pediatric nurse, certified in perinatal loss care credentials. Certification is also offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and other nursing organizations.

All states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories require a license to practice nursing. To obtain a license, graduates of approved nursing schools must pass a national examination. Nurses may be licensed by more than one state. In some states, continuing education is a condition for license renewal. Different titles require different education and training levels.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous nursing experience, preferably in acute care, is often required in this field.

Home health care and hospice nurses need broad experience dealing with patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. They must be able to work smoothly as part of a team that includes physicians, social workers, and other health care professionals. The ability to deal successfully with stress is also important, especially in helping terminally ill patients who are trying to cope with the end of their lives. Therefore, nurses must be able to listen to their patients, understand their needs, and respond with empathy and understanding.

Home health care and hospice nurses should feel comfortable working with patients of all ages and people from all cultural backgrounds. Good communication skills are essential, including the ability to listen and respond to the patients' needs. Home health care and hospice nurses must be able to work independently, have good organizational skills, and also have the ability to supervise aides and other support people. Flexibility is also a requirement because duties vary greatly from hour to hour and day to day. Many hospice nurses are on call and their work is mentally stressful.