Hospice Workers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Persons wishing to obtain a college degree in one of the professions employed by hospice organizations should take a well-balanced college preparatory course in high school, with a good foundation in the sciences. Biology, chemistry, health, and psychology are important courses. You should take anatomy and physiology if your high school offers these courses. You should also take courses in the humanities and social sciences, as well as classes that improve your communication skills. Mathematics and computer science courses are also useful. 

High school diploma requirements vary with hospice organizations and the volunteer responsibilities. Some volunteer work does not require a diploma of any kind, for example, answering the phones, cleaning, or maintaining grounds. However, a high school diploma would probably be required for any volunteer position that involves patient contact.

Postsecondary Training

The degree program you should pursue depends on the role you hope to play in the hospice program. Some positions require a bachelor's degree and others a medical degree or other specialized degree. Many hospitals offer medical rotations in hospice care to physicians, nurses, and other professionals involved in training. 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 and Training

Throughout their careers, hospice workers in various specialties to continue to build their skills and professional knowledge by taking continuing education classes. For example, nurses may participate in classes that are offered by the American Nurses Association. Physicians might sign up for webinars and workshops that are provided by the American Medical Association. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association also provide continuing education opportunities.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The certification or licensing requirements are determined by the medical specialty or professional career that you wish to pursue. Some associations provide hospice-related certification credentials. For example, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine offers certification to physicians who specialize in hospice and palliative care, as well a certification credential for hospice medical directors. The National Association of Social Workers offers the advanced certified hospice and palliative social worker certification and other credentials. The Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc., an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains, offers the board certified chaplain and associate certified chaplain credentials. The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association offers a variety of credntials, including the certified hospice and palliative nurse, advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse, certified hospice and palliative pediatric nurse, and certified in perinatal loss care credentials. Certification is also offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and other nursing organizations. Finally, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers certification for home care and hospice executives.Licernsing is also required for nurses, physicians, and other health care workers.

The hospice itself is usually licensed by the department of health of each state (more than 40 states license hospice programs) and certified by Medicare and Medicaid. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Hospice workers should have experience working in the health care field, usually in a hospital or home health care environment. They must be comfortable working with terminally ill patients and their families and dealing with stressful conditions that occur when a patient is dying. Hospice workers provide services as part of a health care team; they must be detail oriented and carry out specific medical procedures accurately and efficiently.

You should be compassionate, patient, sensitive, and well organized. Flexibility and the ability to make decisions are important. You should also feel comfortable dealing with the sick and dying.