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How to Become a Certified Hospice Nurse Aide

A certified hospice nurse aide offers both personal care and emotional support to patients in the last stages of a serious illness such as cancer. In addition to having the ability to handle the emotional aspects of the job, becoming a certified hospice nurse aide involves getting certified by the state of your residence as a nursing assistant. This process includes taking a training course and passing exams so that you can begin working in hospice care. After you've gained the required work experience, you can pursue certification as a specialized hospice aide.

Job Description

Working as a certified hospice nurse aide involves helping patients with daily living, whether you're getting them dressed, doing some basic cleaning, preparing lunch, combing their hair or bathing them. At the same time, you'll coordinate closely with other medical staff to update them on the patient's vital signs and overall condition as well as help transfer the patient as needed. In addition to providing these physical care duties, you'll need to be both compassionate and empathetic, with the ability to offer adequate emotional support during this difficult time. You'll work to keep your patient as comfortable as possible, address their concerns, and communicate closely with family and any social workers involved.

Education Requirements

The first step to hospice training is to complete a state-approved certified nursing assistant (CNA) program, which is offered by the American Red Cross, a vocational school, a medical facility or other organization. For admission, you'll need to be 18, have your high school diploma and certifications in CPR and first aid, and pass health and background checks. Depending on your state, the program usually takes up to four months to cover basic personal care, medical topics, patient ethics, safety and the aging process.

After finishing your program, you'll have to successfully pass your state's CNA exam. You can expect to take a comprehensive written exam at a testing center and then demonstrate the specific clinical skills common to nursing as part of the hands-on portion. Once you pass, you're considered registered with your state and can begin to seek hospice aide work.

After you've found a job and gained between 500 and 1,000 work experience hours assisting in hospice care (depending on your job status), you can pursue hospice certification for a CNA through the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association. The Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant exam reviews personal care topics from the CNA exam but goes more in-depth on spiritual and emotional care, end-of-life care, family support and palliative care plans.


Hospice nurse aides can find work at hospice centers, nursing homes, home health care companies and other medical facilities. In some cases, you'll regularly travel to patients' homes. This work is both physically and emotionally demanding since you have to move patients as well as handle their emotional needs in times of crisis. Work hours can run long since patients need support around-the-clock, meaning you may work overnight or on holidays and weekends.

Years of Experience and Salary

As of July 2019, PayScale reports that the median hospice CNA salary is $25,697, which means that half of hospice aides make more, and half make less. The lowest paid 25 percent make under $25,000, and the top paid 25 percent of hospice aides make over $29,000. Wages for this career don't change much with experience, although aides may pursue additional education to move into higher paid nursing roles.

PayScale offers this average hourly hospice CNA salary projection based on years of experience:

  • Less than a year: $12.87
  • One to four years: $12.78
  • Five to nine years: $13.56
  • 10 to 19 years: $13.95
  • 20 or more years: $14.19

Job Growth Trend

The BLS expects nurse aides of all types to have good job prospects due to high turnover, the aging of the general population and fast job growth. Between 2016 and 2026, there will be an 11 percent increase in nurse aide employment, which will add about 173,400 jobs. The BLS particularly expects increased demand for nurse aides who work in home health care, while changes in funding to federal health insurance programs may reduce jobs for aides working in nursing homes.

  • Find ways to deal with your emotional stress and prevent burnout. Working with hospice patients can be draining. Dealing with patient deaths on a regular basis can be stressful. Find ways to deal with your own emotions to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally.

Ashley Donohoe started writing professionally about business topics in 2010. Having eight years experience running all aspects of her small business, she is knowledgeable about the daily issues and decisions that business owners face. She has also served as a mentor in the IT industry. She has earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a leadership and strategy concentration from Western Governors University. Some other places featuring her business writing include JobHero, Bizfluent, LoveToKnow, PocketSense, Chron and