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How Long Does It Take to Get a Hospice Nurse Degree?

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Hospice care combines palliative care with emotional support for people with terminal conditions. Health care authorities typically recommend hospice care for those who have a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care nurses work in hospice care facilities helping patients and families live their last few months comfortably and with dignity. Both licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses work as hospice nurses. Most employers prefer hospice nurses who earn a certification from the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses. It takes LVNs three years and RNs four to six years to become NBCHPN-certified hospice nurses.

LVN Education

LVNs typically complete a one-year certificate program. LVN training programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges and a few hospitals. The last few months of your training are spent as a student nurse working with experienced nurses in a hospital or clinic. You must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination -- NCLEX-PN -- to qualify for a state nursing license. You can then apply to a hospice for an LVN position.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse

The National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses awards the CHPLN designation for licensed nurses. LVNs with at least two years of hospice care-related experience can sit for the exam. The certification is good for four years, after which you must take the exam again to recertify. Most hospice employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned a CHPLN credential.

RN Education

RNs can earn either a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), a four-year bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program. The last six months of your nursing program include supervised work rotations in major hospital departments. Some student nursing programs also include rotations in nursing homes, public health clinics or hospices. A growing number of hospitals require that RNs have a BSN.

Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse

The CPHN designation is offered by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses. RNs must have at least two years of professional experience in hospice care to take the exam. The CPHN certification is good for four years. You can either retake the exam or submit proof of continuing education coursework to recertify. Some hospices require RNs to earn their CPHN within two or three years of starting the job.


Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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