At the end of a life well lived, many of us hope to be surrounded by the people we care about most—and those who care for us. For many patients, that means family and friends. But it can also include a kind and competent hospice nurse. In other words, you.

Regardless of how long you’ve worked in hospice care, you know it’s an extraordinary role that constantly supplies profound lessons—and raises just as many questions. One of them may be, how can I enhance my skill set so that I might help patients enter the next stage with as much comfort, compassion, and dignity as possible?

You’re in the right place. Dive into our guide on touching up your skills as a hospice care nurse and overcoming the distinct challenges you may face. Who knows? You might even get some ideas on sprucing up your hospice nurse resume while you’re at it!

Consistently Acknowledge Your Unique Role in Your Patients’ Lives

You know first-hand that your position radically differs from those of your non-hospice-based colleagues. Whereas your best friend in the ER may deal with life-or-death decisions in a fast-paced environment, you provide terminally ill patients and their loved ones with the emotional strength and support they need to transition toward death. 

There’s still urgency, yes, but “saving a life” or even prolonging one is no longer your main goal. Rather, it’s building a nourishing environment in which comfort is paramount and maintaining your patient’s quality of life in their last stages. 

What’s occasionally less clear is how to create this nurturing place while also, importantly, preserving your own wellness. With this in mind, you may want to consider these practices and tactics.

Face Your Discomfort with Self-Compassion

For many in the medical field, death can sometimes feel like a clinical matter. In nursing school and every day at work, you learn that death is a natural part of life.

However, in hospice care, a patient’s passing can hit a lot closer to home. Hospice patients aren’t people who you took care of for a few hours in the ED. In many cases, they’re people you’ve spent considerable time with—and you may experience their death as acutely as you would a dear friend’s (which they very well may have become). This can be even more challenging to manage if you’re on a travel assignment and away from the comforts of home and the people that define it.

One of the wisest and kindest things you can do for yourself is to seek out peer support—or the listening ear of another nurse (hospice or otherwise) who will understand the meaning of losing a patient on a deeper level. A colleague may be able to offer you the emotional encouragement you need, as well as invaluable insights on coping. It may also be important to internally reaffirm your role in your patient’s life—as a caregiver, not a lifesaver—who did as much as possible to ensure their journey was peaceful, loving, and comfortable. 

Build an Unbreakable Bond with Your Patients and their Loved Ones

It may seem contradictory to suggest establishing a strong connection with your patients if their death stands the chance of having an enormous impact on you. And yet, building a bond with your patients and their loved ones is one of the keys to enriching your skills as a hospice nurse and promoting both patient and job satisfaction. 

This comes down to two primary reasons:

  • Increased comfort – As you know, your patient’s comfort is the single most crucial part of your obligations. Knowing that they’re in the hands of a compassionate nurse who cares not just about their illness but also who they are as a person may deepen their sense of ease—and boost your confidence and gratification. 
  • Enhanced communication and cooperation – Helping your patients and their loved ones navigate the intricacies of a terminal illness—from guiding them through end-of-life planning to answering medical questions—is a significant part of your workday. This is made all the more doable if there’s mutual trust and understanding. 

How can you help your nurse-patient relationship flourish? By practicing active listening and expressing your appreciation to your patients’ loved ones.

Refine Your Patient-Centered Approach

One of the beauties of hospice nursing—perhaps even one of the things that drew you to the profession—is that it’s not about medical interventions and curative treatments, but learning about and respecting your patients’ values and belief systems.

Every culture views death and dying differently. Part of furthering your success in your hospice nursing career is identifying and understanding those differences and then implementing them to the best of your abilities.

Of course, you don’t have to do this work alone. Instead, gently ask your patients and their families about their preferences and beliefs. As you spend more time with each patient, you’ll learn more about their wishes and how they view their situation.

These values should be the guiding stars that inform how you tend to your patient in their final moments—that, and remembering that the patient’s decisions should also drive your care. Because when you put in the effort to learn about customs and cultural differences—and accept them with open arms—you’ll have a lasting impact on your patients and their loved ones.

Hone Your Essential Soft and Hard Skills 

The skills you’ve accumulated as a hospice nurse are indispensable. And yet, you’re probably well aware that learning them is only one part of the process: Mastering them requires practice and diligence. 

As you search for ways to improve as a hospice nurse, you may want to return to the basics and consider fine-tuning the following:

Practicing Effective Communication

In end-of-life care, communication is crucial. First of all, you have to communicate effectively with medical professionals across different teams to develop patient care plans.

However, more importantly, you communicate with your patients to understand their needs—oftentimes in the absence of medical reasons and simply because a great deal of fear surrounds the concept of dying. Because hospice care is all about keeping a patient comfortable, active and thoughtful listening is vital.

Communicating with a patient’s family is just as important. Between giving updates about your patient’s status and discussing next steps, you spend plenty of time talking to sisters, uncles, spouses, and other loved ones. By thinking of effective communication as a flexible, even fluid endeavor that must be adjusted to each patient and family’s needs, you’ll provide the level of personalized attention that’s so important in this profound life stage. 

Creating a Supportive Environment for Patients and Families

In addition to being a calm, caring presence and fostering an open, loving, and transparent bond with your patients, you can also create a supportive physical environment. By working with family members and friends to personalize the space as much as possible, you can bring simple joy and a sense of familiarity to your patients.

Some welcome additions include:

  • Plants
  • Photos and artwork
  • A TV and their favorite movies
  • Books

Navigating Ethical Dilemmas

All types of nursing care come with ethical questions, and hospice nursing is no exception. In fact, you may have faced ethical dilemmas like:

  • Patient autonomy – Patients, as you know, have a right to choose their end-of-life care. However, lines can become blurred when patients have cognitive limitations or family members try to step in. Polishing your ability to navigate this delicately but decisively may come down to asking for guidance from veteran hospice nurses or finding a supportive nursing mentor.
  • Communication – Some family members don’t want their loved one in hospice care to hear “bad news” about their progression. With that said, being truthful with patients is an important part of nursing. It is important to ask your patient what he/she prefers. Keeping honesty at the forefront of your mind may also result in a stronger connection.
  • Symptom management – Hospice nurses must often weigh the pros and cons of particular treatments and their side effects. Will treating a symptom make the patient less comfortable or more comfortable? This requires honesty as well—with your patients, those who care for them, and yourself. 

Navigating these moments can be tricky at times. But as long as you always strive to do what’s right and put your patients first, you’ll ultimately experience new areas of growth personally and professionally.

The Importance of Self-Care for Hospice Travel Nurses

As a hospice RN, you no doubt spend plenty of time thinking and worrying about your patients and their families—and this empathy goes a long way. But as you work to support the people around you, don’t forget about someone equally important: You.

Working in end-of-life care comes with its share of challenges. Emotions are high, and every loss may have an impact on you. Burnout is genuine, even for seasoned nurses.

This is why self-care is critical. When you can, be sure to:

  • Connect regularly with support systems when you’re on assignment – Traveling for work often means being away from family and friends. Phone calls and video chats with loved ones can recharge your batteries and remind you that people care about you. What’s more, a first-rate recruiting agency may offer additional “nourishment,” such as the compassionate and responsive 24/7 support supplied by Host Healthcare. 
  • Consider therapy – Grief is an inevitable part of hospice nursing, but keeping your grief bottled up can lead to stress and sadness. You may find it helpful to talk to a professional who can provide objectivity, emotional support, and strategies for processing your feelings.
  • Find time for your hobbies – While it may be tempting to spend your whole day off on the couch, try to engage in the things you love—whether that’s knitting, hiking, or playing video games. This will strengthen your work-life balance and help you feel refreshed when it’s time to return to work. 
  • Care for your body and mind – You may know more than others that balancing eating, sleeping, and exercising with work is no simple feat, especially in careers where you take the emotional weight of your job home. But prioritizing the basics of self-care—nutritious meals, adequate sleep, ample hydration, non-work-related exercise, and smart stress-busting tactics—will put you in a better position to provide solid, empathetic care.

Apply to Become a Travel Hospice Nurse with Host Healthcare

Providing end-of-life care as a hospice nurse is a meaningful, honorable career choice—it’s among the most admirable in the realm of healthcare and beyond.

With Host Healthcare, you can focus wholeheartedly on providing the most exceptional end-of-life care possible while we take care of the logistics of securing your next travel nursing assignment. Not only do we provide exclusive access to thousands of travel nurse jobs in every state, but we also ensure comfortable housing, day-one benefits, around-the-clock support, and more. 

Ready for the next step in your career? Apply to become a hospice travel nurse with Host Healthcare today.



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Davidson, Alexa. “How Nurses Can Cope with a Patient’s Death.” NurseJournal, 23 Mar. 2023, Accessed March 4, 2024.

Nurse patient relationship – importance of trust. ANA. (2023, September 13). Accessed March 4, 2024.

Stilos, Kalliopi, and Lesia Wynnychuk. “Self-care is a MUST for health care providers caring for the dying.” Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal vol. 31, no. 2, 2021, pp. 239-241.