When nurses enter the field, they often have visions of tending to patients as they heal and possibly even saving lives. However, hospice nurses work in a very different context — their patients are all at the end of their lives.
Being a hospice nurse is hard, but it can also be gratifying if you can handle the emotional toll. Life as a hospice nurse is a selfless act. You commit your nursing practice to being present for patients as they face the end of their lives and supporting their families and loved ones during the grieving process.
For those called to hospice care, this career is an opportunity to provide compassionate palliative care and emotional support, but its challenges might not be for everyone?
In 2022, the average hospice nurse salary is $70,717.94 throughout all 50 states. This comes to an average hourly pay of $34.00.
What do hospice nurses do?
Hospice nurses are RNs who specialize in palliative care. They serve as caregivers to patients in their final weeks of life and offer comfort and emotional support to their loved ones. Being a hospice nurse requires immense empathy and robust mental health since you will always be surrounded by people coping with the most challenging experience of their lives.
In addition to providing pain management and comfort to their patients, hospice nurses collaborate with physicians and care teams. Their goal is to minimize patient discomfort as much as possible so they have the highest quality of life until they pass on.
Unlike other types of nursing, hospice nurses don't expect their patients to improve. Nothing they do can save their lives, but they can make all the difference as someone moves toward their final days.
From pain and medication management to grooming and companionship, the hospice nurse plays a pivotal role during this period of a person's life. Although they may not have a long life expectancy, the hospice nurse can make the time they have less difficult. Sometimes, they even help their patients find peace and joy during their final weeks on Earth.
How much does a hospice nurse make a year?
The average hospice nurse earns $70,717.94 per year, according to data collected from Zippia.
Indeed reports a higher average annual salary of $80,627 based on 6,000 reported salaries on July 28, 2022.
Payscale.com compiled the average of 193 salary profiles on July 5, 2022, and found the typical annual salary for a hospice nurse to be $72,266.
How much does a hospice nurse make an hour?
The average hourly pay for a hospice nurse in the United States is $34 an hour. Exact rates will vary based on your location and level of nursing experience. Indeed reports the average hourly pay of $33.29, while Payscale reports a base hourly wage of $31.15.
Hospice nurse salaries state by state
How much do hospice nurses make in your state? Here is a full breakdown of the average income in the United States.
Hourly mean wage
Annual mean wage
Compared To National Average
District of Columbia
*Data compiled from Zippia, February 2022.
Factors that affect how much a hospice nurse makes
Hospice nurses earn different salaries based on their education, experience, and location. If you are starting your career, you can expect a lower base salary than a nurse with several years under their belt.
Most employers require a hospice nurse to have at least two years of experience in palliative care before they can work full-time as a hospice nurse. Therefore, as you gain experience, your pay will likely grow to reflect your developing skills.
While hospice nurses don't need advanced degrees, you may earn more if you have a BSN over an ADN or a master's degree over an undergraduate.
Location is also a predominant factor in nursing salaries. Income can vary significantly by state and even by the organization. If you aren't opposed to relocating, you may be able to earn nearly double your salary in a low-paying state by moving to one with a higher average.
How quickly can you become a hospice nurse and start earning?
A hospice nurses career begins in nursing school. Then, they can earn an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). The bachelor's route offers more excellent training in nursing theory and clinical management, which can be helpful as you create care plans for patients in hospice.
Once you've completed your degree, which takes between two to four years, you can sit for the NCLEX exam. After passing the national certifying exam, you can acquire your nurse's license and start working as an RN in your state.
On average, expect at least four years of education and work experience before you are qualified for hospice nurse positions near you.
That being said, you can still earn a decent salary as an RN just starting your career. RNs with ADNs and BSNs both qualify for decent starting salaries.
Hospice nurse salary vs. other nursing professions
See how the average hospice nurse makes compared to other nurses in similar roles.
Average hospice nurse Salary: $70,717.94
Registered nurse – $76,944.90
ER nurse – $78,451.61
ICU nurse – $84,281.06
Triage nurse – $69,283.65
When choosing your nursing specialty, it's helpful to consider practical factors like work hours, environment, patient type, and income. Although salary alone may not be your deciding factor in becoming a hospice nurse, it's still an essential element of the job.
Hospice nurse salary FAQs
Am I being paid fairly as a hospice nurse?
Because hospice nurses take on such emotionally demanding work, it's only fitting that they receive fair compensation for their selflessness and skills.
As in all nursing professions, pay will vary by location, employer, and even among individual nurses. A senior hospice nurse with 10+ years of experience will likely earn a higher salary than one just starting.
It would be best if you gauged the fairness of your salary based on the national average, your state's average, and the average pay of nurses you work with who have similar credentials.
If you feel you aren't paid fairly, open a conversation with your employer. You have every right to request higher pay, and it's essential to be your own advocate.
Are hospice nurses paid mostly hourly or annually?
Hospice nurses can be paid hourly or annually, depending on their schedule and where they work. For example, they're more likely to be paid hourly if they work on a hospital floor. However, nurses who work in hospice centers or palliative care clinics may be more likely to receive a salary.
Explore job listings near you to get an idea of how your pay schedule might look like working as a hospice nurse. Even if you get paid hourly, you can still earn the average annual salary amount working a standard 40-hour week.
Do hospice nurses get paid overtime?
Yes, hospice nurses are paid overtime like every other nurse who works more than 40 hours a week. Your overtime pay is usually your hourly pay plus a half. Overtime rates may also apply when you work on holidays or the night shift, as these are less sought-after by other nurses.
Do hospice nurses get paid more privately or in hospitals?
Because they work in both private and public healthcare settings, the salary for hospice nurses varies. The best way to determine where you'll earn the most is to compare the pay listed on job posts near you.
In states with higher demand, hospitals may pay more than private facilities with long-term staff. On the other hand, some private hospices may want to build an entire team, so they are willing to offer a competitive salary.
What state pays hospice nurses the most per hour?
According to our research, hospice nurses get paid the most in California, where the average pay per hour is $51.92. The typical annual salary for a hospice nurse in California is $107,990.00. California pays hospice nurses 53% higher than the national average.
Can you live off a hospice nurse's salary in the USA?
What you can live off will depend on your cost of living and financial needs. It isn't easy to tell someone what salary will make them financially secure with so many variables; however, if you budget well and live within your means, the average hospice nurse salary is enough to live off of in most states.
Remember that living in a metropolitan area will lead to higher costs, including housing and transportation. You should also factor in student loans and personal debts as you consider your ideal salary.
A note about our data. We use the median of the data gathered from The BLS at data.bls.gov and other salary data sources such as Salary.com, Indeed.com and Zippia.com. We believe that this is the best average to follow, rather than the mean or mode. The mean will find the average of all salaries in each state; the mode will favor the most frequently reported salaries. However, the median will find the middle. All data in this report will favor the middle salary from all ranges, which means 50% will fall below and 50% will be above the salary data reported below. On another note, we have removed data from Puerto Rico, Guam, and The Virgin Islands from the data we have sourced as we have focused on the 50 US States plus The District Of Colombia.