Hospice Certification: For the Whole Team

I just took and passed my 4th recertification exam to maintain my hospice and palliative care nurse certification—whew! I was so disappointed in the first exam because I had all my med conversions and symptom management best practices down cold. I don’t think there was one question about opiate conversion on that test. This one had a LOT more about symptom management and med conversion calculations. Fortunately, (for me) best practices haven’t changed much and I just recently completed an advanced pharmacology course at Georgetown University (‘scuse me, I just dropped a name…)

I Probably looked a little more like this pic the first time I became certified in hospice and palliative care… 14 years ago!

Certification is obtained through what used to be called the National Board of Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses, recently changed to HPCC (Hospice and Palliative Care Credentialing Center.

Hospice Certification opportunities exist for RN’s, LPN’s, Nurse Aides, Advance Practice Nurses, Administrators, RN-Peds and Perinatal Loss.

Hospice Social Workers can receive certification through the National Association of Social Workers


and hospice Chaplains through the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc.  http://bcci.professionalchaplains.org/palliative

of course, there are far too few board-certified hospice and palliative care physicians (through the arduous process of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). ABMS did not recognize hospice as a specialty until 2006. Prior to 2006 physician hospice certification was a little easier. Since 2006 however, a physician must complete a fellowship in hospice and palliative medicine to be board certified ( in addition to a few other requirements).

Most hospice docs are working with hospice as a second job. Most hospices can’t afford a full time physician so there is little incentive to get the credential. Even so there are great resources for doctors (and nurses) who want to stay current through the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. www.aahpm.org

There are tremendous advantages to hospice organizations that promote and reward certification. I received an 8% increase in pay when I passed my first certification exam. That spoke volumes to me about the organization’s priorities; that competent, specialized nurses were highly prized.

It’s an especially nice way to provide some sort of career ladder for LPN’s and CNA’s and improves retention and employee satisfaction.

It can’t hurt an organization to show off it’s certification % as competition for referrals becomes more and more fierce. There aren’t many outcome measurements (yet) that help a family or physician select one agency over another. Certification is one of the few objective measurements that sets one agency above another.

Hospice and Palliative Care Certification is a worthwhile process. I highly recommend it. (even if I am a little biased)


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