OK, so you have decided that you are passionate about becoming a hospice and palliative nurse (HPN).

However, the million-dollar question is…

What is the path to becoming an HPN?

Well, you typically need to be a practicing registered nurse (RN) to become an HPN. You are also required to obtain work experience in hospice and palliative care. So, to become an HPN, you should earn a nursing degree or diploma, gain the required work experience, and pass the licensure examination.

The most widely accepted certification for HPNs is the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) test, which fulfills all the accreditation requirements of the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). The certification has to be renewed every four years.


To be eligible for the CHPN Test, an applicant must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Hold a current, unrestricted active registered nurse license in the United States and its territories or the equivalent in Canada.
  • Hospice and palliative registered nursing practice of 500 hours in the most recent 12 months or 1000 hours in the most recent 24 months prior to applying for the examination.

Important Qualities

To be a good HPN, you need to have the following qualities:

Empathy and patience. The patients that hospice and palliative nurses typically care for are elderly and/or frail. These patients might not be able to manage even basic daily activities on their own. Nurses caring for such patients need to assist them with empathy and patience.

Emotional stability. The mortality rate among hospice and palliative care patients is naturally higher than many other categories of patients. Hospice and palliative nurses should be able to deal with losing their patients in a quick and healthy manner.

Communication skills. The stress associated with life-limiting illnesses can be as much mental as it is physical. Hospice and palliative nurses should be able to talk to the patients and help them in overcoming these stresses. These nurses also need to convey the details of the care process to the patients and their loved ones.

Flexibility. Hospice and palliative nurses need to work in conjunction with other interdisciplinary team members. They also have to interact with different types of patients and their family members. This requires them to be flexible in their approach and accommodate the needs of others.