Why you should consider becoming a certified hospice and palliative nurse

Nursing Professional Development
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Becoming a certified hospice and palliative nurse enhances your ability to care for the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of your patients and their families.

By: Shirley Bagby, Hospice clinical operations consultant

Never before has hospice and palliative care been spotlighted as it is in today’s healthcare environment. More people than ever before are choosing to have comfort and quality at the end of life for themselves and their loved ones.

As hospice and palliative care professionals, each of us should take pride in our expertise and commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care at the end of life. Many of us have years of experience and education to draw upon that allows us to be advocates, as well as teachers, for our patients and families who are facing a life-limiting disease.

One way to further our commitment to our field is through certification. While licensure assures minimal competency to practice as a nurse in the field, certification indicates mastery of a defined body of knowledge.

According to the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, becoming a certified hospice and palliative nurse (CHPN)  is one way to claim and validate our expertise as hospice and palliative care professionals.

By becoming a CHPN, you advance your knowledge in the hospice and palliative industry, demonstrate dedication to the profession, prove your commitment to improving patient outcomes and gain industry-wide recognition.

In 2003, I was working for a company as an occupational health nurse. I loved my job, but one day I had a conversation that would change my life. The woman said to me, “You would make a great hospice nurse.”

At that time, I knew very little about hospice and it had never occurred to me that hospice would be an industry I’d be interested in. After that conversation, it seemed like every article I picked up or flyer that came in the mail was related to hospice.

I decided to reach out to a couple of my nursing school friends who I knew worked in hospice, and they  all said that working in hospice was the best decision they had ever made. I soon realized that being an occupational health nurse wasn’t my calling after all, and finally decided to transition over to hospice.

I began working in the hospice industry as a registered nurse case manager. I have now worked in hospice for the last 17 years and serve as a clinical operations consultant for the hospice team at Encompass Health.

I can’t even begin to put in to words the love I have felt and the life changing experiences I have while caring for hospice patients and their families. These experiences have driven me to pursue becoming a CHPN.

What are the benefits of becoming a CHPN?

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I become a CHPN?”

There are several certifications available for specialty fields within the nursing profession. In 1998, I became a certified occupation health nurse, which opened many doors and opportunities for me in that field of nursing. Since joining the hospice industry, becoming a certified hospice and palliative nurse has been a career goal for me for many years and I am now in the midst of preparing for my exam.

Becoming a CHPN will enhance my ability to provide greater care for the patients and families with their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. Increasing my knowledge and competence in specialized areas of hospice and palliative care by becoming certified will provide benefits and advantages for my personal and professional growth

Who is eligible to become a CHPN?

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

  1. Must hold a current, unrestricted registered nurse license in the United States.
  2. Must also have hospice and palliative nursing practice of 500 hours in the most recent 12 months or 1,000 hours in the most recent 24 months prior to applying for the examination.

What is covered on the CHPN examination?

The certification examination is computer-based and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions to be completed in a three-hour window. The examination covers your ability to recall specific information, the ability to comprehend, relate or apply knowledge to new or changing situations, and the ability to analyze information and determine solutions.

Generic drug names are used throughout the examination, inserted in individual situations as determined by the examination committee.

There are several different websites, organizations, study guides and courses that are available through The Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association and other accredited websites.

If you are considering becoming a CHPN or pursuing another nursing certification, I encourage you to join me in taking on that commitment to those we serve by enhancing your knowledge. If we all strive to be the best we can be, then we will help our patients and their loved ones achieve the best possible outcomes as well.

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.