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Hospice vs Palliative Care: What to Know

Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
By SimpleNursing | Published February 21st, 2023
Published February 21st, 2023
Beautiful African American Black nurse in hospice vs palliative care with a senior black man patient.

As the population ages, the demand for hospice and palliative care is expected to grow. Nursing students who learn about these types of care can prepare for future practice and meet the needs of their patients and communities.

Hospice care and palliative care are specialized areas of healthcare that focus on providing comfort, support, and symptom management to patients who are facing serious illness, end-of-life care, or chronic conditions. 

These types of care require unique skills and knowledge that are essential for nurses to provide high-quality, compassionate care to their patients.

Jump to Sections


  1. What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?
  2. Nurses Role in Palliative Care and Hospice Care
  3. Nursing Interventions for Palliative & Hospice Care
  4. Hospice vs Palliative Care NCLEX Question

The role of nurses in palliative and hospice care is to provide compassionate, holistic care to patients and families during what can be a very difficult time.

The difference between palliative care and hospice is that palliative care is designed to address physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and emotional and spiritual needs. Hospice care, on the other hand, is a type of end-of-life care provided to patients with a life-limiting illness and a prognosis of six months or less to live. 

Nurses assess the patient’s symptoms and provide appropriate interventions to manage symptoms in hospice care and palliative care.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of the illness and is often provided alongside curative treatments. It’s designed to address physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and emotional and spiritual needs.

Hospice care, on the other hand, is a type of end-of-life care provided to patients with a life-limiting illness and a prognosis of six months or less to live. Hospice care is focused on providing comfort and support to the patient and their family in the final stages of the illness. 

Hospice care typically involves managing symptoms, providing emotional and spiritual support, and helping patients and families prepare for the end of life.

While there are differences between palliative care and hospice care, they share some similarities. Both types of care are focused on improving the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, and they both involve a team-based approach that includes physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals. 

Additionally, both types of care are often provided in the patient’s home, although they can also be provided in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

Nurses Role in Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Nurses play a critical role in providing palliative and hospice care to patients nearing the end of their lives. 

One of the most important aspects of palliative and hospice care is the management of symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, and nausea. Nurses are responsible for assessing these symptoms and working with the patient’s care team to develop a management plan.

Nurses in palliative and hospice care settings often provide emotional support to both patients and their families. This may involve helping patients to express their feelings, listening to their concerns, and providing reassurance and comfort.

Nurses in these settings often serve as the central point of contact for patients, families, and other health care team members. 

Palliative and hospice care can be complex, and patients and families may have a lot of questions. Nurses can play a critical role in educating them about the care being provided, what to expect in the coming days and weeks, and how to access additional support.

Nurses in palliative and hospice care may serve as advocates for their patients, ensuring that their wishes and preferences are respected and that they receive the care they need to be as comfortable as possible.

Nursing Interventions for Palliative & Hospice Care

  • Assess the level of pain and provide appropriate pain management medications and techniques.
  • Provide comfort measures such as positioning, skin care, oral care, and massage to ensure that the patient’s physical needs are met. Also provide emotional support to patients and their families.
  • Monitor symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. 
  • Educate the patient and their family on the dying process, symptom management, and how to provide care at home. This helps empower the family to be active participants in caring for their loved one.

Neutropenia in hospice and palliative care

Neutropenia refers to having a very low white blood cell (WBC) count, which is normally 5,000 – 10,000. This happens when patients with cancer undergo chemotherapy and radiation, which kill the cancer cells and the bone marrow where WBCs are produced. These patients have a huge risk for infection.

Managing and preventing skin breakdown and infections is crucial in hospice and palliative care settings.

Hospice vs Palliative Care NCLEX Question

The husband of a client who has cancer asks what is the difference between palliative and hospice care. Which response by the nurse is best?

A. “In order to receive hospice care, the client must have a prognosis of six months or less to live.”

B. “In order to receive palliative care, the client must have a prognosis of six months or less to live.”

C. “In palliative care, clients are still able to receive treatments to manage their illness and seek curative measures and are reserved for those who are likely to expire soon. Whereas in hospice care, clients are unable to receive these treatments or cures for their condition.”

D. “In hospice care, clients are unable to receive treatments or cures for their condition. Instead, they receive comfort care to increase their quality of life during the last phases of their terminal illness. Whereas, in palliative care, clients are still able to receive treatments to manage their illness and seek curative measures.”

Answer: D

This answer explains both palliative care and hospice care. Palliative care is where a client receives comfort care through treatments or cures to manage their illness and provide relief. 

Hospice care is provided for clients with a terminal illness with a prognosis of fewer than six months to live and receive comfort care to increase their quality of life during these last phases.

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Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
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