What is Palliative Care?

Among the various fields of medicine, palliative care plays a big role in the healthcare industry. So what is palliative care? Palliative care is catered to those who are going through life-threatening illnesses and need extra care. It’s an approach that has the goal to improve the quality of life for the patients that are suffering. This field of medicine also ensures that the families of the patients are also supported. The professionals in palliative care are responsible for providing relief from symptoms, identifying and assessing the illness, and treating pain, or any other physical, spiritual, or psycho-social problems. Often, in the world of healthcare, palliative care is paired with hospice care. But they are not the same. Hospice care is provided after the treatment of a patient’s disease has stopped, and he/she will not be able to survive the illness. Palliative care begins at the diagnosis of the disease, where treatments are provided. In this blog, I will discuss the job outlook, salary expectations, required education/experience, and the role of professionals in this specialty.

what is palliative care


To answer the question, “What is Palliative Care?” we must discuss the educational background of the specialty. Just like any other medical specialty, a professional wanting to practice in palliative care must complete a degree in either nursing or a field of medicine, which can then be followed by medical school or a master’s program. To become a palliative nurse, one must attain an Associate or Bachelor of Science in nursing. After completion, they must obtain a certification as an RN by passing the NCLEX-RN national licensing examination. An RN may want to expand their knowledge and pursue a Masters’s degree. This path can lead to certification in the field of hospice and palliative care. Registered nurses that have already obtained additional certifications (CNA, NP, LPN, APRN) can also choose to practice in palliative care as long as they meet the requirements.

In terms of a doctor specializing in palliative care, one must complete a four-year degree, as well as medical school. During the residency stage, the doctor should choose to specialize in one of the following fields: neurology, emergency medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, family practice, pediatrics, anesthesiology, gynecology, surgery and psychiatry, and internal medicine. After residency, one must complete at least a one-year fellowship. Once it is completed, an examination can be taken to become board certified in hospice and palliative care. Physician assistants may also choose this specialty once they receive their certification.

All professionals must gain certification from the state they wish to practice in.


Healthcare professionals with different job titles can work in the palliative care field. From nurse practitioners to physician assistants. As mentioned before, with the proper education and certification, there are different roles these professionals can adopt within the specialty. More importantly, the duties differentiate between a physician and a nurse. A nurse works with other health care providers to treat a patient’s illness or disease. The general duties include pain and symptom management, culturally sensitive care of patients and their families, bereavement care, interdisciplinary collaborative practice, and physical assessments. The responsibilities may vary according to the level of education a nurse has completed, and if they hold the title of a CNA, NP, LPN, or APRN.

A doctor offers care that involves managing and anticipating pain and symptoms, facilitates multi-professional support, performs procedures, managing end-stage disease processes, planning a long or short term treatment, and using a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families. Furthermore, the work setting for doctors and nurses can range from a private nursing home to a hospital.

There are also a variety of administrative positions such as social workers and managers.

Job Outlook/Salary

Ever since 2006, palliative care has been an emerging field in the healthcare industry. This specific industry is growing due to the aging population. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the outlook for nurses and practitioners will see a growth of 31% by the year 2022. The range of a palliative nurse’s salary is $48,686 – $81,468. The range of a doctor is anywhere from $150,000 to $230,000.

If you’ve ever wondered, what is palliative care, then I hope this blog gave you some insight on this topic. Palliative care is an emerging specialty and there are a variety of jobs available in this field. Anyone that holds an immense amount of compassion should consider specializing in this field.