The Death Visit from a Hospice Nurse

Published on November 10, 2023

Updated on November 9, 2023

Losing a loved one is an incredibly challenging and emotional experience, and witnessing someone's final moments can be overwhelming, especially if you have never been through it before. As a with years of experience, I understand the importance of providing guidance and support during this time. In this article, I want to help prepare you for what to expect during the death visit and explain the role of the hospice registered nurse in the pronouncement process.

The Death Visit: What to Expect

When a terminally ill patient is nearing the end of their life, focuses on ensuring their comfort and dignity. Here's a breakdown of what the death visit may look like from your perspective as a family member or caregiver:

Emotional Support

  • The hospice team understands the emotional weight you are carrying and will provide compassionate support throughout the process.
  • Take the time to express your feelings, share memories, and say your goodbyes. It's okay to feel a range of emotions, and the hospice team is there to help you navigate them.

Physical Changes

  • As death approaches, the patient's breathing may become irregular, and there may be pauses between breaths. This is a natural part of the dying process.
  • The patient may also experience changes in skin color, temperature, and muscle tone. These changes are a result of the body's natural transition.

Pronouncement of Death

  • The hospice registered nurse has the responsibility of pronouncing the patient's death.
  • During the pronouncement process, the nurse will carefully assess the patient to ensure they have expired. This includes checking for the absence of such as pulse, breathing, and heart sounds.

Providing Comfort

  • The nurse will ensure that the patient is comfortable and peaceful. They may adjust the patient's position, administer any necessary medications for symptom management, and provide supportive care.

Guidance and Assistance

  • The hospice registered nurse will you through the necessary steps following the patient's death, including contacting the funeral home or the appropriate authorities, if required.
  • They can help answer any questions you may have and provide information on next steps, such as obtaining the death certificate.

The Role of the Hospice Registered Nurse

During the pronouncement process, the hospice registered nurse plays a vital role in ensuring that the patient has passed away peacefully. Here's what the nurse will be doing:


  • The nurse will carefully monitor the patient's vital signs to confirm that they have expired.
  • They will check for the absence of pulse, breathing, and heart sounds.

Documenting the Time of Death

  • Once the nurse has confirmed the patient's passing, they will document the time of death accurately.
  • The registered nurse will also call the provider who will sign the death certificate to let them know of the date and time of cease-to-breathe.
  • The registered nurse will also call the funeral home as well. In some geographic areas, the county coroner also has to be called; and if that's the case, this is often done prior to calling the funeral home.

Providing Support and Guidance

  • The nurse will offer emotional support to the family and caregivers, allowing them to grieve and process their emotions.
  • They will you through the necessary steps following the patient's death, including contacting the appropriate individuals or organizations.

Ensuring Comfort

  • Throughout the pronouncement process, the nurse will prioritize the patient's comfort and dignity.
  • They will make any necessary adjustments to ensure the patient is in a peaceful and comfortable state.

You Are Not Alone

Remember, you are not alone during this grim time. The hospice registered nurse is there to provide guidance, support, and compassionate care for both the patient and the family. Reach out to them with any questions or concerns you may have—they are here to help.

Allow yourself to grieve and remember that everyone's journey is unique. Lean on your support system, and don't hesitate to seek additional support from counselors, support groups, or other resources available to you.


Hospice Death Call~ How To Comfort A Family You've Never Met

Pronouncing patient's death should be timely, respectful

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