Since 2000, the hospice industry has experienced unprecedented growth. So where are we, in 2015, as an industry?

We’ve reviewed the latest statistics from the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), Medicare, and a study of team attitudes and relationships in hospice care (the STAR study) that focused on the challenges of hospice staffing. The main theme the studies uncovered: Increasing demand to an already stretched industry.

Read on to discover hospice by the numbers.

2014 Medicare Report[1]

  • The number of patients receiving benefits for hospice grew 58% from 2000-2012
  • The number of hospice providers only increased by 39%. This confirms what you may already know–that hospice care providers are spread thin, with increasing caseloads and fewer resources.
  • Medicare’s expenditures on hospice care exploded from $2.9 billion to $15.1 billion (an 80% increase)[2]

2014 NHPCO Facts and Figures

  • 2 million people received hospice care
  • Freestanding agencies provided the majority of care.[3]
  • Average daily census for hospice: 137
  • 30% averaged over 100 patients per day
  • Average length of service increased to 72.6 days
  • The majority of hospice patients are white females, age 65+
  • 94% of hospice patients receive routine home care

What does that mean for hospice staff?

A study of team attitudes and relationships, the STAR study, found that helping patients, teamwork, and hours are key influences on hospice staff job satisfaction. Respondents also emphasized the need for emotional support, a manageable workload, and the importance of having time to recover from a difficult loss – all difficult challenges for hospice a administrator to meet.[4]

The STAR Study Findings

With the increasing numbers of patients receiving hospice care, it is no wonder that the STAR study found that

  •  78% of hospice nurses were at moderate to high risk of compassion fatigue
  • 26% were in the high-risk category

The key elements of compassion fatigue are the trauma, anxiety, and excessive empathy required of those working in palliative care.[5] Hospice staff face considerable emotional, clinical, and logistical challenges in providing care and the need for managing burnout is growing. The study advised that the only way staff can distant themselves from these stressors is to have time off from work [Abendroth, p. 2].

The picture of hospice in the US today is one of unprecedented growth with several indicators–an aging population, increased need for hospice care, and fewer staffing resources–pointing to the need to prioritize the well being of hospice caregivers, who will be expected to support this growing industry.

Need Support?

If your hospice nurses are experiencing the warning signs of stress as a result of the growing demands on our industry, maybe we can help. Call AfterHours Triage at 888.260.8460 to learn more about what telephone triage can do for your hospice organization.


[1]   Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Medicare Payment Policy Report to Congress. March 2014.

[2]   Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Medicare Payment Policy Report to Congress. March 2014.

[3] NHPCO’s Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America. 2014 Edition. National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

[4]   Qaseem B, Shea J, Connor SR, Casarett D. How well are we supporting hospice staff? Initial results of the Survey of Team Attitudes and Relationships (STAR) validation study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.  October 2007;34(4): 350-358

[5]   Abendroth M, Flannery J. Predicting the risk of compassion fatigue: A study of hospice nurses. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. 2006; 8:346-356