Hospice promotes a philosophy of care that enables individuals with terminal illnesses to live their final days without pain, having their loved ones near. Care may be provided at home, in a hospital or long-term care nursing home, or in a hospice facility. Medical and other support services are provided based on the individual’s needs. While hospice supports a mission that focuses on quality of life, like any other public agency that serves the needs of people, there are general requirements for developing a hospice program before the program is prepared to deliver care.

Things You Will Need
  • State Licensing

  • Marketing Plan

  • Educational Outreach Programs

  • Board of Directors

  • Funding

  • Experienced Staff

  • Qualified Volunteers

Step 1.

Plan your hospice program and create a mission and vision statement for your program. Appoint a task force comprised of health care providers, business experts and even a legal representative to assess the need for a hospice program in the community. Discuss funding, organizational structure, leadership model, legal implications and community collaborations. Define policies and procedures.

Step 2.

Contact the appropriate agency in your state for licensing requirements. The licensing process typically involves completing necessary application forms accompanied by a license fee. Information required on the application generally includes the name of the hospice program, in addition to the business address and telephone number, list of services to be provided, and the geographic location where services will be provided. An authorized representative must sign the application certifying that the information is accurate. If the applicant meets all requirements, a license will be issued allowing the individual or facility to operate a hospice program.

Step 3.

Educate the community about hospice and palliative care in an effort to increase public awareness. During town hall meetings, roundtables with community representatives and colleagues in the area, explain the benefits of hospice care -- benefits for the patient and families. By spreading the message through outreach programs, hospice care can be recognized as the valuable community resource that it is.

Step 4.

Develop a marketing plan. The plan should explain the program’s mission; define the demographics of the service area; list available resources; identify competitors; point out specific opportunities; and establish goals and objectives. Creating a budget is tremendously important as your budget may depend on identifying funding sources and income streams.

Step 5.

Screen community leaders to sit on the Board of Directors. The selection process should begin by identifying potential candidates for the Board, taking into account the skills and experience of each of the nominees. Board members should have an understanding of how hospice programs operate, as well as basic knowledge about related financial and legal matters.

Step 6.

Recruit staff. It takes a special person to work for a hospice program. Staff members need to be well experienced and comfortable working both independently and as a team. Workers must be trained to be good listeners, providing emotional support to patients and their families. A hospice care team typcially includes nurses, home health aides, volunteers, social workers, doctors, clergy, and grief counselors.

Step 7.

Seek financial support through memorial donations and other funding. Only nonprofit hospice programs are allowed to both solicit and receive charitable contributions. Funding for hospice comes from various sources including reimbursement by Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, managed care health plans or private insurance companies, private pay, donations made by individuals, and sometimes charitable foundation grants.

Step 8.

Train volunteers who are needed to provide respite for caregivers, companionship to patients, and emotional support to families. Volunteers can be lay people or health care professionals who learn to develop a better understanding of the needs of hospice patients, and are skilled at communicating with families. Additional training in universal safety precautions, proper body mechanics used to move patients, and understanding family dynamics are helpful.


In addition to meeting state licensure requirements, hospice programs, which receive reimbursement from Medicare must also comply with federal regulations. Government reviewers periodically inspect facilities and evaluate programs to make certain that regulatory standards are being met, in which case, a program maintains its license to operate.