If you’re an aspiring nursing student, you may be wondering what skills and qualities create the best nurses in the field. You may have asked yourself how you can effectively develop these skills during your time in school.
Many of the best nurses in healthcare have considerable experience, and there’s one thing that they all share in common: the desire to be lifelong learners. Their education doesn’t stop after their training is finished.
While you may not have abundant direct experience in the field just yet, you can still begin to cultivate the desire to be a lifelong learner by reading about the top skills and qualities that every good nurse possesses.
What defines a good nurse?
Most nurse practitioners agree that a good nurse can bring their strengths to a new healthcare team and be receptive to strengthening their weaknesses by taking direction from management and peers. A good nurse works to create positive patient outcomes and strengthen the nursing profession.
They’re conscientious about the healthcare they provide and are constantly working to find solutions for their organization, healthcare team and patients.
Why is it imperative to be a good nurse?
Nursing is a demanding job that requires you to build and strengthen specific skills to fulfill your job duties daily. Understanding that your role as a nurse is fundamental to the success of your healthcare team is essential. You’re on the frontlines advocating for your patients, their families and the nursing profession.
The way that you present yourself to your patients and peers while performing your job impacts the overall success of the organization you represent.
When you develop the skills and qualities of an effective, successful nurse, you become an invaluable asset to the healthcare team and patients who rely on you.
What are the essential skills and qualities that aspiring nurses need?
There are several skills and qualities that create a great nurse, and the cultivation of those skills and qualities begins with great online nursing programs for many of today’s top nursing professionals. Programs such as the one at Elmhurst University are a great chance to take advantage of online teaching while gaining practical experience during placements. With its academic resources and supportive staff, it is a great learning environment for anyone.
The list ahead is not exhaustive but provides an insight into which skills a good training program will teach an aspiring nurse.
1. Exceptional communication
Being a clear and effective communicator is one of the essential skills that any nurse at any experience level should have. Communication in nursing often involves liaising between other nurses, patients and their family members, and any part of your management team.
Effective communication ultimately results in better patient care, creating more positive outcomes for their healthcare-related needs. For example, nurses who communicate effectively can better educate patients and their families about illnesses, treatments and medications they may require.
When nurses communicate clearly between other nurses and healthcare team members, patients receive better continuity of care and decrease the risk of patient care errors. Conversely, a nurse who does not possess confident communication skills could cause seriously adverse, if not fatal, outcomes for their patients.
If you’re a nursing student looking to improve your communication skills, you can start by becoming a better active listener. You can begin by focusing your undivided attention on the person you are interacting with, along with comprehending what they are saying through direct communication and expressing through nonverbal communication.
2. Positive attitude
A positive attitude in the nursing profession, especially regarding patient advocacy, is vital. Advocating for your patients means respecting them equally as human beings while protecting their rights within the healthcare setting. When a positive attitude toward patient care is present, better-quality patient care can be administered, thus improving overall patient care and the nursing profession.
As a nurse, you spend more direct time with patients than any other healthcare team member. Your job should be to keep other team members informed about your interactions with patients to help improve patient care. Don’t be afraid to take patient requests to other team members who may be able to help them during difficult times.
Compassion is the desire to help others. Compassion in the nursing profession inspires others to take actions related to how others feel by helping to alleviate the pain and suffering they may be experiencing.
You can become a more compassionate nurse by being polite and mindful of your mannerisms around patients and peers. Show patients that you care by displaying an interest in what they care about most.
Take the time to reflect on the possible feelings that a patient and their family are experiencing and continue communicating openly with them. Open communication establishes trust, allowing patients to feel more comfortable and relaxed with you.
Empathy is usually at the top of the list of patient-centered skills. Empathy is a soft skill that allows you to understand other points of view without judgment. As an empathetic nurse, it is not your job to change your patient’s thoughts and feelings but to better understand why they think and feel the way that they do.
By improving your empathy, you are demonstrating the ability to better connect with patients and their families by taking direct action on their behalf to improve the overall quality of care.
Great nurses naturally become more empathetic by listening to and respecting their patients’ thoughts and feelings, while maintaining an open and sincere dialogue with them throughout their healthcare journey.
5. Clinical reasoning
Clinical reasoning is the ability to assess and manage point-of-care patient issues. Point-of-care patient issues occur at the bedside or within a physician’s office.
Clinical reasoning involves observing patients through the information you receive from them, including planning and implementing interventions, along with evaluating possible patient outcomes. Clinical reasoning is a skill that requires continuous learning in the field.
You can improve this skill by making better critical and timely decisions for patient care. Frequently, clinical reasoning can be the cause of either excellent or poor outcomes for patients. You can follow these steps to better understand the process behind effective clinical reasoning in any healthcare setting.
Flexibility is a must-have soft skill for new nurses and encompasses the ability to adapt, modify or accommodate new ideas, thoughts and behaviors.
The healthcare field is far from static – it is constantly evolving and expanding into new physical and intellectual territory. From technology to patient care best practices, it is all constantly changing and being reassessed.
Flexibility allows new nurses to work through the changes related to their unique roles in healthcare settings.
Flexible nurses can offer better patient-related care while remaining calm under pressure, efficient and professional. You can improve your flexibility in the workplace by showing a willingness to learn new things, while remaining calm under pressure and developing a strong support network among your peers.
7. Attention to detail
Attention to detail as a nurse means paying attention to all the different aspects of a project or task. Nurses who are focused and detail-oriented often have things in precise order. Organizational accuracy, neatness and cleanliness are their top priorities.
On the other hand, if you are highly detail-oriented, and any of these aspects of your project are out of order, you may feel that you can’t work under these circumstances.
While others may see minor details as insignificant, detail-oriented nurses know that critical and timely patient care requires significant attention to both micro and macro healthcare tasks. Improving this skill requires understanding your assigned tasks and communicating clearly with patients and colleagues.
Don’t be afraid to take small breaks to avoid burnout and break large projects or assignments into more manageable chunks.
Prioritization is determining the correct order of patient care and other nursing duties according to their importance and urgency.
A nurse best demonstrates prioritization by organizing care according to what benefits the patients and healthcare team the most (also known as a preferred order).
Prioritization requires a skilled nurse to organize multiple tasks by their importance, separate from multitasking. Nurse leaders can use prioritization to delegate duties and responsibilities to other team members to achieve the best patient health results.
A nurse with a great deal of integrity will possess the qualities of being honest, moral and fair. When facing complex healthcare challenges, nurses with integrity can better execute their job responsibilities and hold themselves accountable for their actions.
In addition, professional nurses can improve integrity by following through on commitments and showing appreciation for the efforts of their peers.
10. Emotional stability
For a nurse to remain stable, balanced and even-tempered in stressful healthcare situations, they need to have excellent emotional stability. As a professional nurse, you face daily physical, mental and emotional stress, which can bring up emotional responses of all types, from deep sadness to joy.
To manage patients and their families effectively, a nurse must exhibit a calm, stable and emotionally balanced persona – even if they feel otherwise. By always remaining steadfast and mindful of your thoughts and emotions, you can strengthen emotional stability. However, remember to be patient with yourself. Emotional stability is a learned skill and will take time to master.
11. Critical thinking
A nurse who exhibits the ability to solve complex problems related to patient care and decision-making is a nurse who has critical thinking capabilities. Critical thinkers can collect information, evaluate facts for truth, and develop rational, objective conclusions. Critical thinking is how we self-direct ourselves to troubleshoot difficult decisions and processes.
While many nurses practice as part of a larger healthcare team, they are still required to act autonomously in many situations. This requires them to apply critical and creative thinking strategies. The five components of critical thinking are problem recognition, task prioritization, clinical decision-making, clinical implementation and task reflection.
Perseverance, especially for new nursing graduates, means never giving up. It’s the ability to pursue a goal or a passion over time and successfully overcome obstacles and setbacks while achieving those goals.
Perseverance requires nurses to overcome self-doubt and build self-confidence to ensure that patients receive the best possible care in any setting. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, understand why you did and don’t repeat the same mistake twice – that is steadfast perseverance.
13. Contextual perspective
Considering all the variables that might affect a clinical situation is known as contextual perspective. For example, economic considerations, ethnic influences and interpersonal dynamics can all affect clinical cases involving patients’ health.
With a contextual perspective, nurses can work to improve evidence-based practices in patient care without threatening the patient’s informed consent.
Developing and maintaining core nursing competencies can help improve contextual evidence for new and experienced nurses. In addition, recognizing that each patient is a unique individual with different ethnic, economic and social backgrounds can help you develop your own perspective related to patients’ individual needs.
Nurses exhibit versatility when they find ways to adapt to different workplace functions, responsibilities and activities. In addition, highly versatile nurses will explore new discipline approaches and activities within their profession, further helping them to develop an open-minded approach to caring for their patients.
Versatility in nursing is essential for helping patients to regain their independence through a give-and-take approach to care. Nurses understand that a patient’s status is susceptible to change at a moment’s notice. Therefore, a good nurse will be able to adapt and show versatility in their care regardless of whether they face short staffing or other related workplace problems.
If you want to improve your versatility in the workplace, don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone. Nurses who take on assignments in different departments will begin to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and ultimately be more prepared to adapt to a more significant number of departmental and client needs.
When nurses can find unique ways to overcome complex challenges, they use resourcefulness. Resourcefulness within professional nursing involves critical and creative problem-solving skills to address patient problems. When time is limited during critical patent care scenarios, a resourceful nurse can make the most of that time to provide the best possible care tailored to the patient’s needs.
Finding ways to improve the efficiency of patient care, satisfaction and outcomes will ensure that any nurse can improve their resourcefulness. Remember to practice self-evaluation, seek ways to improve your perspective, and evaluate and learn from more experienced nurses within your healthcare facility.
15. Time management
Planning and controlling the amount of time that we spend on specific activities is known as time management, and nurses must have exceptional time management skills from the very start.
A professional nurse often has many patients in different stages of illness or injury, forcing them to plan their time with each patient accordingly. When nurses have time management skills, they can provide the best possible care to their patients individually.
Prioritizing patient care and planning your day according to the importance of those priorities will help any nurse to better manage their time. Above all else, remember to remain open and transparent in your communication with patients and colleagues. Keeping the proper people informed about what needs to be done during the rest of the day will ensure that nothing gets left undone when it’s time to go home.
If you’ve made it this far, then it should already be clear that you have the desire to become the best possible nurse that you can be. The top nursing qualities and skills provided in this guide should be helpful to nurses with varying experience levels. In addition, they can easily be shared with your fellow students and working peers.
We hope that you already have many of these skills. This will help you to create positive growth for yourself and positive outcomes for your patients, healthcare team and organization.