Nurses are multi-skilled professionals that rely on a breadth of knowledge and experience to perform their jobs effectively. The demanding position requires them to have a range of both hard and soft skills, along with certain personality traits that help them succeed.
Understanding which skills nurses possess can help you develop the necessary skill set to excel in your own nursing career. In this article, we explore some of the most important skills for nurses to help you understand what it takes to do the job effectively.
Top 11 skills for aspiring nurses to develop
Regardless of where you are in your nursing journey, whether you’re in the process of doing an RN to BSN online or you’re already a fully qualified nurse, understanding the most important skills in nursing can help you improve and advance your career. Here are some of the most important skills these professionals rely on:
Being a team player and knowing how and when to support your colleagues is an essential skill for nurses, as smooth-running clinical environments depend on effective cooperation. Relying on your team for support and advice also helps you make correct decisions under pressure, as nurses often find themselves in stressful and time-sensitive situations. Offering emotional support to your colleagues also helps you establish support networks that you can also rely on, as it’s important to maintain your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Working well with others also helps you deliver the best possible care to patients and ensure care continuity.
Nurses frequently have to evaluate situations and decide what’s best for their patients, weighing up the various factors and proceeding intelligently. Critical thinking is essential for effective decision making, problem solving and learning new skills and information. To ensure the best possible outcomes, nurses need to think logically and consider all variables in front of them, as ineffective thinking can lead to mistakes. The five pillars of critical thinking for nurses are problem recognition, prioritization, clinical decision making, clinical implementation and reflection. Be sure to write things down and closely analyze situations to develop your critical thinking.
Empathy is another vital skill in nursing, as it helps you understand not only the thoughts and feelings of your patients, but also those of your colleagues and your patients’ families. This can help you tailor your actions towards what’s best for the emotional wellbeing of those around you, leading to more effective and compassionate care provision. Empathy can also help you identify your patients’ needs, as they might not always be able to communicate them for various reasons. Placing yourself into the shoes of others can help you identify with their suffering and make decisions that benefit them.
As recent events have emphasized, nurses can get seriously busy at times, so being an effective multitasker is a valuable skill. Nurses often deal with several patients at once and it’s necessary for them to be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Being able to multitask also increases the speed and efficiency of caregiving, enabling you to help more people in a given day. If you execute several tasks simultaneously in an organized way, you can maintain high quality standards while also boosting your productivity. This is often a requirement for nurses, who rely on multitasking skills to deliver care.
This is one personality trait and skill that nurses can’t do without, as establishing trusting relationships with patients requires a sound moral compass and honesty. Nurses with integrity can encourage people to open up to them about their thoughts and feelings, as patients can trust that the information is in safe hands. It’s also important for patients to express themselves openly and honestly to nurses, as this helps guide care decisions. Because nurses are in positions of authority and they witness things that are highly sensitive to people, integrity is an absolutely essential quality.
Nurses also need integrity because they have a lot of important responsibilities, and it’s essential for them to be accountable for their actions for the good of those in their care. For example, if a nurse makes an error, or their colleague makes an error in front of them, this needs to be reported so the proper corrective actions can take place. Even a small mistake, such as incorrectly filing documents, can have drastic repercussions, because it may affect a patient’s continuity of care. This means nurses must have integrity and be honest in such circumstances.
Nurses often act as leaders, and when they lead effectively, they can deliver better outcomes for patients. This is because stronger, better organized teams achieve greater outcomes in terms of safety and quality, and overcome challenges much more easily. When assuming leadership roles, nurse leaders inspire, motivate and support their peers, offering high-quality feedback and promoting ongoing improvement. As such, it’s important for nurses and aspiring nurses to develop their charisma, rapport-building abilities and public speaking skills, as these all enable you to lead effectively. Forming good relationships with your colleagues and being able to delegate effectively are also traits of a good leader.
Attentiveness is a valuable skill in nursing, as nurses must be aware of their patient’s needs at all times. When looking after multiple people simultaneously, this is especially important, because you might miss something important if you’re focusing disproportionately on one person. Spreading your attention out equally amongst patients is essential to ensure the best outcomes. Attentiveness is also vital when communicating with patients, as small details can often give away important facts. Being attentive to body language, for example, may help you extract deeper meaning when discussing things with patients.
Nursing involves interacting with people constantly, including organizational leaders, other healthcare professionals and patients. As such, it’s vital to be an effective communicator and have great interpersonal skills. Nurse practitioners communicate in various ways, and the job requires them to have strong writing, speaking and listening skills. Effective communication in all these areas is imperative, as miscommunications can lead to serious problems, such as patients being confused about how to follow treatment plans or other staff receiving unclear directions.
Being a competent practitioner is an obvious skill, but it can’t be neglected, even as the years go by. There’s always more to learn in this field and always areas in which you can prove, so be sure to maintain your competence in all relevant areas. Once you are entirely competent in your respective area, you can more confidently practice independently. Overestimating your competence can put patients at risk, so it’s important to be realistic and highly self aware. Never practice outside your realm of expertise, as it’s essential to be fully trained and experienced before attempting new things.
You can develop your competencies in various ways, such as by attending courses and completing certification programs in relevant areas, or by shadowing more senior employees. Always ask questions if you’re uncertain, and constantly develop your knowledge through self study and research. Many organizations also host seminars and conferences for nurse practitioners, and these are certainly worth attending.
Nurse practitioners are busy people and the demands placed on them are increasing constantly. For these reasons, knowing how to manage your time effectively so you can dedicate it to people fairly is crucial. The way you manage your time can directly impact the experiences of patients, as they may have to wait unnecessarily if you don’t complete tasks with acceptable windows. This is not to say that nurse practitioners should rush however, but it’s crucial for them to use the time they spend with patients wisely. Learning how to control conversations to avoid digression is a good time-management skill.
Diagnosing illnesses and prescribing effective treatments can be viewed as a form of complex problem solving, so it’s great for nurses to have advanced analytical skills. This helps them analyze the evidence they have and make sensible conclusions for the betterment of their patients. Nurses must gather and analyze complex data, solve problems and make intelligent decisions. Having such skills helps nurses treat patients not only quickly, but effectively, and both are essential for helping patients in the best possible way. Being analytical means challenging assumptions, asking questions, considering potential outcomes, exercising critical thinking skills and making evidence-based decisions.