Having a nursing career means you’ll need to prepare for a fast-paced and satisfying job. Considering that you’ll have to deal with many patients in unexpected situations and be responsible for their care, you’ll need several essential skills and qualities to enjoy a nursing career.
The right balance of skills will mean that you have both technical skills (hard skills) and personal qualities (soft skills). A good combination of skills and qualities will help guide you through the intricacies of the nursing profession.
Suppose you are a prospective nursing student or are already within the profession and are thinking about the essential skills that’ll positively impact your career. In that case, you’re on the right path. Having a nurse’s vital skills and qualities can make the difference between life and death.
In this article, we point out the most basic set of skills and qualities that a nurse can develop to have a quality career. We also highlight the reasons why these skills are essential in the profession. However, let’s first discuss why the right set of skills is necessary for the nursing profession.
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What are Nursing Skills?
Nursing skills are the type of skills that qualified nurses employ right from the beginning of their careers. Aside from the professional training and prerequisite education obtained for qualification, nurses also develop skills based on experience, personality types, and other factors. While some of these skills are meant for specific nursing fields, the bulk of them can be helpful for general practice.
Interestingly, some universities like Rockhurst University offer accredited programs to teach nurse practitioner skills required to achieve career goals. By taking this degree, you will gain advanced knowledge and skills, allowing you to diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medication and provide comprehensive care across the lifespan in a variety of healthcare settings.
Whether you take accredited programs or consciously develop these skills on your own, there’s no denying that they are indispensable for a quality nursing career.
Why You Need the Right Skills and Qualities as a Nurse
There’s no denying that nursing can be a challenging job. However, it can also be rewarding and satisfying when you consider the quality of care you can bring to the lives of others.
Nurses require a positive disposition to grow and develop within the profession. They are significant members of any healthcare facility. Their approach to their work will impact patient outcomes and relationships with other professionals in their workplaces.
Skilled nurse strives to bring out the best in their team members and enhance patient outcomes to the best of their ability. With their expertise, nurses can serve as problem solvers, regardless of the work setting.
Now, let us take a look into these essential nurse skills.
Hard Nursing Skills v. soft Nursing Skills
Generally, hard skills are the type of skills that are acquired through education, training, and real-time experience in the role. For nurses, this will mean skills like knowledge of the categories of medicine, identifying emergencies, and dealing with them, etc. Medical knowledge and understanding the different types of medication are essential for their job.
In contrast, soft skills refer to personality traits and qualities you pick up from experience and working with others. Soft skills are transferable skills that can be learned from professional and personal experiences. Good examples of soft skills are communication, empathy, and attention to detail.
The primary defining factor between these types of skills is the manner through which they are acquired and used in different situations. However, despite the differences between the two types of skills, it’s essential to have the right combination of both to ensure that you are not only a highly qualified nurse but can also navigate the complexities of the profession.
12 Skills and Qualities that Nurses Need for a Thriving Career
Whether they work in a hospital, clinic, or community setting, nurses play a crucial role in providing quality healthcare to patients. 12 essential skills and qualities that nurses need to excel in their career and provide the best possible care to their patients include:
1. Effective communication
Being an effective communicator means that you’re able to convey the right messages to and from your patients as required. This is an essential skill for a nurse because you liaise with patients, their family members, and other members of your healthcare facility. When you’re an effective communicator, you can guarantee quality care for your patients, which is the end goal of most treatment procedures.
You’ll be better equipped to inform your patients, and everyone involved, about the ailments, treatments, and medication plans that must be followed. On the flip side, if you’re a poor communicator, it can have dreadful consequences like a collection of inaccurate data, medication, and treatment errors. All of these will eventually have a negative impact on the patient’s outcome.
You can consciously improve on this skill by learning to listen actively when others speak and understand what they’re saying and not saying.
2. Problem-solving and Critical Thinking
Being able to think critically and solve problems skillfully is also essential for nurses. These qualities mean that you are able to handle complex situations, calmly make decisions, and develop practical solutions. As a nurse, you’re working within a dynamic environment that requires you to think on your feet.
The ability to process information quickly, evaluate the conditions before you, and then make informed decisions in different levels of situations is vital for nurses. Critical thinking essentially means recognizing a problem, prioritizing correctly, making clinical decisions, implementing them, and reflecting on them.
Critical thinking skills for nurses ensure that safer and better decisions are made on behalf of their patients. A lot of the time, a good decision can make the difference between the survival or death of a patient.
3. Time Management
Nursing tops the list when you think about the busiest and most time-consuming jobs today. There are many tasks and activities on the ground with a limited amount of time to work with. Therefore, time management is a skill that nurses must have to optimize their work within their facilities. The capacity to manage your day and prioritize the tasks at hand is fundamental to affecting all of your duties as the days go by.
With the right time management skills, nurses can effectively deliver care to their patients and carry out their responsibilities promptly, which will positively affect patient outcomes. You can develop this quality by planning your day ahead of time and working based on priorities. Also, learn to begin tasks early and work in an organized space. All of these habits, amongst others, will ensure that you pick up the essential skill of time management.
Nurses who lack empathy may find it challenging to connect with their patients and improve their situations. This is because empathy means the ability to see, appreciate, and share other people’s viewpoints, without judgment. Empathy helps nurses to understand patient needs and improve their treatment outcomes.
For hospitals and facilities that practice the patient-centered approach to nursing care, empathy is an important quality that nurses need to have. Empathy is also instrumental in encouraging conversation with patients about their feelings and outlook on hospital provisions.
Empathy is one skill that can be developed with the implementation of new behaviors. To improve your empathic abilities, you can open your mind to showing genuine interest in your patients, listening to what they say, and being as compassionate as possible.
This is another vital skill for nurses. Since they typically deal with critical situations, nurses must be confident in their ability to handle them. To a nurse, confidence means self-assurance in their ability to function in the capacity that they’re in while providing effective and excellent patient care. Indeed, there’s a thin line between confidence and cockiness, but confident nurses are those who do their work with professionalism, curiosity, and enthusiasm.
You can build your confidence level by, first of all, building your knowledge base. Knowing that you are well-educated about a specific topic will boost your confidence in practicing it. Also, feel free to ask questions when you need clarification about situations. Understand that different nurses approach different problems in different ways. Embrace your uniqueness and make it work for you.
6. Ethics and Confidentiality
This is another set of soft skills that you need to have as a nurse. It would help if you were guided by moral principles that stir you toward the right ways to make decisions. Also, nurses must follow a Code of Ethics that makes provisions for a set of rules relating to respecting human dignity, patient commitment, protecting patient rights, and equal treatment of all patients. Maintaining ethics in your daily work can ensure that a patient’s life is safer.
Nurses must also always consider confidentiality. Strict patient confidentiality standards reduce the chance of releasing sensitive and personal information about a patient without their permission. Ensure that the Code of Ethics guides you through your decisions and actions.
7 Attention to Detail
Having excellent attention to detail indicates that you like to have tasks and project particulars all in order. It also means that you derive satisfaction from organization, neatness, accuracy, and precision. Being detail-oriented is an essential quality for nurses because it means that they’ll understand the minor details that may become important aspects of tasks. Nurses who are detail-oriented have a better chance of noticing changes in their patients and working efficiently to solve problems.
Attention to detail is something that can be learned in a number of ways. First, ensure that you understand instructions before you start a task. Also, rather than take on tasks as a whole, why not break them down into smaller achievable chunks so you can carry them out easily?
8. Teamwork and Responsibility
No matter the healthcare setting they’re in, nurses always work in collaboration with others. They either work with other nurses, physicians, or other team members. That’s why having team-playing skills is vital for success. Not only does working as a team promote a healthy workplace, but it also ensures that tasks are carried out in the best possible and quickest ways.
Patients also tend to trust and communicate more with the nurses than with other types of healthcare practitioners, so it’s important to build an atmosphere of harmony with open communication. Taking responsibility and being dependable is another aspect of teamwork that’s important for nurses to have.
Patients will depend on the nurses to come in and carry out their assigned tasks. Their other team members will rely on them to carry out their duties of providing care for patients. In a situation where a teammate needs to catch up, it becomes much harder to achieve tasks when necessary.
9. Flexibility and Versatility
Flexibility is the capacity to adapt, modify, and change behaviors, thoughts, and ideas, while versatility is the willingness to adapt to new situations, changes, and responsibilities.
These skills are important to nurses because of the ever-evolving and changing nature of the healthcare industry. From the constant change in the use of technology to the most unexpected activities that may come up, nurses need to be fully equipped to successfully adapt to any situation.
A flexible nurse can quickly work through the challenges that come along, and a versatile nurse knows just the right way of navigating situations that come up. These skills may be challenging to develop, especially when you consider how certain nurses prefer some specialty or style of working. However, it can become easier to grow with an open mind.
Ensure that you start to take on assignments in other departments, as this will help to equip you with new skills. Also, developing a strong support network within your team ensures that you can call for help when necessary and learn from them also.
This describes the ability of a professional to find quick and innovative ways to tackle difficulties when they come. Resourcefulness comes in handy and may work hand-in-hand with critical thinking skills when you’re working on addressing patient problems.
One primary reason resourcefulness is key is because of how precious time is within the healthcare space. Being a resourceful person means that you’re able to make the most of the time and limited resources made available to you.
Resourcefulness can also be learned when you, first of all, understand your knowledge level and then you actively work on improving yourself. When you proactively seek out information and learn from others, it becomes easier to integrate this knowledge into your own learning experiences.
Commitment in a professional setting means staying committed to work and all that has to be done. It also goes without saying that nurses who genuinely want satisfying careers must demonstrate a high level of commitment to their patients and the work required. When a nurse is committed, they’re able to earn the confidence of their patient and other team members while delivering their work.
You can increase your commitment level as a professional when you develop new skills that are relevant to your role and show more dedication to the patients that you care for.
12. Work-life Balance
One important skill that nurses must develop if they want to enjoy their career for as long as they can is maintaining work and life balance. If you’re not careful, you might be tempted to neglect other aspects of life just because of the level of workload that you have to handle.
You must maintain a healthy work-life balance to have a rewarding nursing career. So, ensure that you set aside time for self-care, spend some time with friends and family, and do other things that you love aside from work. If all you do is work, it won’t be long before you get stressed and burnt out, and this may take a toll on the quality of output you put out there.
Learning this long list of skills is an essential asset for a career journey in nursing. Not only do these skills put you in a better position with your healthcare employers during the hiring process, but they will also improve your work and patient outcomes at the end of the day.
Everyone is capable of learning new things and evolving. If you truly desire to thrive in your career, take the bold step of improving on these positive qualities today. The list above is an excellent place to start from. The more skilled you become, the easier it will be for you to have a rewarding nursing career.