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Essential Soft Skills of Nursing

Career News August 31, 2013

With all of the technical information learned during nursing school, it can be easy to forget the soft skills. However, the nurses patients do best with are excellent at these interpersonal and task-related challenges. Here are some of the most important of the soft skills nurses need to have on a daily basis:


The ability to relate to patients and their personalities as well as the patients’ physical conditions are essential to being an effective nurse. The key to this is to be able to imagine oneself in the patient’s position. Taking the patient’s personal outlook into account is also crucial. A condition you think of as a minor inconvenience can seem devastating to someone with a low pain threshold or a personality that is more excitable than your own.

There is, however, a potential pitfall when attempting to practice empathy – the tendency to assume that all patients will find pain to be excruciating or all illnesses to be major. Patients who are of a more stoic mindset will be aggravated or worse if you seem to be “blowing things out of proportion.” The right solution is to see how the patient herself is taking things. Comfort the disturbed, but allow the calm to stay that way.


According to a study by the University of Michigan, nurses spend about thirty-four percent of their time multitasking. Some clinics, like Mayo Clinic, even make a point of looking for people with this skill when they hire. Patients with complex needs, multiple things happening with different patients at the same time and the normal hustle and chaos of a hospital make this ability a necessity. If you lack multitasking ability, try practicing at home by doing multiple things at the same time. Your skills should improve with practice, and by doing the practice at home, you won’t be jeopardizing any patients.

Good Judgment

Nurses are called upon to handle sudden patient situations throughout the day. They also decide when to administer medication that is given on an as-needed basis. The nurse’s knowledge of the effects of various actions, individual patient needs and other factors is crucial for obtaining optimal results.

Ability to Work as Part of a Team

Nurses must work with a variety of other health professionals to coordinate care and empower patients to do their part to get well. Pharmacists, physical therapists and even social workers may be involved in a particular patient’s case. Of course, physicians are also a key part of the team that will be working with the patient. Other nurses are often involved as well. A good nurse will be able to mesh with all of these people well enough to get the job done properly and efficiently.

Good Communications Ability

One thing most patients don’t like about the hospital experience is the feeling that they don’t know what’s going on. When someone is sick, they naturally feel vulnerable as it is – a lack of information only makes these feelings worse. The ability to communicate essential information to patients as well as others on the professional team is essential. Patients will favorably remember the nurses that helped them clear the information fog and stay abreast of their treatments.

A nurse that has these soft skills along with the necessary “hard” knowledge will be an excellent medical practitioner. If you’re a nurse or are thinking of becoming one, make sure to practice these skills even if your school doesn’t emphasize them. They make the difference between a person who makes patients anxious and one that allows them to be calm and proactive in their progress.

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