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Five Skills Every Nurse Should Have

Career News July 4, 2013

While nursing is one of the most rewarding professions a person can choose to pursue, it is also a demanding and multifaceted career that can involve a wide variety of tasks, roles and work environments. While approximately forty-eight percent of nurses work in hospitals, most nurses also work in physicians’ offices, emergency rooms, surgical units, schools, pharmacies and other places where nursing care is needed.

Registered nurses’ (RNs) duties may include taking detailed medical histories, consulting with doctors, helping patients manage their own care, providing medication, operating medical equipment and much more. For nurses with specialties—such as neonatal nurses or rehabilitation nurses—the job requires an even more in-depth knowledge of a particular medical field.

With so much variety in the nursing field, most people are surprised to find out that nurses in all disciplines should possess one basic set of skills. Anyone who is interested in healthcare and thinking of entering nursing school will have the best chances at success if they take into account these five skills to become a nurse.


Not only do nurses deal with a variety of personalities, but those personalities are often pushed toward extremes due to the stress of handling an emergency situation or the discomfort that comes along with being sick or injured. On any given day, a nurse may deal with frustrated patients, angry family members or overworked coworkers. Nurses who can remain calm and understanding will not only manage to be less stressed out, but they will also make things easier and more pleasant for everyone around them.

Organizational Abilities

At any particular time, a nurse may be working with numerous patients, each with a distinct medical history and unique health needs. It is essential that a nurse can comfortably handle all the patients’ information, be punctual, stay prepared at all times and be able to efficiently work within the hospital’s organizational system. In the same way that faulty communication skills could result in a medical mistake, a chart or file mix-up could have similarly serious consequences.

Critical Thinking

Sometimes an RN is the only health professional in the room with a patient, and he or she may need to make a fast judgment call that could be vital for that patient’s health. While most of these abilities will become stronger over time, it is important that even nurses in the beginning stages of their careers are able to quickly assess a patient’s situation and accurately identify the next steps that need to be taken.


One of the most important skills for an RN is the capacity to genuinely care about the physical, emotional and mental well being of a patient. At times, this can be difficult because nurses also need to retain a level of focus and emotional stability, even if they are dealing with suffering patients, emergency situations and sometimes death. Patients and their loved ones are often in the midst of some of the most difficult times in their lives, so compassionate health care professionals can make a significant difference in the overall treatment experience. Successful nurses will balance compassion and emotional control while they are caring for their patients.

Excellent Communication

Whether, a nurse is recording a patient’s history, reporting information to a physician or consulting with a hospital administrator, he or she needs to be able to gather and convey information accurately and concisely. In the medical field, a communication mistake or a misunderstanding could potential lead to a wrong diagnosis or a serious medical error. Nurses who are taking information from patients need to be able to pick up on non-verbal signs, make patients comfortable about opening up, listen carefully and take accurate notes. When nurses speak with other healthcare professionals, they must be diligent in ensuring that they get across all of the pertinent information and that their facts are absolutely correct.

Anyone who is considering nursing as a profession should evaluate whether he or she possesses these important skills to become a nurse. Every nursing job is different, so prospective nurses should consider the environment and specialty they are interested in and find out what additional skills and areas of expertise they will need in order to be successful in their chosen fields.

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