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Nurse First News Blog

Top 7 Skills Every Nurse Should Have

Posted June 21, 2021

Nurses need to have specific skills to excel in the field. Some skills will come easier to you than others. The good news is you can always practice and refine these skills throughout your career.  Taking the time to focus on these seven will make a huge difference throughout your career. You’ll notice that these nursing skills tend to overlap with one another. Let’s walk through the top skills every nurse should have and use! 

Communication

two nurses looking over patient chart and communicating about it.

Nurses, you bridge the gap between the patient and their main healthcare provider. The patient’s care plan and the overall patient experience hinges on your ability to communicate. Good communication skills create greater happiness and a smoother patient experience.

When you first set foot in a patient’s room, you set the tone for the patient’s visit. Make eye contact, listen, and smile when appropriate. These are great non-verbal communication tools. You will put the patient at ease and allow them to open up. Keep in mind that not all patients communicate the same. Take a few minutes to get to know the patient. By doing so you can make a personal connection and adapt your communication style to suit theirs.

Empathy

two nurses hugging each other outside with masks on.

To provide the best care possible, it’s crucial for you to be able to put yourself in the shoes of others. You need to have the ability to relate and empathize with your patients and their family members. You might think that this is a skill you are born with, which can be true. But, you can also learn this skill. Refining skills takes practice. The best way to sharpen this skill is through the use of mindfulness. Take five minutes out of your day to reflect on those you love – this includes YOU too! During this time of mindfulness think pure and kind thoughts. If your mind starts to wander, begin again! You must practice love and kindness to be able to give it away. 

Adaptability 

nurse reviewing paper chart with a pen.

Adapting to new situations is your middle name. When you sign-up to be a nurse this skill is the key to your success. If new situations stress you out, you’re in the wrong profession. Not only do you need to adapt to new patients, but also ever-changing medical conditions. Being able to make quick decisions and adjusting care plans is essential. 

Teamwork 

two nurses and team of doctors in conference room discussing patient care plan.

In the nursing profession, you’re not on an island by yourself. Not only do you work with other nurses, but doctors and other specialists too. Being a team player is what it’s all about. Working well with a team not only will benefit you as a nurse but your patients as well. Being a team player is a great nursing skill for your resume. Being on a team requires you to have trust in the other “players”. The best way to gain that trust is by developing a relationship with your co-workers. Try setting up team lunches or after-work happy hours. Getting to know each other outside of work will only help your professional dynamic. 

Organization

nurse reviewing chart and organizing what needs to happen.

Nurses juggle tasks and patients all day long. So organization and time management is a necessity. Try to focus on your most time-sensitive and important tasks by creating a checklist. This helps keep you on track during your shift.  Forgetfulness during your shift especially on chaotic days will be a thing of the past!

Critical thinking 

nurse critical thinking in the hallway about her shift and patients.

Nurses are great problem solvers and critical thinkers. Analyzing patient symptoms and needs is a constant duty. You need to be able to think on your feet and adjust care plans as needed. Being as proactive as possible is key. But, you’ll find that patients have their own plans. Adjusting and making quick decisions is the name of the game. If you’re feeling unsure of how to handle the situation, do not be afraid to seek advice from fellow nurses. An accurate decision is better than a frantic one. 

Decision-making 

male nurse standing confidently with arms crossed.

Most decisions in nursing are not black and white. This is where decision-making and critical thinking skills go hand in hand. You must be able to assess a patient and make the best decision for the situation. If you are new to a unit do not be afraid to ask questions. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Finding a nurse mentor on your floor is also a great way to build confidence. As you gain more experience your decision-making skills will become sharper. In the meantime, use your knowledge to the best of your ability.


Take the time to focus on these skills so you can move from a good nurse to an exceptional one. Remember, it’s okay if you need to take time to refine these and get better. We all have things in our professional lives that need some TLC. The important thing is taking the time to recognize the areas in which you need to enhance. Being the best nurse possible takes time and practice. 

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