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Essential skills that all great nurses possess

The role of a nurse has always been dynamic. The profession constantly evolves to serve the needs of changing societies. Despite this, there are many skills that remain timeless. These skills are ones that all great nurses possess. Below, we discuss the various skills you need to be a successful nurse.

Clinical judgment 

Nurses often find themselves at the intersection of knowledge, experience and instinct. This is where they will make decisions that they deem to be the best ones for the patient. This is an extremely important skill that all great nurses have. It’s more than what’s written in the textbooks – it’s about applying knowledge in real time, when a situation is occurring.

Intuition is essentially a gut feeling, but it doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s more like a sixth sense that’s been honed and developed through years of experience. It could be as simple as recognizing a tiny change in a patient’s demeanor or identifying the signs of something that’s often overlooked.

While it’s imperative that nurses follow healthcare protocols, they must also recognize that situations will appear where they are noticing something that someone else isn’t. In these situations, adjustments may be necessary to cater to the needs of that specific patient.

Critical thinking 

Nurses must also be able to think critically about things. Essentially, this is the process of analyzing something logically and arriving at a conclusion based on evidence. In the healthcare setting, this could be used to better understand patients with complex histories.

Critical thinking is important, especially when you consider the ever-changing nature of medicine. New research findings emerge regularly, and nurses need to constantly evaluate and reevaluate best practices. By doing this in a logical and evidence-based way, they are more likely to avoid bias.

Sometimes there may be more than one right answer. Critical thinking in these situations allows nurses to assess both the pros and cons of each option and then decide which one is best overall.

Emotional resilience

There are many jobs and industries that require strong emotional resilience. Professionals from military personnel to journalists to air traffic controllers must develop this skill. The second career for nurses route often attracts individuals who have mastered relevant nursing skills in a different profession, and the ABSN course from Holy Family University could be perfect for those people. Being 100% online, it’s very flexible, and it’s also very affordable – something to consider for those looking to make a career switch.

It’s no surprise that nursing is one of the many industries that require strong emotional resilience. The profession can be extremely demanding. It tugs at the strings of empathy. Every day, nurses bear witness to a myriad of emotions. Recognizing that some days will be challenging and accepting this is the first step toward being emotionally resilient.

When situations become difficult, nurses need to remain grounded. In these situations, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation are key. Even simple grounding exercises outside can slow things down and allow you to process the situation before moving on.


Related to emotional resilience is self-care, the next skill on our list. If nurses don’t look after themselves, stress will build up, and they will eventually burn out. Thankfully, there are a few ways that they can look after their wellness and make sure that this doesn’t happen.

The first step is to set clear boundaries. You need to create a barrier between your work and your personal life. Your professional obligations are important, but so is switching off and having a life outside of work. Even small breaks during the day where you gather your thoughts for a few minutes can serve as mini boundaries.

You should then make sure to engage in hobbies or any activities that you enjoy outside of work. These types of activities are not just recreational, but are also therapeutic. Nurses need to also watch out for red flags. If they’re feeling more tired than usual or struggling to engage with patients emotionally, this could be a sign that they need some more self-care.


In the modern healthcare landscape, things are always changing. New problems occur, and it’s difficult to predict how one day will look from the next. In this type of environment, nurses must remain both adaptable and flexible. They must be willing to deal with events as they happen.

There’s also the consideration of different patient needs and behaviors. A good nurse knows how to adjust their approach based on each patient’s unique circumstances. They might have to switch from a gentle, reassuring tone with a scared child to a more direct, informative one with an anxious adult. Flexibility is key here.

Scheduling is another area where adaptability is important. The hours can be long, and shifts can start at very different times. There may be emergency situations where nurses will be called upon at short notice to come and help. Sometimes they may have to stay late to monitor a patient’s condition or cover for a colleague. Adaptability is a non-negotiable skill for nurses.

Cultural competency

Cultural competency is all about understanding the different cultural sensitivities of patients and adjusting things as necessary. In the same way that nurses may alter their communication approach to different patients, they also need to alter their approach along cultural lines.

A common example of this is that patients from some cultures may have unique beliefs about health and illness that can impact their healthcare decisions. Religion and traditions often play a significant role in this regard. It’s important for nurses to respect these beliefs and incorporate them into the patient’s care plan whenever possible.

If there are language barriers, nurses need to find ways to communicate effectively with patients and their families. Good healthcare facilities will already have a range of options in place to help here. There will usually be some kind of translation service available to assist.

Ethical considerations are also important. Just like you must take into account your patient’s cultural beliefs, you must also make sure that you don’t impose your own beliefs on the patient. Nurses must understand and respect the fact that they will deal with people who see the world very differently from how they do, but they still need the same high level of care.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Nurses will often have to collaborate with medical professionals from a range of different disciplines. Developing the skill of doing this smoothly is important for nurses. Doctors, pharmacists and social workers are just a few common examples of the types of people nurses will work alongside, and each will bring unique knowledge and skills to the table. Understanding the strengths of each team member in interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial if things are going to work well.

When problems occur in interdisciplinary collaboration, it’s typically due to poor communication. Hospitals are not libraries. They are busy and bustling, and things are moving quickly. In this environment, all communication must be clear and concise. Nurses must make sure that they relay information accurately and promptly.

Another good skill for nurses to develop as part of this is conflict resolution. There will inevitably be disagreements and conflicts when working with a number of people from different areas of healthcare. It makes sense that people with different backgrounds and experiences will have different views on how things should be done. While it’s typically the role of leaders in this environment to help solve these conflicts, it can also be a great idea for nurses to be able to contribute to doing so.

Clear communication is another important aspect of interdisciplinary collaboration. In a bustling hospital or clinic, clear, concise messages can make all the difference. Miscommunications can lead to errors in patient care. Therefore, nurses must ensure that they relay information accurately and promptly.

Technological proficiency

As we’ve mentioned, the world of medicine moves fast. Turn that up another notch, and now you have the pace of the world of technology. Particularly with the development of technology in the last few years, it’s going to have a big impact on healthcare as we go forward. It’s for this reason that nurses must be technologically proficient.

Knowing how to navigate a smartphone or laptop isn’t enough. Nurses of the future will need to be able to navigate the latest medical technologies – everything from advanced medical equipment to cutting-edge software.

A good recent example of technology in healthcare is the rise of telemedicine. It wasn’t that long ago that rural and remote patients had to either wait a long time for doctors to visit their area, or simply forgo healthcare. Thanks to this growing trend, this is no longer the case. Patients can now be seen quickly and without having to leave their own homes. Nurses without strong technological skills have had to scramble to figure out how to use this technology. This type of scenario is certain to play out in many other ways in the future.


Strong ethics are another non-negotiable in healthcare and something that nurses must develop. Nurses are often faced with tough decisions in their line of work, and ethical dilemmas can appear. It’s for this reason that understanding the nuances of medical ethics is so crucial. It’s not always black and white, and nurses have to navigate through the gray areas. They must balance the needs and rights of the patient with the rules and regulations of the medical field.

A significant part of a nurse’s role involves advocating for patients’ rights and wishes. Whether it’s explaining a complex treatment plan or standing up for a patient’s choice, nurses are often the bridge between doctors and patients. They ensure that the patient’s voice is heard and respected.

Dealing with moral dilemmas and conflicts is another challenge that nurses face regularly. They might have to make difficult decisions in patient care that could have profound consequences. This could involve anything from end-of-life decisions to allocating scarce resources. Given these challenges, continuous ethical training and discussions are of the utmost importance for nurses.

Continuous learning

Given the ever-changing nature of healthcare, it’s not the type of career where you can just hit pause on learning. As more research is conducted, new things are learned, and techniques and processes are changed. There are even new diseases emerging and fresh treatments being discovered. Nurses must continue to learn throughout their careers to make sure that they’re keeping up to date.

This doesn’t mean that they need to study medical research 40 hours a week, but they must prioritize improving and keeping up with what’s happening. One way to do this is through developing a strong professional network. By having a strong network that you can engage with regularly, you can see how other nurses in different parts of the country or even the world are approaching things.

There may also be professional development opportunities that appear, in the form of short certifications or training courses. These can be a great way to quickly develop competency in a given area without a huge time commitment. Nurses can find out about these opportunities through their professional networks or through groups dedicated to nurses in their local areas.

Holistic care

Holistic care is all about seeing patients as whole beings, not just focusing on their ailments. This means understanding that a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical health. More than this, they’re directly linked. It’s not enough to just treat the symptoms – nurses need to consider the whole person.

Holistic care also means being open to alternative healing methods where appropriate. This could include acupuncture, massage or meditation. These treatments can complement traditional medicine and help to improve a patient’s overall wellbeing.

Leadership and mentorship

Regardless of whether they see themselves developing into a leadership role in the future, leadership skills are important for nurses to master. When challenging situations arise, it’s the nurse who often steps up, leading the team through the crisis. This is not about being bossy or taking control, but about making wise decisions under pressure and guiding others with confidence.

Mentoring is another key aspect of nursing. Experienced nurses are often looked to for guidance by nurses who are just starting out. They share their knowledge and help them navigate the complexities of healthcare. They generally support them as they grow in their roles.

Being able to delegate tasks is another important skill that’s part of leadership. Nurses need to know who is best suited for each task and assign duties accordingly. This helps to ensure that the team works as efficiently as possible and that patient care is not compromised.

Professionalism and trust are two other parts of this. Nurses lead by example, and if they maintain high standards in their work, others will follow. It’s important to respect the rights of patients at all times. The trust component comes in from a team perspective. Trust is fundamental to any kind of team, and nurses with strong professionalism will help foster trust within the team.

Environmental awareness

It may initially come as a surprise to see environmental awareness on a list of nursing skills, but it’s relevant. It will also most likely become even more relevant in the future. As society grapples with a changing environment, there are a number of ways that nurses will play a role.

The first is around their own environmental footprint and that of the institution they work for. Think about the vast amount of medical waste produced daily. Recognizing this impact is the first step toward developing sustainable practices. Nurses are well-positioned to promote sustainability in hospitals. They can advocate for green initiatives such as recycling programs and using energy-efficient equipment.

There’s also the consideration of how a changing climate can affect health outcomes. Increased amounts of pollution can exacerbate respiratory conditions, while contaminated water can spread disease. Erratic weather patterns can lead to more weather events, resulting in health emergencies. There’s a whole range of different ways that the climate and health are connected, and it’s important to stay up to date on the latest research.

The role of nurses today is truly multifaceted. It’s not just about medical care anymore. Nurses are educators, leaders and tech-savvy professionals. They need to have the ability to weave together different types of skills to be successful. They must commit to a lifelong path of learning and growing, and they must be fully committed. Nursing is a demanding job, but it is also an incredibly rewarding one.

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