How to Be a Better Nurse

November 19, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers. It is a profession that genuinely makes a difference in people’s lives, while also offering many opportunities for growth and advancement. Like any job, particularly in health care, nursing is not without its challenges.

Nursing is a calling and what makes nurses so special and unique is the ability to face adversity with an attitude of unwavering optimism and a desire to improve. We’re happy to share the following guide with tips and strategies to be the best nurse you can be.

5 Tips and Habits to Help Anyone Be a Better Nurse

1. Dedicate Yourself to Patient-Centered Care and Advocacy Every Day

Patient-centered care is about health care acknowledging and caring for the whole person, not just treating an illness or injury. By putting the person at the center of the care experience, nurses and other health professionals can improve the healing process. Patient-centered care means empathizing with and acknowledging a person’s mental and emotional well-being, comfort, previous health history, and family and social situation, just to name a few.

Nurses can play a key role in patient advocacy. Patient advocacy involves a healthcare worker understanding a patient’s needs and speaking up for what is best for the patient. Nurses are often in the best position to act as patient advocates. For example, nurses can help to educate a patient about their condition and therapeutic options if they haven’t been fully explained before, helping to soothe anxieties about treatment.

Integrating patient-centered care and patient advocacy into your daily routine as a nurse can be as simple as affirming these ideas to yourself at the beginning of every shift, and reminding yourself to keep them front of mind when dealing with every single patient. There are also workshops and continuing education opportunities available through schools and professional organizations.

2. Use Therapeutic Communication with Patients and Team Members

Another practical way to be a better nurse is to improve your communication skills with both patients, team members and other healthcare providers. For nurses in particular, this comes in the form of therapeutic communication techniques. Therapeutic communication includes practicing the following principles:

  • Active listening
  • Asking open-ended questions to get more information
  • Acknowledging and empathizing
  • Paraphrasing and summarizing to show understanding and comprehension

Ultimately, it’s about making sure people feel heard, understood, and supported. While therapeutic communication is a patient-focused method, using these same techniques when speaking to other nurses, aides, physicians, and administrators can improve your work environment as well.

3. Broaden Your Horizons Through Certifications and Continuing Education

Nursing offers such a vast array of specialties and practice areas. Continuing education for nurses not only keeps nurses up to date on the latest advances in care and treatment, but it affords nurses an opportunity to explore other areas of nursing such as home health or hospice, wound care, pain management, pediatric, geriatrics and case management, and a host of other niches. If you want to be a better nurse, think about what areas you would like to learn more about, or areas of improvement for you and seek out certifications and workshops on those topics.

For example, if you want to enter into the area of pediatric home health care for younger patients, you can seek out certifications in pediatrics nursing or specific skills such as wound care, dialysis, or nutrition.

Additionally, nurses who are looking to move on in their careers can pursue advanced degrees, including bachelor’s or master’s degrees in nursing. This can allow a nurse to advance to managerial or more specialized roles.

4. Stay Organized and Focused

No matter where you work, it seems like nurses do more tasks with less time and resources every year. Helping more patients, dealing with new illnesses and conditions, overcoming safety obstacles, and learning new systems are just a few of the difficulties that seem to keep piling on. It can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed and for the dreaded burnout to start to creep in.

The best response you can have as a nurse is to keep a positive attitude and face any challenge with an improvement-oriented mindset. By staying focused and working smarter, not harder, you can be the nurse who always stays calm and collected under pressure. Practical ways to do this include:

  • Make a list of everything you need to bring with you during your day or night, and prepare the night or morning before, depending on your schedule
  • Take notes and stay on top of charting throughout your shift
  • Commit to learning and mastering systems, including shortcuts and automation steps
  • Take a moment before your shift and during short breaks to do breathing exercises and focus on staying calm and relaxed during tense moments
  • Take care of yourself by staying hydrated, practicing good nutrition, and getting a good night’s sleep; this will give you the capacity you need to be sharp throughout your day

Preparation and dedication to these basics can help you be a better nurse no matter what the day tries to throw at you.

5. Find Your Niche

One of the best ways to be a better nurse is to put yourself in a position where you are able to demonstrate and exercise your strengths. Think about what you do best as a nurse and what makes you happiest in your job. Then try to match those qualities with the many nursing specialities out there.

If you do great under pressure and want to truly make a difference when people are dealing with the most serious health problems, being a critical care or trauma nurse may be right for you.

In other situations, nurses who value one-on-one care, building strong relationships, working independently, and thinking on their feet are often a great fit in home health care. This is a highly rewarding field that can offer nurses flexible schedules, the ability to focus on patients, and a great work-life balance.

Join The Care Options For Kids Team!

Are you ready for meaningful work that comes with benefits and not burnout? Join the compassionate care team that helps children and families live their best lives. Our clinicians provide best-in-class pediatric nursing, therapy, and school-based services. We bring individualized care to children where they live, work, and play. We have opportunities in homes, schools, and clinics across the country.

Apply at Care Options for Kids now. We make it easy to get started, so you can begin making a difference as soon as possible.