Qualities of a Good Nurse

November 7, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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“Do I have what it takes to be a nurse?” Is a question anyone considering being a nurse, going through nursing school, or even just starting in the profession may ask themselves at some point.

As nursing jobs continue to be in demand, there are many opportunities for nurses to pursue jobs that offer competitive pay, and flexible schedules. There are more nurses entering the workforce than ever before. Nursing is a very challenging profession and may not be for everyone.

Have you ever wondered what the qualities are of a good nurse? We’re sharing the following guide to help you understand the characteristics of a good nurse so you can make the best career decisions for yourself.

How Nursing is a Calling

Many nurses will tell you that entering the nursing field with an attitude that it’s “just a job” will not lead to success. Above all, nurses need to have a deep-seated desire to help people and a dedication to working with patients to improve their lives. This is one quality that is hard to teach, and even a nurse with all the qualities listed below, will often have a difficult time with the profession if they do not feel drawn or passionate about the role of nursing.

No matter where you are in your education, training, or career as a nurse, it’s important to stay in touch with the idea of nursing as a calling and a duty to help people.

7 Qualities & Characteristics of a Good Nurse

1. Compassion and Empathy

Nursing is a profession based on helping people heal from diseases, sickness, injuries, and manage chronic conditions. Being empathetic as a nurse requires they put themselves in their patients’ shoes, listening to their patients, being kind and respectful and act on that connection to enhance care. To be compassionate, a nurse can be aware of and acknowledge the needs of their patients and have the desire to provide the best care possible.

2. Hard Work

Nobody ever called nursing an easy job. No matter where you work, from a hospital to a rehab facility to a patient’s home, there is always a lot to do with little downtime and often no breaks or time for lunch. Nurses need to be prepared to work hard every day from the start of a shift to the finish and finding ways to prioritize nursing care is important.

Nurses have to do it all, from collecting diagnostic information from patients, to charting, to physically moving patients, to reporting to physicians and other personnel, to communicating information back to patients. Some nurses, such as home health nurses, may only help one patient at a time. Nurses in hospitals and other facilities should expect to help multiple patients each day, with a very fast-paced workload.

3. Clinical Knowledge

Nurses need to be knowledgeable about the conditions and treatments they encounter. While nurses typically work in an assistive capacity to physicians, surgeons, and other clinicians, they need to be able to recognize symptoms and complications and discuss them with doctors and patients alike. This is why nursing school is such a rigorous process involving intensive study and testing. To remain competent nurses need to continue learning throughout their entire career, both through on-the-job experience and continuing education.

4. Communication Skills

Communication is a huge component of Nursing. In any healthcare setting, nurses interact with patients, collect information, talk to doctors and other nurses, and help develop and deliver care plans. Some patients may not be forthcoming about what’s wrong. Some doctors may be short and speak bluntly about medical diagnoses and treatments. Nurses need to be able to overcome any number of communication challenges to ensure that the people they are caring for get the help they need. This means actively listening, speaking clearly and calmly, and asking open-ended questions, just to name a few important communication strategies.

5. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail can mean the difference between a patient getting misdiagnosed, receiving the wrong medication, or even undergoing the wrong type of surgery. Being a good nurse means noticing important details and always, always, paying attention to what is going on. It also means being detail-oriented with processes including intake and discharge, charting, and transferring patients to ensure that things run smoothly and minimizing costly mistakes. Nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes, but it’s extremely important for nurses to be detail oriented and keep errors and oversights to an absolute minimum.

6. Optimism

Nurses face adversity on a daily basis, from being short-staffed, to dealing with unexpected crises, or having multiple difficult patients in a row. It can all add up, and take a toll.

Nurses who have long-term, fulfilling careers are almost always described as optimistic. The ability to maintain a positive attitude and look on the bright side during even the most stressful situations can inspire patients, other nurses, and other staff members alike to persevere.

7. Flexibility

Another word nobody uses to describe nursing is predictable. In any setting a nurse works in, unexpected things will happen all the time. You may encounter a condition or symptom you have never seen before, multiple patients may be having problems at once, computers can crash, the list goes on.

The best nurses assess and adapt to constantly changing situations, using quick thinking and flexibility to make decisions that are best for the patient. While some settings may be more chaotic than others, there may be times when you need to think on your feet.

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