The 6 Traits of an Outstanding Nurse

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outstanding nurse

The recent pandemic increased workforce demand in the healthcare sector tenfold, where skilled nurse practitioners and physicians became even more prominent. While the healthcare sector isn’t expected to stop growing anytime soon, projections for jobs in this sector, especially for registered nurses, are ever-increasing.

Medical institutions are searching for experienced nurses with the qualities needed to maximize patient care quality. This, however, also means stronger competition and higher demands on new applicants. With approximately 2.86 million registered nurses in the United States, the need to stand out is greater than ever.

In a healthcare setting, nurses are best positioned to improve patient experience because they often work most actively on the front lines and deal with patients and their families daily. To excel as a registered nurse, you need more than experience and practical skills; you also need certain personality traits to help you excel in your routine tasks.

With that said, the following are just some of the many traits of an outstanding nurse:

1. Refined clinical reasoning

Clinical reasoning is one of the core skills registered nurses must acquire to provide quality care. Although nurses work as a part of a team, there are times when they have to make instant decisions that can have severe consequences for the patient. This is where their clinical knowledge and reasoning are put to the test.

From patient assessment to planning and implementing interventions, you are expected to exercise this reasoning as a nurse. It is a skill that you will learn with experience and higher education. Degree programs that take you beyond the basic requirements for a job as a registered nurse, like a post masters DNP, are particularly effective in helping nurses polish their clinical reasoning, gain experience and learn about the latest in the field of medicine.

An effective and proven way to exercise good clinical reasoning is to use the clinical reasoning cycle; you begin by carefully evaluating the patient situation, collecting necessary information, processing this information, identifying the problem, outlining goals, and acting.

This should be followed by evaluation and reflection.

2. Empathy

Social workers are expected to be empathetic, caring, and compassionate. Professions like nursing geared towards community help go hand in hand with empathy. After all, it is most often only the true altruists at heart who end up in such demanding – but personally satisfying – careers.

Empathy is your ability to relate to and understand another person’s dilemma; in other ways, ‘putting yourself in their shoes’. Patients are likely to be stressed out, anxious, uncertain, and fearful; an ounce of empathy from the caregivers can go a long way. A nurse should be able to make the patient feel understood, seen, heard, and valued.

However, this also does not mean you have to internalize the pain; doing so could harm your well-being. A great nurse can communicate empathy and compassion without letting the patient’s pain get to them.

3. Effective communication skills

As nurses are the healthcare professionals most actively involved in interacting with patients and their families, effective communication skills are necessary. In fact, such skills are also needed when interacting with co-workers and higher-ups.

In their routine tasks, nurses are expected to take instructions from supervisors in high-pressure situations, communicate with other healthcare providers, and share information with co-workers during emergencies.

Active listening is the top of all the verbal, non-verbal, and written communication skills you should work on. When interacting with patients, you must give them your complete attention and show engagement by nodding your head, maintaining eye contact, leaning forward, and providing verbal encouragement like ‘I understand.’

In addition to facilitating information gathering, this fosters trust and builds a rapport with the patient.

4. A desire for lifelong learning

With the rapidly advancing healthcare sector and frequent breakthroughs in terms of technological advancements, it is no surprise that caregivers are expected to keep renewing their experience and knowledge. The best nurse practitioners can adapt to the changes, keep up with the advancements, and always look for new opportunities to polish their skills.

Other than degree programs and higher education, certification, conferences, and seminars offer excellent learning opportunities. Nurses who operate on this principle are more reliable, have higher job satisfaction, provide higher quality care, and are better paid.

With a specialization, you can also seek jobs in more specific settings like geriatrics, critical care, cardiac care, family nurse practice, etc.

5. Good time management skills

It is no secret that, more often than not, nurses are overworked and have plenty of things to juggle simultaneously during a single shift. Managing time effectively is a true asset in such a situation.

Regularly, nurses are expected to handle multiple patients, write reports, interact with family members, and more. All tasks are competing for priority, and it is often not possible, practical, or recommended to multitask because it can lead to errors, and even the smallest of them can have fatal consequences for some patients.

In such a situation, time management is a treasured skill. To manage your time effectively, remember to delegate tasks that don’t require your direct involvement or expertise, start a little earlier than usual, and prioritize. In juggling all these responsibilities, nurses often tend to neglect self-care. So remember to take out time for short breaks for yourself.

6. Endurance

Nursing is no walk in the park; this profession is demanding and exhausting both mentally and physically. To make it out successfully, a nurse must have endurance, i.e., the ability to sustain an effort and not be overwhelmed by the burden.

Physical and emotional burnout are both severe threats to nurses. The long shifts can be physically draining. Often the emotional turmoil that comes with dealing with patients and their saddened relatives gets too much. Successful nurses can bear this pressure with endurance and persist despite the hurdles.

To develop endurance, make sure you take time for self-care, eat well, get plenty of water, and don’t compromise your sleep.

Final words

Nursing is one of the most demanding professions; today, the competition is much higher than before, and employers are searching for the best applicants. You must possess specific skills to succeed in any profession, and nursing is no different.

These skills include good clinical reasoning, empathy, effective communication, time management, and endurance. Together with your practical experience and knowledge, these personality traits will set the stage for success. 

If we missed anything, please let us know in the comments below; we’d love your opinion.