Nurses have excellent clinical skills that are learnt through education and on-the-job experience. Their ability to identify conditions, side effects of medication, and when treatments are not working is vital for patient care, and that’s why we value their expertise and knowledge. However, soft skills tend to be a part of one’s personality, which makes them exceptionally hard to teach, but with time, they can develop through experience.

These soft skills are just as important when it comes to caring for patients and their families. The ability to keep calm in stressful situations, share a compassionate smile and lift the spirits of those on the ward are traits that every patient under your care will appreciate and fellow nurses need after a long and arduous shift.

It takes a special type of person to be a locum nurse, combining compassion and knowledge to provide exceptional care at all times. There are several other essential nursing skills that are key to not only being successful in your career but also creating a positive atmosphere around you. As leading specialists in nursing positions, we have pieced together the most essential skills a nurse should portray to help you in your personal development and improve career prospects.

What Are Some Of The Most Important Skills Of A Nurse?

Nurses play an invaluable role in the healthcare industry, providing patients with care that helps improve recovery while offering reassurance that they are in safe hands.

As a nurse, you will have two vital roles; providing physical and emotional care. This is why it takes a particular type of person to become a nurse, as you require the relevant knowledge and soft skills to offer a calm experience that lowers stress levels for colleagues and those you are caring for. As a nurse, you will be learning and developing an array of skills during your time on the ward, including the following:

nurse smiling

Communication Skills In Nursing

Communication is key for any job role. However, your ability to communicate with clarity and precision becomes even more important when you are responsible for patient treatments and care plans. Effective communication with other team members allows you to stay focused and carry out tasks to the highest standard.

1. Practice Excellent Communication Skills

A nurse will use communication throughout their shift, whether to inform doctors and other nurses of patient care at the end of their shift so that they can provide ongoing support or with patients to keep them calm. Not only is communication itself essential, but a nurse must also be able to adapt the way in which they communicate depending on who they are speaking to. For example:

  • Older patients – elderly individuals may get easily confused and begin to panic.
  • Non-English speakers – not understanding what is going on and the care they are receiving can be daunting.
  • Younger patients – children are unlikely to understand what is going on and are likely to get upset and frustrated easily.
  • Family members – in a tough situation, family members are more concerned about being next to their loved one, and when they are unable to do this, reasoning with them can become difficult.

Poor communication can heighten a stressful situation, making it a key skill for nurses. You can find additional information on why communication is important and how to further develop your communication skills on Patient Engagement Hit.

nurse with elderly patient

2. Know When To Ask For Help

Whether you have just graduated as a nurse, or working in a new department after working with our experts in healthcare recruitment to find your dream job, there are likely to be some aspects of the job that you are unfamiliar with. It is always vitally important that you provide a patient with the care they need, and if you are unsure or questioning your decision, then there is no harm in asking your fellow nurses for a helping hand. Combined, a team of nurses can do pretty much anything, so be sure to use the skills and experience of those around you.

nurses discussing treatments

Leadership Skills In Nursing

Having helped thousands of healthcare professionals find nursing jobs, we recognise that career development will always play at the back of your mind. While your passion may lie in caring for patients, everyone wants the opportunity to grow – this is where leadership skills come in. The more leadership skills you showcase, the more you will be recognised for your efforts.

3. Strong-Willed

Particularly when you take care of a patient for a long time, it is hard not to get attached, making it extremely difficult in the worst-case scenarios. Being the first port of call for patient and family support can make it hard to remain strong-willed, putting their well-being and emotions before your own. It is important to remember that dealing with upsetting situations will be challenging, and no one expects you to feel and act emotionless when on the ward. However, knowing when and how to be strong-willed while with a patient and their family is essential for all nurses.

The best way to keep your emotions at bay when with a patient or fellow staff member is to take deep breaths and continuously count to ten. By focusing on breathing and counting, you can take your mind off the emotions while still providing care for them. Practising mindfulness meditation at home will also help with your well-being, which is essential when looking after yourself as a nurse. We suggest taking a look at the ECPI University’s article on managing emotions or reading through our previous post on the best podcasts for the perfect pick-me-up.

So how does a strong-willed personality link with leadership skills? One of the key traits of a leader is the ability to stay calm, level-headed and methodological in stressful situations. A team leader must support their team and reassure them that there is always a solution. This energy will instantly portray to the rest of the group, creating a calmer and, therefore, more productive workplace.

nurse putting on gloves

4. Prioritise Tasks

In just one shift, you can find yourself having to deal with multiple situations at the same time. However, rather than multi-tasking and potentially making a mistake, you will need to prioritise tasks to ensure that the right care is given to your patients. While you may have a long list of tasks to complete, when an emergency or potentially life-threatening situation occurs, you must be able to prioritise tasks without neglecting treatments, care and patients.

Usually, this is a skill that you develop after your studies and on the job through experiencing pressurised situations and learning how to handle them. If you are a new locum nurse, then we suggest having a quick read of an article published by for tips on what nursing tasks you should always prioritise and how to stay calm under pressure. If you need help in time management as a nurse, take a look at our previous article!

Learning how to prioritise tasks and work smarter will become invaluable as you progress in your career and take on more responsibility. An organised, productive nurse will always make a fantastic team leader!

staying professional

Interpersonal Skills In Nursing

In the nursing industry, you will have to balance many different responsibilities daily, so you should establish a certain level of trust with others, such as patients and co-workers. This will allow you to build a positive relationship with your colleagues and patients, helping you to excel in your position – the more people fighting in your corner, the better!

5. Emotionally Support Other Nurses

One of the most important aspects of nursing is working as a team, as it gives you the support and guidance required to make informed decisions under pressure. Whether you are in a stressful situation and need a helping hand or don’t have the experience to provide the best care, your fellow nurses are there to help physically and with their own knowledge.

These high-pressure situations can cause nurses to experience upsetting moments, but with the loving arm of a colleague, these situations are made considerably easier to handle. Emotional support is vital for anyone in a stressful position, and by opening your arms to another nurse experiencing a difficult moment, the same gratitude will be displayed when you find yourself in a similar situation.
nurses supporting eachother

6. Share Compassion & Empathy

Emotional support is most commonly referred to as being compassionate, which is another essential trait for nurses to portray to colleagues and patients. When a patient is in care, it can be an extremely upsetting and stressful time for the individual and their family. As a nurse, compassion and empathy are at the core of your role; having compassion allows you to provide support for patient families while also having concern for patients suffering so that you can provide accurate care. By understanding the patients suffering, it allows you to place yourself in their shoes, taking into consideration how scared they may feel and how worried their families must be. Through this, you can make what is an extremely heartbreaking and stressful situation that little bit easier.

Transferable Skills In Nursing

Many skills you gain throughout your experience as a nurse will boost other areas of your life. They will help you to build relationships, take on more responsibility and even win over employers should you change your career path.

7. Remain Professional

As a nurse, it can be hard to distinguish the difference between being caring and kind to a patient and remaining professional. While being compassionate is a key trait for a nurse, you must also learn to stay professional at all times to ensure that patients are well-informed and provided with the best care possible. When you are a professional nurse, you can:

  • Be responsive
  • Be supportive of colleagues
  • Provide quality work and guidance
  • Hold yourself in stressful situations

nurse with patient

8. Ability To Adapt

Every day on the ward is unique, from the patients you care for to the sudden and unexpected situations you must deal with. This means that, as a nurse, you must be able to adapt to various environments and under pressure situations. Additionally, anything could be thrown your way, and you may be required to learn something new or handle a new situation quickly and effectively. Healthcare jobs and the healthcare industry are constantly evolving, which means that you must be able to adapt to new treatments and care.

The Most Important Skills For Nursing

While being a nurse can be stressful at times, it is one of the most rewarding careers in many ways. By learning and developing key and essential nursing skills, you can ensure that not only do your patients have the best possible and quality care, but you feel confident in your decisions and progress in your career. If you are looking to take the next step in your career, then why not speak to our specialist and experienced recruiters? Having provided medical recruitment for many years, our consultants can help you find your dream job to help you develop your essential nursing skills.

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