What Skills Do You Need to Be a Nurse? Explore These 9 Nursing Skills

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What skills do you need to be a nurse? There are a number of soft skills and clinical skills that all nurses need. Important soft skills include communication, empathy, professionalism and attention to detail. Important clinical skills include patient assessment, patient education and patient transport.

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Pursuing a career as a registered nurse (RN) allows you to devote your life to serving others and making a positive difference in your community. Furthermore, if you have prior non-nursing college education, you may qualify for Pacific Lutheran University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN). This program allows you to earn your nursing degree in as few as 16 months.

Nurses are often under great mental stress working with patients experiencing complex issues. As such, nurses need strong clinical and soft skills. Soft skills include empathy and interpersonal skills.

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1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are among the most important soft skills that all nurses need. As a nurse, you will work with patients at varying levels of health literacy. Some patients might not understand what you mean when you say, “Dress the wound,” while others might have a strong understanding of clinical concepts like orthostatic hypotension or hemolytic anemia. You must assess the patient’s level of understanding (and that of their family members) and adjust your language accordingly. It is critical that your patients fully understand their diagnosis and treatment options.

2. Empathy

Empathy ranks near the top of essential nursing skills because of the nature of a nurse’s work. If you are empathetic, you can imagine yourself in another person’s shoes. You understand their struggles and can relate to what they are experiencing. This allows you to determine how best to help your patients. Similarly, compassion is an important soft skill for an RN.

3. Professionalism

Nurses tend to work in high-stress environments, yet it is crucial to always maintain professionalism. Soft skills related to professionalism include integrity, self-discipline, accountability, a positive attitude, a collaborative mindset and respect toward others and oneself. Similarly, an unwavering commitment to professional ethics is essential.

PLU ABSN students looking at IV

4. Attention to Detail

Of all the soft nursing skills, attention to detail is the one that will most help you avoid medical mistakes. As an RN, you will find yourself rushing from patient to patient, trying to multitask and juggle competing priorities. Yet, despite the fast-paced nature of the job, it is absolutely critical to be meticulous and pay attention to every detail. For example, failure to notice that one of your patients is developing yellow discoloration of the eyes might delay a diagnosis of acute viral hepatitis resulting in jaundice. Likewise, you must pay strict attention to details like medication orders so your patients receive the correct dosages.

5. Patient Assessment Nursing Skills

Often, the first provider a patient will encounter is a nurse. Nurses must conduct thorough patient assessments by obtaining vital signs, performing physical exams and reviewing the patient’s medical history. They must also ask patients pertinent questions about their symptoms and any lifestyle issues affecting their health.

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Get some helpful tips for studying effectively in nursing school here!

6. Patient Transport and Ambulation Skills

Nurses sometimes help transport patients around a hospital by moving beds or pushing patients in a wheelchair to their caregiver’s vehicle upon discharge. Some patients will need assistance with ambulation following discharge. You may need to help them understand how to use crutches or a walker safely.

7. Patient Safety Nursing Skills

Unfortunately, patients sometimes acquire additional health problems while they are at the hospital, such as hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and injuries caused by falls. A nurse is responsible for actively identifying potential risks and taking steps to mitigate them. Some of the ways that nurses can improve patient safety include the following:

  • Monitoring – Nurses spend more time with patients than other healthcare providers. Each time you interact with a patient, you should remain observant. Does the patient seem to have developed additional symptoms? Has the patient been lying in the same position for several hours? These are all clues that patient safety may be at risk.
  • Communication – Clear and proactive communication with other healthcare providers can help reduce the risk of medication errors that jeopardize patient safety. For instance, if you see something on a patient’s chart that does not make sense or that might cause the potential for an adverse interaction, it is important to raise the issue with the treating physician.
  • Patient education – Patient safety may start at the hospital but is also vital at home. Talk to the family caregivers about the patient’s needs following their discharge. Assess whether there may be any safety concerns and offer guidance on addressing them.

8. Patient Education Skills

RNs are subject to many healthcare-related regulations, such as the requirement that patients give informed consent for treatment. In other words, to consent to receive treatment, patients must be fully aware of their diagnosis, treatment options and the potential risks and benefits associated with those treatment options.

Patient education is important for another reason, however. Beyond legal requirements, nurses must empower their patients to properly care for themselves after discharge. Nurses must also educate family caregivers about the patient’s condition and discharge instructions.

PLU nursing students in sim lab working with lab equipment

9. Medical Terminology and Anatomy

In-depth knowledge of medical terminology and human anatomy is among the most fundamental of all nursing skills. During your courses at PLU, you will learn about human anatomy and physiology and pertinent medical terminology enabling you to communicate clearly with other healthcare providers and document patient information accurately.

How to Improve Nursing Skills

One of the most exciting aspects of joining the healthcare field is that it is constantly evolving. Nurses can — and should — stay on top of the latest developments in the nursing field and their chosen specialty and continually work on improving their nursing skills. You can take many steps to improve your skills, and you will begin doing precisely that during your clinical placements at PLU. You can also try the following tips:

  • Complete continuing education hours and work toward earning additional nursing certifications.
  • Join a professional nursing association and use its professional development resources.
  • Read, read and read some more! Stay on top of the latest developments in your specialty by reading nursing journals.
  • Attend nursing conferences.
  • Look for educational resources from non-nursing sources. For instance, you might consider auditing an online college class in communications.

Above all, always remember to keep the person at the center of your work. You are not simply treating a condition; you are treating a person who deserves high-quality, respectful care.

Are you ready to learn crucial nursing skills and work toward a meaningful career caring for others? Contact an Admissions Representative at PLU today to discuss the eligibility requirements for our accelerated nursing program. The ABSN program follows a hybrid format, so you can complete many courses online and hone your nursing skills during in-person labs and clinicals. Call today!