Nurses tend to have excellent clinical skills that are learned through education and on the job experience. Their ability to identify conditions, side effects of medication, and when treatments are not working are 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, can develop through experience. These soft skills are just as important when it comes to patient and patient family care. 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 difficult shift.

It takes a special type of person to be a 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 create a positive atmosphere around you. As leading specialists in nursing recruitment, we have pieced together the most essential skills a nurse should portray to help you in your personal development and improve career prospects.

Essential Nursing Skills: What It Takes To Be A Nurse

Nurses play an invaluable role in the healthcare industry, providing patients with care that helps to improve recovery while offering them 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 very certain 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

1. 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.

2. 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 patient 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.

3. Excellent Communication Skills

Communication is key for any job role, but particularly one where you must communicate treatments and care plans effectively to other members of your team. A nurse will use communication throughout their shift, whether that’s to inform doctors or other nurses of patient care at the end of their shift so that they can provide ongoing support, or communicating effectively 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

4. 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 remain 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

5. 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 unique under pressure situations. Additionally, as you have most likely noticed during the pandemic, anything could be thrown your way, and you may be required to learn something new or handle a new situation quickly and effectively. The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, which means that you must be able to adapt to new treatments and care.

6. Know When To Ask For Help

Whether you have just graduated as a nurse, or working in a new department after working with our healthcare recruiters 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 you 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

7. 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.

8. Strong-Willed

Particularly when you take care of a patient for a long period of time, it is hard not to get attached, which can make 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 wellbeing and emotions before your own. It is important to remember that dealing with upsetting situations is going to be hard, 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 an essential skill for all nurses. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to provide emotional support for your colleagues, as there may be a time when emotions get the best of you.

The best way to keep your emotions at bay when with a patient 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 provide care for the patient. Practising mindfulness meditation at home will also help with your wellbeing, which is essential when looking after yourself as a nurse. We suggest taking a look at the Student Nurse Project’s article on managing emotions or take a look at our previous article on the best podcasts for the perfect pick me up.

nurse putting on gloves

Being A Strong & Skilled Nurse

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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