The Evolution of Nursing Qualifications and Skills Throughout Your Career

When you think of nursing, it’s not just a job – it’s a career. As such, those that go into the field often become lifelong nurses.

If you’re thinking about a career in healthcare, it might be a good time to start considering what it will take to get there. What basic nursing skills and qualifications will you need when you enter the field?  How will those qualifications and skills change after 10 years of experience?  

Of course there are skills and qualifications you’ll draw upon throughout your entire career. Some skills you’ll learn through coursework and others you’ll develop with on-the-job training. Also keep in mind that the skills you’ll need depend on what kind of nursing job you have, too.

So, if you’re starting to feel like you have more questions than answers, it’s time to take a look at which skills employers are looking for based on nursing experience.

Nursing Skills for Those with 0-4 Years of Experience

When you have little to no nursing experience, employers are looking for any examples of patient care and your ability to educate patients and their families on illness and treatments (see chart).

Employers are looking for these nursing skills if you have less than 4 years of experience.

Because new nurses have little actual nursing experience, new nurses often focus on their technical skills rather than people skills, says Dr. Iris Cornell, dean of Rasmussen College’s RN to BSN degree program.

“The compassion and the caring are there, but you’re so afraid because it’s a new learning experience,” Cornell says. She notes that it can take new nurses two years to really feel comfortable in the job.

Nursing Skills for Those with 5-7 Years of Experience

Once you gain some nursing experience, you may want to challenge yourself by branching out into an unfamiliar discipline within the field, such as pediatrics or emergency room nursing.  

Rest assured, many of the skills you needed as a new nurse still apply, but after gaining a bit more experience, employers prioritize them differently.

Patient care still ranks highly, but other key skills have become more sought after, such as clinical experience and nurse management (see chart).

Employers are looking for these nursing skills if you have 4-7 years of experience.

Nursing Skills for Those with 7+ Years of Experience

Even as an experienced nurse, don’t expect to be done learning. The longer you stay in the field, the more you can expect things like technology, terminology and areas of specialty to evolve over time.

In fact, employers are looking for nurses with more than seven years of experience to be familiar with specialized areas, including the neonatal intensive care unit or post anesthesia care unit (see chart).

Employers are looking for these nursing skills if you have more than 7 years of experience.

Medical breakthroughs are important to the field and crucial for ailing patients, but how do they affect nurses? Due to research and technological advances, you may find yourself learning new ways to take care of patients, Cornell says.

Although resistance to change can be an issue for nurses who are used to doing things a specific way, Cornell says that change is experienced nurses must accept.

“Your acceptance of change is based on your compassion and your drive,” she says, drawing upon her 33 years of experience as a nurse.

In addition to keeping up with medical research, experienced nurses may also be asked to take on a leadership role as a mentor or preceptor. While a preceptor is a more formal role, any nurse can decide to mentor newer nurses.

“Sometimes [an experienced nurse] does a mentorship because they can see someone is struggling,” Cornell says.

Now that you know how nursing qualifications and skills evolve over time, the only decision you have is to figure out whether you want to be an RN or LPN. Check out our blog post Practical Nursing vs. Professional Nursing to explore your options. 

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Rasmussen College. She researches and writes student-focused articles that focus on nursing, health sciences, business and justice studies. She enjoys writing engaging content to help future, current, and former students on their path to a rewarding education.

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