5 Professional Nursing Skills You Need to Launch Your Career

professional nursing skills

Pursuing a new career can leave you with a lot of questions. Is this the right choice for me? Do I have what it takes? How can I prepare myself?

Fortunately, the nursing field offers many paths and options for those interested in pursuing a healthcare career. And the job outlook is favorable too! The demand for registered nurses (RNs) is expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 19 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Perhaps it relieves some stress knowing there is no shortage of professional nursing job opportunities. But just because the jobs are out there, doesn’t mean they give them to just anyone. It’s important to ensure you possess some important professional nursing skills.

Prepare yourself for a future of helping others by studying up on the skills and characteristics needed to succeed on the job. To help you get started, we identified five professional nursing skills that will help you impress potential employers.

5 critical professional nursing skills

There is no standard blueprint for a great nurse, but there are certain skills and characteristics that will help you succeed in the position. Learn about a few valuable skills many successful nurses share. Do these sound like you?

1. Effective communication

As a nurse, you’re on the frontline of care. You’ll often find yourself the middleman, relaying critical information from a physician to a patient. You will also need to be able to foster an open dialogue with patients and their families so they fully understand their diagnosis, medication and any other medical concerns.

Effective communication amongst fellow nurses and doctors is also vital as you share the responsibilities of caring for your patients. Additionally, you may find yourself facilitating dialogue with worried or uncooperative patients, concerned families, busy doctors and everyone in between. Strong communication will be crucial for all of the above.

2. Flexibility

As a nurse, you never know what the day will bring. Last-minute changes constantly keep you on your toes while you juggle heavy workloads, paperwork, physicians and patients’ families. An ability to adapt to the busy, ever-evolving schedule of a nurse is essential to their success.

“You need to be mentally flexible because if you have a patient that is non-compliant or a doctor who is having a bad day, you need to have alternative ways to solve problems and make everyone happy,” says Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN. Without the ability to quickly adapt to changes, a nurse simply can’t keep up.

3. Critical thinking

A sharp and critical mind is needed to excel in the nursing field. Nurses must be able to assess a situation and make crucial decisions on the spot. In nursing, there are often multiple options for treatment, which means critical thinking is essential for analyzing the situation and determining the best solution.

Nurses must also be able to quickly and confidently find best-outcome resolutions in high-pressure scenarios. Critical thinking skills are absolutely necessary in the nursing profession.

4. Desire to learn

“The most effective nurses are curious and avid learners,” says Antonio Pizarro, MD.

Earning a nursing degree doesn’t mean you’re no longer a student. The best nurses are the ones who continue to question, explore, learn and develop throughout their entire careers. Because the field of medicine is always changing and evolving, nurses should be prepared to continue learning, says Fiona Spearing, clinical lead nurse.

“Always ask questions. Whether you're a student nurse or a qualified nurse; there is always something that you can be learning,” Spearing says.

5. Attention to detail

Paying attention to minute details is important in the nursing profession, especially when you have a lot on your plate. For example, nurses must document everything they do on patients’ charts, listen closely to their description of symptoms, ask the right questions and remember to bring medications at appropriate times.

It’s critical to remember even the smallest detail amidst all of the commotion. At the end of the day, one small slip-up could become a fatal mistake.

Now you know …

Do any of the characteristics listed above sound like you? Even if you don’t excel in all five areas, don’t worry! All of these skills can be developed with a little focus. The first step is being aware of the professional nursing skills employers are seeking.

If you possess a handful of these skills already, that may be a sign you should become a nursing. Read up on other signs you’re ready for a nursing career!


*Author's Note: This article was originally published on June 18, 2012. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2015.


This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. 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. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

Kristina is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes her content helps enlighten and engage students through all stages of their education journeys.

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