7 Qualities the Best Nurses Have in Common
Nurses are often hailed as some of society’s most caring and admired workers. In fact, 2019 marked the 17th year in a row that nurses took the top spot as the nation’s most trusted profession!1
Nursing couldn’t earn such a high reputation if it weren’t for the individual RNs working hard to make a difference every day. It takes a special type of person to be a nurse, and the best nurses have a lot in common.
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7 Things the best nurses have in common
We spoke with nurses from a variety of specialties to find out what makes them tick as they spend their days caring for others. If you’re wondering if you’re cut out to join the ranks of this respected career, read through these characteristics, qualities and skills the best nurses have in common.
1. They’re empathetic
Empathy is the ability to understand others’ feelings. “Great nurses have empathy for the pain and suffering of their patients to better provide compassion and comfort,” says Sheri Harper, VP of nursing at Action Health Staffing. “Expressing empathy helps build patient trust, can calm anxieties a patient may experience and increases patient satisfaction,” Harper says.
Having empathy doesn’t just make people feel good, though: It can actually affect patients’ health outcomes! There’s a proven link between empathy and improved patient care, with Health Affairs journal writing that “by attempting to recognize and empathize with patients, providers improve the odds of successful health outcomes for them.” With potential benefits like these, it’s no surprise that that this quality is common among the best nurses.
2. They’re strong communicators
“Excellent communication skills are the foundation of nursing,” Harper says. “It’s one of the most important aspects of the job, and includes both speaking and listening.” Nurses have to share complex medical information with patients and families on a daily basis. They’re often serving as healthcare translators, explaining complicated topics in ways that are easy to understand—and occasionally breaking tough news to patients in a caring way.
This is no easy task, but the best nurses are able to use their written and verbal communication skills to provide excellent patient care. “Study after study has shown that good communication between nurses and their patients has many benefits. It can contribute to the ability to provide patients with individualized care, it help nurses act as patient advocates, and frequently leads to better patient outcomes,” Harper says.
3. They’re persuasive
Nurses aren’t always communicating information patients want to hear. Sometimes they might have to convince a patient about the best course of treatment, educate them about managing an illness or teach them about the importance of taking their medications.
That’s why this ability is one of the top soft skills for nurses. This ability to show others a different yet factually-grounded way of thinking comes in handy in many different types of healthcare environments, from patient education in a clinic to making the case for additional treatment in a home care setting.
4. They have top-notch problem-solving skills
Nurses never know what they’re going to get when they enter their workplace each day. There could be emergency situations, complicated cases or mystery illnesses with no clear cause. With so many variables to deal with all day long, it’s no surprise that complex problem solving is a necessary skill for nurses.
“No matter where you're nursing, you're going to have multiple problems arise at once. At that point, it's up to you to stay calm and to find adequate solutions,” says Jocelyn Nadua, registered practical nurse and care coordinator at C-Care Health Services. The best nurses have the ability to think on their feet and stay calm while making quick decisions.
5. They have excellent attention to detail
You can’t care for patients on autopilot. Nurses are responsible for reviewing and updating medical history, recording vital signs and monitoring patients’ ongoing conditions. None of that can happen without careful attention to detail.
“Attention to detail can sometimes be the difference between life or death,” Harper says. “From reading a chart correctly to remembering complex details of the patient’s case, nothing can be left to chance.” If you’re constantly noticing the small things in life, you can pat yourself on the back for sharing this trait with great nurses.
6. They love learning
Of course, all nurses must have the proper training and medical knowledge to care for their patients. There are many different paths to become a nurse, but they all involve some type of nursing school and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
With so much coursework to cover, plus additional skills to learn specific to different nursing specialties, aspiring nurses should have a natural curiosity about the medical field and a love of learning. The healthcare field is constantly changing thanks to medical breakthroughs and new technology, making continuing education more important than ever. Some of the best nurses are those who pursue this knowledge with excitement to learn more.
7. They care about people
Last but not least, the best nurses truly care about people. This might seem obvious, but it’s not the case for everyone who decides to become a nurse. Thanks to registered nurses’ positive job outlook and earning potential—the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 2018 median annual salary of $71,730 and projects employment of RNs to grow 12 percent from 2018-2028—this medical career can attract some who are only in it for the money.2
But it’s not a smart move to go into this career for the wrong reasons. Nursing is a demanding career that requires you to be fully invested in caring for patients in order to navigate the highs and lows of your work. “As rewarding as being a nurse can be at times, it can also be draining. Every day is a long day and you're continuously facing new challenges,” Nadua says. The best nurses are those who can stay motivated by their sincere desire to help their patients.
Joining the ranks of “best nurses”
Did you resonate with some of the qualities on this list? If you did, you already have a strong start to becoming one of the “best nurses” out there, yourself!
Even if you have all the characteristics listed above, you’ll still need to gain some technical training to become a nurse. If that sounds intimidating, not to worry! Read honest answers about what it takes with our article, How Hard Is Nursing School? Students Tell All.
1Gallup, Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics, [accessed February, 2020] https://news.gallup.com/poll/245597/nurses-again-outpace-professions-honesty-ethics.aspx
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed February, 2020] BLS salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.