Top 10 Essential Nursing Skills You Need to Have

5 Min Read Published June 14, 2023
Top 10 Essential Nursing Skills You Need to Have

As nurses, we must master many skills to become competent. In nursing school, we learn how to thoroughly assess our patients. Students conquer complicated equipment while also learning the intricacies of the human body. After graduation, we begin to advance our careers and continue to hone these “hard skills.” 

But beyond those, have you ever heard of soft skills? These are a completely different set of skills that are not specific to nursing, but you probably guessed it…a good nurse needs to have certain soft skills too! We’ve rounded up the top essential soft skills that nurses need to have in order to be successful.

What Are Soft Skills? 

Soft skills or “people skills” are essential to nursing because nurses deal with patients, their families, and caregivers every day. 

These skills are not necessarily testable in the sense of an exam, but are traits we develop as we grow and mature. Good soft skills are highly sought after in any workplace, not just nursing. Those who have good soft skills tend to be more successful in their career. 

So, let’s dive a little deeper into some of the top soft skills every nurse should possess. 

Top 10 Nursing Soft Skills

1. Communication 

I think we can all understand why having good communication skills is essential in nursing. We work with a variety of people, from professionals such as doctors and pharmacists to our patients, who often have no formal understanding of the medical field. 

A nurse must be able to communicate effectively on many different levels. Effective communication is essential to successful patient outcomes. 

2. Compassion 

Compassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” As nurses, it is imperative we show compassion to our patients and their families, especially in times of illness. It is what we are trained to do…understand our patient’s situation and try to help them. 

Nurses tend to be nurturers by nature, and although this one can be tough when we lose a patient, it is still a very vital trait to have as a nurse.  

3. Conflict Resolution 

At some point in your nursing career, you will have to resolve a conflict. That conflict may be between you and a co-worker or a patient and a family member. Regardless, you need to have the ability to handle conflicts in a healthy way, so that the outcome is positive for all involved.  

4. Critical Thinking 

There are many long and broad definitions of critical thinking, but it can be defined simply as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” 

In order to be a good critical thinker, you must also have a good solid foundation of nursing knowledge to develop an informed decision. This skills is important in all aspects of nursing but is of utmost importance for APRNs and ICU nurses. 

Not everything in nursing is textbook. In fact, most things in nursing are not textbook examples, which is one reason critical thinking is a central part of nursing programs. For anyone struggling with critical thinking, just know, as we become more seasoned in our careers, we become better critical thinkers.   

5. Dependability  

Who loves the coworker who constantly is calling out of work, leaving the rest of the team struggling to cover their patients? Or the coworker that is consistently late getting to work, causing you to clock out late every single shift? Don’t get me wrong, we all have things that come up where we have to take off, but being dependable is very important. It not only impacts the way our co-workers view us, but it also affects the quality of care and safety of our patients.  

6. Initiative 

Taking initiative means assessing a situation and taking action to address it on your own. Nurses who take initiative stand out in a unit, as it is a critical aspect of leadership in nursing. Depending on the circumstances, taking initiative can lead to small achievements or much greater successes because nurses are key players in practice improvements.  

As a nurse, we see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Nurses who take the initiative to bring these things to light help contribute to better nursing practices. You could be the one who discovers a better way of practicing for all nurses just by taking the initiative!  

7. Professionalism 

Professionalism is defined as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” How you treat your co-workers and your patients reflects your level of professionalism.  

In nursing, we are expected to adhere to the nursing code of ethics, which includes autonomy, beneficence,  justice, and non-maleficence. The code of ethics is part of nursing professionalism. Being respectful towards others is an absolute must in nursing!  

8. Resilience 

With the ever-changing world of nursing, being resilient is a must. A resilient nurse has “the ability to face adverse situations, remain focused, and continue to be optimistic for the future.” Nurses were pushed to the breaking point during the pandemic but remained resilient. No matter how resilient you are, always remember that self-care is also important! 

9. Teamwork 

It’s always refreshing to work with team players. We all need help at times. When nurses work successfully as a team, patient outcomes are better, and the load is lighter on everyone. 

When you are a team player, your co-workers won’t mind helping you when you need help.   

10. Time Management and Flexibility 

Good time management skills are imperative to becoming an efficient nurse. Even with excellent time management skills, you must also be flexible. Time management and flexibility go hand in hand.  

We all know what it’s like to have our shift planned out, pacing ourselves, and then…boom…someone codes and everything we had planned goes to the wayside. 

Once things are under control, it’s time to regroup and reorganize our time for the remainder of our shift. Good time management and remaining flexible will make the shift much more structured so you won’t find yourself running around in limbo. 

How to Hone These Nursing Skills 

Practicing soft skills should be a daily occurrence for continued self-improvement. 

Some may come easier than others, but soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Remember, practice makes perfect. If you are a new grad or still in nursing school, give yourself time and grace to work on these skills. But know that they are just as important as learning how to insert a Foley catheter or how to draw blood correctly. 


Christy Book
Christy Book Contributor

Christy Book, BSN, RN, is a registered nurse from Louisiana. She has served as an assistant director of nursing, director of nursing, and divisional director of nursing in the long-term care setting. Other nursing experience includes medical-surgical, allied health instructor, and immigration. She is also an American Heart Association BLS Instructor. Christy’s passion for writing, researching, and educating others is what led her to become a nurse writer.

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