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6 Core Qualities of a Nurse


Healthcare is one of America’s fastest-growing industries. This is partly because of the widening health needs of the aging baby boomer population — but also because of recent and ongoing government healthcare reform.


Of all the positions needed in the medical field, registered nurses (RNs) are in the greatest demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 438,100 new RN jobs between 2016 and 2026 — a 15% growth in employment.


Registered nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, a physician’s private practice, or in-home specialty care facilities. That means you have options when you choose to enter this booming — and rewarding — field.


So how do you take advantage of these opportunities? In addition to higher education and work experience, there are six key qualities of a nurse that you should have as an aspiring professional in this field.

1. Communication Skills

Doctors and other healthcare workers tend to speak with the medical terminology they learned in school. Because of the complex issues being discussed, patients may be frightened or confused when they hear these discussions.


As a nurse, you should take the time to break down what the doctor prescribes in ways patients unfamiliar with medical jargon can process. The ability to understand and relate to a specific patient is one of the most important nursing qualities and is a skill you should prioritize throughout your career.


In order to enhance the quality of patient care, you should keep the patient’s perspective and unique needs in mind.

2. Empathy

Many patients arrive at the hospital scared and confused, and part of the nurse’s job is to make them feel safe and at ease.


In addition to communication, there are other ways you can deliberately help your patients. A helpful nurse quality is the ability to empathize with patients and their families.


One way to express empathy is to explain the medical process and provide context for each step. For example, as a nurse, you should explain why you are performing a test or procedure and how the equipment works — whether you’re checking the patient’s eyes or taking blood pressure.


Understanding the patient’s concern and relating to his or her situation can help the patient feel more comfortable during the process. Showing empathy can also help build trust in the nurse-patient relationship.

3. Bilingual Fluency

One of the most valuable qualities of a nurse is the ability to speak a foreign language. Specifically, the demand for Spanish-speaking nurses is increasing.


Nurses who can speak the language of the patient can help both the patient and the medical staff to better assess the problem and work to find a solution. Often, a family member will try to serve as a translator, but the family member may not know the correct names for different body parts or the proper medical or treatment terminology.


Bilingual nurses can ask the right questions about the pain and symptoms, and they can explain what the patient is feeling to the doctor. Bilingual language skills indirectly help to improve the quality of care for patients of different backgrounds.

4. Time Management

In the current healthcare landscape, nurses can spend less than two hours of a 12-hour shift communicating and spending time with patients.


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nurses are spending less time with patients compared with previous standards. To remedy the problem, hospitals are working to re-evaluate procedures to triple the time nurses spend with patients.


In a clinical setting, busy nurses must carefully manage their time to balance tasks and responsibilities with patient attention. As a nurse, you can make the extra effort to analyze the procedures in their workplace and suggest improvements for increased time with patients.


It’s important that nurses remain calm and organized to avoid making mistakes that could impact patient treatment.

5. Attention to Detail

One of the most important qualities of a nurse is attention to detail. Small mistakes could lead to drastic consequences for patients. So as a nurse, you should stay focused on the details of your work, whether you’re filing reports, administering prescriptions, or offering advice to patients and their caretakers.


As registered nurses are in high demand, there may be staffing shortages at hospitals, which could lead you to be overworked or cause you to make unintentional errors. Annually, healthcare errors — such as catheter-associated UTIs — cost hospitals more than $21 billion, according to Rebecca Hendren of HealthLeaders Media.


Attention to detail ensures that patients receive the best care and that hospitals avoid wasting valuable resources.

6. An Iron Stomach

In a clinical setting, nurses are exposed to a wide variety of healthcare scenarios, some less pleasant than others.


Having the stomach to handle extreme medical cases is an important nurse quality. For example, as a nurse, you shouldn’t be fazed by blood, vomit, mental health struggles, or unexpected bodily functions and injuries.


Successful nurses remain calm in all medical scenarios and are able to act with precision under pressure. This involves both physical and mental strength.

How can I develop the core qualities of a nurse?

The nursing profession is a demanding career path, and it takes a qualified individual to master these essential qualities of a nurse.


A comprehensive education is the first step toward a career in the healthcare industry. If you’re an aspiring nurse or a practicing nurse looking to develop these six core skills, you might consider pursuing the benefits of higher education.


Maryville University’s online RN to BSN program, and see how it can help you build your nursing education and gain the insights to succeed as a nursing professional.


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