Nurses are in high demand in almost every sector of the medical industry right now. If you’re considering pursuing a career as a nurse, there has never been a better time. That said, although the job opportunities are many, you still need to have the education and high-level of skills to be successful. The skills you need to become an effective nurse are not something you can fake.
You’ll need to have proper formal training and qualifications to get consideration in the first place. Technical skills are fundamental when working in such a high-stakes professional where the little details can be the difference between life and death. On top of your clinical experience and formal education, you’ll need a thorough set of soft skills if you want to excel in this career path.
The perfect balance of both intellect and practical skills will make you a fantastic nurse. By identifying what skills employers are looking for, you can start developing them and use them to both land and excel at a job in nursing.
What education do you need to become a nurse?
If you’re considering becoming a nurse, you’ll need in-depth medicine training to become fully qualified. Regardless of what type of nursing professional you choose, you will need a nursing degree. At a minimum, you will need to obtain either a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) or an ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing). Once completed, you will have to take a licensing exam to become an RN, and these licenses vary between states.
To go up a level from an RN, you can obtain further training with a DNP-FNP certification through an online Doctor of Nursing practice programs. Obtaining this certification will allow you to see patients on your own without needing a physician present. You can also diagnose and treat illnesses and prescribe medication.
Beyond the technical and educational skills required to become a nurse, here are the practical and soft skills you will need:
As a nurse, communication is vital to ensure a thorough understanding amongst coworkers and patients. There is no room for error when it comes to dealing with medications and injuries; therefore, excellent communication skills are essential so that everyone knows exactly what is going on. If you’re giving instructions to a co-worker regarding medication doses or running tests, you need to be clear and straightforward, so no mistakes are made.
You’ll also be continually communicating with patients and their families. It is essential to give instructions to patients and explain what’s going on to them in a simple way. Most people don’t have the medical knowledge to understand complex information, so communicating it in a way that is simplified is essential to avoid patients getting upset, anxious, or frustrated.
On top of that, you’ll deal with patients of all ages, from all walks of life. Some patients may not speak English at all or will have a hard time hearing and comprehending things. Knowing how to communicate effectively with everyone will make your job easier and help keep patients at ease.
Nurses are never on their own. Whether you work in a hospital, clinic, or aged care facility, you will always be working with a variety of other people. Working in the healthcare industry involves situations that are high stakes where speed and accuracy are crucial to saving lives. Teamwork is one of the most important skills you can have as a nurse because your division is like a machine. Without all the parts working together, the machine fails. If you’re looking for a career where you’re always in the spotlight, then nursing may not be a good fit. The focus should always be on giving the best care possible to the patients.
You’ll work with other nurses, doctors, therapists, dietitians, and more. Every individual involved has a critical role to play. Being a nurse is a selfless professional where your desire to help people needs to outweigh your desire for recognition. Working well with your colleagues will allow you to make a collective positive impact and keep your patients happy and healthy.
There is no downtime when you’re on the clock as a nurse. The ability to manage your time effectively will give you more control when you’re on shift and help prevent you from burning out. Being efficient by prioritizing and managing your tasks and duties will reduce stress and allow you to be more effective in your job.
You will always have multiple things to do as a nurse, and just when you think you’ve caught up, you may get the call to tend to another task. By developing your time-management skills, you will stay ahead of the curve and be ready for anything your day throws at you. Some practical time management tips include avoiding tasks that aren’t on your list, prioritizing your tasks, learning to say no when you don’t have the capacity, taking notes, and taking breaks. Even when you feel like you have too much to do, it’s important to take breaks to go to the bathroom, rest your legs and brain for a minute, have a drink and eat something.
You will spend a lot of your time as a nurse supporting patients both physically and emotionally. Being in the hospital or clinic is not often a positive experience, and patients are at their most vulnerable state. Being able to empathize with patients and treat them with compassion will allow them to trust you and feel supported as they go through a tough time. Patients are often in pain or experiencing trauma in one way or another. You need to have the ability to put yourself in their shoes and treat them how you would want to be treated.
Beyond compassion for patients is compassion for their loved ones. You may have to deliver information that isn’t necessarily positive. The way you provide information to the loved ones of a patient can leave a lasting impact on them for the rest of their life. Compassion is vital in these situations, and while there is often no “right” thing to say, being there for support is everything.
Physical and emotional strength
As a nurse, you need to be strong both physically and emotionally. Firstly, physical strength and stamina are essential as you’ll be on your feet for long hours, often doing 12-hour shifts. Most of that time you’ll be moving quite quickly and won’t have many chances to stop for a rest. Many of the patients you deal with will be very weak. You will need to be able to catch them if they fall and hold them up if need be. You will also need to physically move and maneuver patients, regardless of their size.
Emotional strength and resilience are also necessary as a nurse. You may be yelled at by patients who are frustrated or don’t understand what’s going on. When people are in tremendous pain, they often take it out on the closest person to them, which is usually you. You’ll need to have the emotional strength not to take those situations personally and understand that it’s not you; it’s the circumstances. You may also find yourself verbally attacked by family members of the patient because of what’s going on. Fear, sadness, and anxiety can lead to extreme frustration, and family members becoming upset with you. Again, don’t take it personally.
Attention to detail
There are few other professionals where attention to detail is as critical as in the medical industry. Absolute accuracy is essential when it comes to administering doses of medications or noticing a change in patient symptoms. Reading instructions correctly and following them to a T is a non-negotiable, as one tiny mistake can lead to catastrophic results.
Identifying changes in a patient’s condition, even small ones, is important to catching any problems before they become deadly. You’ll have years of formal training under your belt, and being able to access those banks of knowledge and recognize them in your patients demonstrates close attention to detail.
There’s no denying that working as a nurse can be stressful. The key is managing that stress adequately so that it doesn’t overwhelm you, your colleagues, or most importantly, your patients. You will witness trauma and see a lot of things many people couldn’t stomach. You will also dramatically change people’s lives for the better, which is a good trade-off and likely why you wanted to be a nurse in the first place.
Dealing with these situations sensibly and without getting stressed is the only way to ensure positive outcomes. A million things are going on every minute in the medical professional, and staying calm and collected will allow you to execute the necessary tasks effectively and successfully while keeping your patients safe. Shaky hands and using needles do not mix, and it’s your job as a nurse to be confident in your abilities and training and keep your stress level low.