Soft skills for nursing

10 Soft Skills You Need as a Successful Nurse

You need a strong set of soft skills to empower you to have a productive career and a positive impact as a nurse.

Of course, your nursing career is built on a foundation of hard skills that you learned in school and developed at work. After all, you can’t properly take care of your patients if you don’t know how to monitor vital signs or start an IV.

However, while technical skills are indispensable in the medical field, there are also some important abilities that you can’t learn from a textbook: soft skills for nursing.

The Importance of Soft Skills

Soft skills are personal strengths, traits, and behaviors that you exhibit in various situations. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN) considers soft skills as an essential component of nursing that leads to healthy working environments and patient safety.

Soft skills contribute to the success of your career as a nurse. These intangible qualities enable you to provide quality health care, to be productive and efficient at work, to display a better bedside manner, and to be a positive influence on others.

Soft skills for nursing also help you to boost the well-being of your patients and colleagues. You can foster a healing environment for your patients by earning their trust and building relationships with them. You can promote a supportive working environment through your ability to interact and collaborate smoothly with your teammates.

10 Top Soft Skills for Nurses to Develop

While you cannot learn soft skills simply by attending a lecture, you can hone and improve these skills over time with constant practice. Here are 10 soft skills you should develop so you can become a successful nurse:

1. Communication

One crucial thing that nursing schools teach is therapeutic communication. Why? It’s because communication is the most important soft skill for nursing you need when you take care of your patients.

You need to accurately explain the current situation to your patients and their families. You have to guide them as they experience treatment plans, which can be medically complex at times. It’s useful for you to have the ability to break down technical information in a way that everyone can clearly understand.

More importantly, you will often be called upon to tend to your patients’ emotional needs as well. You can offer them a sense of (realistic) reassurance and support by communicating with them as they express their anxiety or grief.

2. Empathy

Knowing what your patients are going through and understanding their pain is key to building a good rapport with them. If you don’t feel empathy for your patients — and if you are cold and callous towards them instead — you won’t be able to encourage them to open up nor to trust you. 

By talking to them about their experiences and by sharing your own experiences too, you can help your patients feel at ease and less alone.

3. Work Ethic

Someone can be the most talented nurse in the world, but it does not count for much if he or she doesn’t have a strong work ethic. Employers want to hire a nurse who is dependable and passionate.

How can you prove that you have an admirable work ethic as a nurse? You should consistently show up on time to prove that you are a reliable worker. You should be willing and enthusiastic to perform the tasks assigned to you in order for you to stand out among other nurses. Finally, your dedication as a nurse should be contagious so you can encourage your colleagues to develop a good work attitude as well.

4. Listening

Going hand in hand with good communication skills is the ability to listen. When doctors and patients are talking to you, you should give them your undivided attention.

Listen carefully to what they are telling you, as opposed to simply nodding and waiting for the chance to get your point across. Read their body language so you can properly interpret their intentions. When you respond to your patients and co-workers, it’s a good idea to make relevant comments and to ask follow-up questions on the topics they shared with you.

Listening is one of the skills for nursing which reassures others that you have been listening to them; it also helps you to clarify the information that others have communicated to you.

5. Teamwork

Nursing is not a one-person job. As a nurse, you need to work with various doctors, pharmacists, medical professionals, and other nurses on a daily basis.

Teamwork is essential for you and your co-workers to provide quality health care to patients together. The ability to interact, communicate, and collaborate with everyone is vital to ensuring that everyone’s health care needs are met in an efficient, timely manner.

6. Adaptability

Nursing work is not straightforward and routine all the time. New patients are continuously admitted, existing patients may suddenly experience extreme health issues, and medical emergencies are constantly arising.

It’s important that you’re able to roll with the punches. You should be flexible enough so you can easily adapt to unexpected developments that come up at work. If you don’t have the adaptability skill for nursing, you will have a difficult time adjusting to the variety of situations you will encounter in your job.

7. Critical thinking

Not all patients have a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. As a nurse, there are occasions when you need to think outside the box.

You need to demonstrate critical thinking in cooperation with doctors and other nurses when you are dealing with health issues of unconventional patients. You need to think on your feet to offer innovative patient care and to solve new challenges at work.

8. Professionalism

Maybe you are the best nurse in the hospital… but you don’t need to act like you’re better than anyone. Maybe your patient is behaving emotionally or irrationally about their situation… but you don’t need to ignore them. Maybe you’re working with an arrogant doctor… but you don’t have to be rude towards them in return.

As a nurse, you represent your workplace and your fellow health care professionals. You can uphold your reputation — and make your patients feel at ease at the same time — by being a professional, courteous nurse with a pleasant attitude and a presentable appearance.

9. Patience

Each nurse is a part of a team that looks after other people at their most vulnerable state. The medical field can be a potentially stressful environment, not just for you, but for your teammates and patients as well.

Patience is one of the most crucial soft skills for nursing. Be patient when you experience frustrating situations, such as when patients are complaining about random issues or the laboratory staff is slow in processing test results.

Keep in mind that most people do not intend to inconvenience you; they are probably just going through their own challenges. Give everyone a little break.

10. Advocacy

Nurses are their patients’ champions. There are certain occasions when you need to stand up to doctors, to the administration, and sometimes, to patients’ family members so you can provide the best care to patients in the best means possible.

You should have a strong voice within reason, as well as the confidence to use this voice when you know you are in the right. You also need intelligence and logical thinking to back up your point when necessary. Make sure to remain professional and respectful as you advocate for your patients’ well-being.