10 Qualities That Make a Good Nurse

Portrait of a smiling nurse in a hospital

A global pandemic devastated both the world and the healthcare industry last year. This disaster shone a spotlight on one of the biggest upcoming employment and healthcare crises in the world as countless nurses quit, retired, or lost their lives on the frontlines. According to the American Nurses Association, we’ll need over one million nurses to replace those we’ve lost and meet projected needs by 2022.

If you wish to fill this desperately needed niche, you should first consider whether or not you will make a good nurse. It takes a special personality type to make this career work for them. Not sure what you might need to succeed in nursing? Here are ten qualities that make for a good nurse.

1. Exceptional Empathy

Exceptional empathy is a key quality of all good nurses and medical providers. One cannot uphold the Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm” without the ability to empathize with patients.

While compassion is helpful, empathy will allow you, as a nurse, to gain a sense of perspective. A good nurse should be able to consider how they’d want to be treated in the patient’s shoes.

2. Physical and Mental Endurance

We won’t mince words: nurses work long hours. Many work over twelve hours each day, often to the detriment of themselves and patient outcomes. As a nurse, you’ll need to have the physical endurance to handle many hours of standing and walking around on hard floors and the mental endurance to deal with the high-stress situations often encountered by medical staff.

3. Strong Work Ethic

Before you even begin practicing as a nurse, you’ll need to develop a strong work ethic. This strong work ethic and sense of dedication will serve you well as you navigate through the punishing workloads of nursing school. It will continue to aid you even after you start to practice nursing in the real world, giving you the aforementioned endurance to make it through a tough shift.

4. Time Management

Nurses often juggle more patients than servers juggle tables. The consequences they face for a slowed response time are far more severe than dropped or cold food. Thus, time management is a critical skill for any nurse to have in their back pocket. Trust us, you’ll appreciate knowing how to handle multiple cases at once when you’re waiting on your (late) relief to show up.

5. Patience

Patience is critical for any care provider. Patients and their families come to you at the worst moments in their lives, which can make them testy and difficult to deal with. Worse, some patients may not wish to comply with necessary medical treatments. Here, patience will help you remain calm and provide them with the best possible care.

6. Excellent De-Escalation Skills

As mentioned above, patients come to medical providers in the worst moments of their lives. They’re often in pain, both physical and emotional. People in pain tend to act in irrational ways and get angry much faster than they would under normal circumstances.

In severe cases, there may be a risk of violent confrontation. This is one of many reasons why it’s so important for a nurse to have strong de-escalation skills. You must be ready and able to calm someone down when they’re at their worst.

7. Willingness to Advocate for Patients

Patients may not have the medical knowledge that you or the doctors do, but they know what sort of care they want to receive. They may even have an idea when and where something is wrong, even if receptionists and doctors alike dismiss their concerns. Doctors may have more prestigious degrees, but they are far from omniscient.

If both you and the patient feel that something is being overlooked, do not be afraid to stand up for their needs. Patients may be scared to ask for what they need, but you shouldn’t be. You have the power to help them get the care they need. Don’t let it go to waste.

8. Quick Thinking and Problem Solving

Patient health can improve or degrade within seconds in an emergent situation. Whether for good or ill, you need to be able to think on your feet. Say a patient you just brought food suddenly begins aspirating. You have mere seconds to analyze all the data presented and determine if the issue is food clogging the airway, anaphylactic shock, or some other issue.

If you don’t have a fast-moving, analytical mind, you’ll struggle to find the cause of the patient’s reaction and treat it appropriately. Each second spent weighing what you should do is a second where your patient’s life could slip through your fingers and get you sued for nursing malpractice.

9. Willingness to Learn

Medicine is an ever-evolving field. New treatments and technologies come out every single year. You can’t count on what you learned in nursing school to remain current forever and nothing damages patient trust like out-of-date treatments. Be willing to continue your education as medicine evolves, and keep an open mind to interdisciplinary approaches.

10. Maintaining Calm Under High Pressure

Medical professionals deal with life-or-death, high-pressure, high-stakes situations day in and day out. As such, doctors and nurses both must be able to maintain a sense of calm under pressure.

As a nurse, you control the energy of the room from the moment you step inside. If you seem unsettled or panicked, the patients will feed off of that and grow hysterical. If you seem irritated, so will they. Maintaining a sense of serenity will help you treat your patients more effectively.

Reviewing the Qualities of a Good Nurse

So, what qualities does a good nurse have? A good nurse carries with them the organizational and conversational skills that they learned in nursing school while maintaining a sense of empathy and grace. They listen and advocate for their patients while offering firm guidance where needed. If you feel like these qualities exist within you, then you’ll make an excellent nurse.

If you found this article about the best qualities for nursing helpful and would like to read more like it, check out the Health section of our blog for more content like this!


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