Home Health What Skills Do Nurses Need To Succeed?

What Skills Do Nurses Need To Succeed?

Nurses skills

If you are a nurse or you want to become a nurse, it’s important to know what skills you need to succeed in your chosen career. No matter what level of nursing your goal might be, from an RN to a PhD or nursing leader, there will be small successes along the way, and sometimes big ones too. To achieve them and make the most of your working life, you need to know what to look out for, and you need to know what skills are going to help you the most.

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It’s worth noting that a nursing career is not suitable for everyone, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is different, and nursing requires some very specific traits and thinking. There is much more to nursing than simply obtaining a degree; you have to truly live this kind of career, and that’s not going to work for everyone.

Of course, if you read the article below and are worried that you are missing out on some of these skills but still want to be a nurse, don’t worry. Most of them are learnable skills, and by knowing what they are, you can ensure you learn them. It’s only when you don’t know that you can fail. Therefore, read on to learn more about the skills needed to become a successful nurse and help as many people – and yourself – as possible.



When you first start nursing, you will likely be a little less confident that your colleagues, even if you have all the right training and qualifications. This feeling is due to a lack of experience, and it’s perfectly natural. However, even if you are slightly less confident, it’s still important to show confidence. If you are nervous around your patients, they will get nervous too, and they might worry about their treatment or the medication they are being given. They might worry you’re not telling them the whole story. This could have negative connotations for their recovery, and it could even mean they don’t do what you tell them to, even if it’s in their best interests to. This is why you always need to act confident in front of your patients; if you have any questions or are unsure about something, ask a colleague, but do it away from the patients themselves.

As time goes on, you’ll become much more confident in your nursing abilities and stop second-guessing yourself. The important thing to remember, no matter what stage you are at and how confident in yourself you are, is that you will have gained the right knowledge from your studies, and you wouldn’t have graduated and been able to treat patients if you hadn’t. Therefore, draw on that knowledge and use it to help build your confidence more quickly.

You Can ‘Connect The Dots’

Some patients are easy to treat. They have one, perhaps very obvious, thing wrong with them, and there will be a course of action to take. This will be medication, surgery, physiotherapy, and so on. It might be a combination of different treatments. However, the point is the patient will be treated and taken care of.

Other patients required a different approach. They will need to have several different symptoms considered before a diagnosis can be made. Or perhaps they have one obvious thing wrong with them, but there are other, less obvious issues too.

In this case, if a nurse is going to succeed, they need to be able to ‘connect the dots’. This means they can look at all the different issues that a patient talks about (and some that they don’t talk about but that are observed by the nurse or another specialist) and determine a course of action that will help in the best way. This means a holistic approach to nursing, meaning that the entire body and mind have to be considered when coming up with a treatment plan rather than just the area that is clearly causing the biggest problems.

When a nurse can treat a patient in this manner, they will be able to ensure that every element of their healthcare is looked after, and they will be successful in their careers and in helping each specific patient recover.

Decision Making

Some people find it very difficult to make decisions. It takes them a long time to weigh up all the pros and cons, and even then, they might still sit on the fence. This can lead to inaction. Although in most situations, this will simply result in missed opportunities or mistakes being made (or not, as the case may be – there is usually going to be a fifty-fifty chance, after all), in nursing, things are not this simple, and the consequences of not making a timely decision, or of not deciding at all, could be dire.

This is why, if you’re going to succeed as a nurse, you must be able to make decisions quickly. Plus, they have to be good decisions. This is not something everyone can do, and it’s not something you may be able to do immediately after graduating from nursing school. However, you will certainly need to learn how to do it. Paying attention to your studies, watching more experienced colleagues closely, and ensuring that you continue to learn as much as possible will all help with this.

A Good Bedside Manner

Having a lot of knowledge, technical skills, and confidence is a great start when you are a nurse, but it’s not everything. A nurse must also be able to have a good bedside manner. This is a term that means you need to be kind and caring for your patients, and it stands apart from (although is connected to) the actual treatment a patient gets.

A good, skilled nurse will be able to dress a wound, set up an IV, or give the right medication. A great nurse, and one that will be successful in their future career, whatever direction that might go in, will be able to do all of this and do it while making the patient feel better. They’ll do this by being positive, chatting about all kinds of things, explaining exactly what they are doing, or by listening to what the patient has to say. These are crucial elements of patient care, but they can often be ignored because the technical aspect is what is usually at the forefront of people’s minds. However, if you have a good bedside manner, you’ll find your patients are happier and more cooperative and potentially able to recover more quickly due to their positive attitude.


Nurses will sometimes need to take charge of a situation and ensure that everyone around them is doing what needs to be done. This could be their colleagues, patients, patients’ family members, or anyone involved in the situation. In an emergency, for example, a nurse might not have the time to wait for a more senior colleague to come and take control; they might have to do it themselves to offer the best care for the patient.

Being a leader is difficult, but a successful nurse must be one. You’ll be put in situations every day where you need to take the lead, and although some will be small, others will be much more serious. There is no time to stand back and hope someone else will do the work for you.

Nurses are leaders, and that’s a good motto to keep in mind. You don’t have to have a leadership role in leading, which is another useful piece of advice. A well-trained, skilled, confident nurse will immediately step into a leadership position when it is needed.

So what does it take to be a good leader? You’ll need to be authoritative, you’ll need to be good at conflict management, your communication skills must be excellent, and you need to have the courage of your convictions – be sure about what you’re asking people to do. They are much more likely to do it.

Lifelong Learning

As a nurse, another skill that it’s crucial to have for success is lifelong learning. Perhaps you hadn’t considered this a skill before, but it certainly is one. Your nursing journey has to begin with learning; you need to gain a nursing degree in order to start working as an RN.

However, if you want to be successful, you need to keep learning, and lifelong learning is a skill that will help you hugely. You can take classes, go to conferences, read blogs and articles, and more. You can take this ability to keep learning as far as you want; you might even decide that a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing is the perfect qualification to work towards.

No matter how far you choose to be in your nursing career, whether you opt to remain as an RN until you retire or you go all the way to PhD level, as we mentioned above, you’ll need to keep learning. You might not get an official qualification out of the things you know, but you’ll definitely become more confident and be able to help your patients a lot more.

Nurse work

Nurse-Like Thinking

You might assume that because you have your nursing degree and you are working in a clinic setting as a nurse, you are thinking like a nurse. However, that is not always the case, and it’s another skill you’ll pick up over time.

Nurse-like thinking means being able to see beyond what someone is telling you and what they are presenting in terms of their health or an injury. It’s about thinking more deeply and considering a holistic approach to any kind of treatment.

Yet it’s also about being caring. You need to have these two traits together to ensure that you are making a success of your career.

Nurse-like thinking also means being adaptable and flexible. You might have one idea, but that doesn’t work, so you need another, or an emergency situation might arise, and you need to take charge. Thinking like a nurse will come naturally to you as your confidence and experience grows, and you might even find yourself doing it at home with your friends and family – this is not altogether bad.


When you start working in a new hospital, clinic, or another medical facility, there will be an expectation for you to work well in a team. If you are a very introverted person, there is no reason why you can’t find a career in healthcare, but it might be that nursing is not the ideal job for you. Nursing revolves around good teamwork; without it, patient care can be lacking. 

The thing about teamwork is that this is not something that can be taught during your nursing studies, and it’s not something that you can learn from a book. It is a skill you can improve through experience and getting to know people well, and through bonding exercises in some cases, but if you aren’t the kind of person who instinctively wants to work with others and can put aside differences to do the task at hand, nursing could be a difficult role for you to have.

In many cases, there won’t be much time to get to know people before you’re expected to work in a very close team with them as a nurse. This is why you need to be a good team player in general to succeed.

Understand Different Points Of View

You’ll meet a lot of people during your nursing career, and they won’t all have the same viewpoint as you. Although you might not agree with all viewpoints (this is impossible as you’ll have your own opinion on things), you do need to try to understand them. If you don’t, you might miss a learning opportunity or a chance to help a patient in a better way. You might also miss teaching opportunities, which can be just as important.

It’s wise to be open to advise and listen to other people, and it’s just as important to put your point across when it needs to happen. It knows which action is best that makes for a successful nurse.