Skills Nurses Need to Thrive Professionally


As the healthcare industry evolves from volume-based to value-based health provision, patient experiences are front and center in how care is delivered. In addition, a growing body of evidence validates that high-quality nursing care contributes directly to improved patient outcomes. 

Nurses who can master a sophisticated set of skills, designed to maximize their effectiveness in professional practice, will not only thrive professionally but also ensure their patients receive better care and have a positive experience while they are cared for. 

Nurses are often well-educated, positive contributors to the world around them. Yet they often struggle with finding satisfaction and fulfillment in their professions. Just like any other professional, nurses can find themselves going through a career slump. 

To make matters worse, we are in the throes of a staffing shortage crisis in nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2016 to 2026, there will be 797,500 job openings in nursing. 

The following are some of the must-have skills nurses should possess if they want to thrive professionally:

Compassion and empathy

Compassion is the ability to show concern for others and to have sympathy for their situation. Empathy is understanding another person’s perspective. Both are important skills to acquire for nurses, who can often be the patient and the family’s sole source of support.

The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they are feeling is an important part of being a nurse. The nursing profession is based on trust, which must be earned by nurses through empathy, understanding, and compassionate care.

Education and technical skills

Just like any other profession, improving and enhancing qualification in nursing to attain professional growth is always recommended. With the evolving needs of the time and the nursing profession, nurses can cultivate essential nursing skills by enrolling themselves in an advanced degree program that also lets them pursue their work on the side. 

Technological advances have changed the way nurses practice, requiring new competencies that may not have been needed in the past. Nurses must learn how to use new equipment, such as computers and imaging technologies, so they can perform tests efficiently and accurately.


Nurses must be able to communicate clearly with patients and their families, but they also need to be able to collaborate with other members of the healthcare team — physicians, physician assistants, social workers, and many others. A nurse may also need to work closely with insurance companies or home health agencies to coordinate care and services.

Nurses also need to be able to communicate effectively. This includes listening and responding appropriately to patients, as well as being able to follow instructions from physicians.

Nurses need to communicate not only with their patients but also with their colleagues and superiors. Strong communication skills are absolutely essential when it comes to advocating or relaying patient needs and ensuring that they are receiving the care they need in a timely manner.

Critical thinking

Nurses need a broad knowledge base and a willingness to keep learning more about health care. They also need to be able to think critically in order to determine the patient needs and how best to address them. This can involve observing and registering symptoms, deciding which diagnostic tests are necessary, and developing a compatible treatment plan that works for the patient.

Nurses must be able to make quick decisions and solve problems. They must be detail-oriented and highly observant, on the lookout for any changes in the patient’s condition or behavior, so they can respond accordingly.


Nursing is an intense profession with high demands and challenging circumstances. Some days will be harder than others, but nurses need the ability to bounce back from disappointments or setbacks.

When you think about a nurse’s job, you probably imagine a patient-centered role — and that’s definitely one of the characteristics every nurse needs. But nurses also need to be resilient in order to deal with high-stress situations and maintain their own physical and emotional health.

A recent study found that 72% of nurses reported burnout symptoms, which is likely due to the long hours, emotionally taxing situations they encounter on a daily basis, and high patient-to-nurse ratios due to staffing shortages. The study also noted that nearly 17% of nurses reported feeling depressed or sad, which is higher than the general population.

“Nurses need to be able to handle stress and feel confident in their skills in order to provide quality care,” says Maureen Heaman, a chief nursing officer at Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. “No matter what position a nurse holds, they’re constantly under pressure.”


Nurses must be detail-oriented because they are responsible for patients’ health. They also need to keep detailed records on each patient’s care plans and their progress toward recovery or treatment for their condition.


Patients come into hospitals all hours of the day and night, so nurses have to be prepared to work in any shift they’re called in for, whether it’s the night shift, the weekend shift, or the holiday shift. They also need to be flexible enough to be able to quickly adapt to changing situations.

Nurses may be given assignments they don’t like, fall behind schedule, or have to deal with patients who complain about their food or medication. It’s important to keep your cool and focus on the task at hand — which is to take care of the patients.

The ability to remain flexible at the workplace despite challenging circumstances is a valuable skill for any professional. For nurses, however, this skill is a must-have. Nurses are expected to adapt to a variety of situations and job roles at a moment’s notice. The ability to seamlessly move between roles or tasks can make all the difference in the lives of your patients.


Nursing is a highly collaborative career, and you’ll need to work with other healthcare professionals daily. While it’s important to be able to work independently, it’s equally important that you’re able to work well with others to provide the best possible care for your patients.


The management and leadership skills needed for success in nursing will be learned through working with many different people over the years. Interpersonal skills are crucial for a working nurse, and advanced degrees or certifications may be helpful in attaining leadership positions.