Skills You Need to Be a Registered Nurse

There are a lot of different skills you will need as a nurse. Some of them are more of the educational type, which you can learn through your training in nursing school. Others, however, are more general characteristics that can’t easily be learned or taught. Of those listed below, critical thinking skills are probably most easily developed in a classroom. To a certain extent you may be able to train yourself to be more detail-oriented, but compassion is a personality trait that is more innate than anything. Regardless, all of these characteristics are important to your success as a future nurse.

Critical Thinking Skills

As a nurse, you’ll constantly have to deal with patients’ changing physical health and mental status. This is especially true if you work in certain departments within hospitals, such as in the emergency room (ER) or intensive care unit (ICU). You’ll need to learn how to make decisions quickly, especially when it comes to taking corrective action or making a referral. You’ll also need to know how to use your best judgment to decide when to alert a patient’s doctor to a new development. Doctors are very busy and don’t want to be bothered about every little thing, but would also be upset if they were not consulted on a crucial decision. It will be important for you to keep your critical thinking skills sharp, because it can be especially hard to accurately assess a patient’s condition or make judgments if you’re exhausted. This might be a common occurrence, too, as nurses typically work long, 12-hour shifts – sometimes overnight.


While this isn’t a “skill” per se, it is nonetheless an important characteristic among nurses. In fact, if you can admit to yourself now that you aren’t the most compassionate individual, you might want to consider an alternate career. In order to effectively treat patients you should be both caring and sympathetic, and go out of your way to understand your patients’ plight. You will frequently deal with patients who receive difficult, life-altering news, such as the diagnosis of a debilitating illness or even a terminal disease. After doctors deliver the news they often have to rush out to speak with another patient or run tests. This is when it will be your job to use your compassion to comfort them and keep them as much at ease as possible during their time in the hospital or physician’s office.

Attention to Detail

If you’re more of a “big picture” kind of worker, you may struggle in this profession. Nurses regularly have to deal with all sorts of details – a list of treatments for a patient, a cocktail of medications, a series of directions from a doctor, or observations of a patient that need to be recorded. In fact, you may be rushing around talking to multiple patients and making observations before you have the chance to write anything down. This is where a good memory will come in handy as well. If you can effectively log all these details away in your mind and accurately reproduce them in records later, this will contribute to your success as a nurse. You’ll likely earn the gratitude of your fellow nurses as well, since you’ll be a fast worker who may even be able to help your coworkers keep track of important details.


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