HealthNovember 10, 2022

Top 10 skills nursing students need to succeed

A career in nursing can be incredibly rewarding, but it's not for everyone. It's a lifestyle choice and a mental shift, and just becoming a registered nurse is a journey in and of itself. There will always be a demand for qualified nurses; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for RNs through 2031 is expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 6% and at a 40% rate for nurse practitioners, midwives, and anesthetists.

There are certain intangible "qualifications" that make good nurses great — a nursing skills checklist, if you will. Nursing students who possess these skills are quickly hired by the top organizations. 

Below are the top 10 skills nursing students need to possess as they build a successful nursing career. How many can you check off your list?

1. Confidence

When stepping into a new nursing job, it can be easy to second-guess your decisions, regardless of how many exams you aced in school. But you need to be confident and assured that what you learned in nursing school has made you ready for this job. It's about being optimistic, independent, and assertive, with enthusiasm for what you do and an emotional maturity that helps you do your job at a higher level.

2. Ability to connect the dots

So how well did you pay attention in school?! The tests are over, and now it's time to apply what you learned to real-life situations. Maintaining a holistic understanding of course content and being able to pull from that knowledge to make decisions and ask the right questions will help you succeed and better assist patients.

3. Critical thinking

Being able to observe, think critically, and make the right decision is vital to being a successful nurse. You may be great at dressing a wound or give an IV like a pro, but without the ability to make quick decisions in high-stress situations, you'll find yourself struggling as a nurse.

4. Relation-based care

This one is simple enough but cannot be overstated. "Bedside manner" is one of the most important tools in a nurse's arsenal and, aside from proper actual treatment, it's the one that can have the biggest impact on patient or family experience. As a framework, relation-based care improves safety, patient and staff satisfaction, and quality of work by improving each relationship within an organization. The ability to make real human connections and create an environment that keeps patients and their families feeling safe, informed, and cared for is a personal skill that lifts morale, and as a result, the reputation of the organization.

5. Leadership

Being a leader doesn't require a leadership role. As a nurse with patients and families looking to you for updates and guidance, you'll be put in leadership positions all day long. You'll need to be self- and situationally aware, have strong time management skills, and be able to manage projects, conflicts, and emergencies.

6. Lifelong learning

Being committed to succeeding in your nursing career requires constant learning, practice, and reflection for continuous improvement. Few industries move at a faster rate than medicine and patient care and there's always more to learn.

7. Think like a nurse

Successful nurses obviously need to have strong clinical thinking skills with a strong foundation of concepts and theories, but without being able to adapt to changing situations and think on the spot, lives could be in jeopardy. It's a whole world of thought — with the help of blood, bodily fluids, 12-hour shifts, staying obsessively clean, and multitasking constantly, thinking like a nurse is hard to avoid.

8. Work well with colleagues

Hospitals or other organizations in which you work will expect new nurses to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively with co-workers right off the bat. It's not something learned in textbooks or by studying; it's an intrinsic skill of maintaining composure, respect for others, and flexibility. Plus — it's nice to be liked!

9. Consider alternative points of view

It's easy to become absorbed in a patient's situation or feel strongly about the best way to proceed with diagnosis or procedures. Be open to advice, and even confrontation, and stay open minded to other ways of doing things. Treatment is rarely binary; be accepting of other points of view and learn something from every situation.

10. Advocate for patients

As a nurse, it's your responsibility to advocate for the patients you assist. You'll often have the most contact with a patient and become the person debriefing team members, or interpreting tests, procedures, and instructions for patients and families.
So, how did you do? Did all 10 apply to you? It's okay if you're not a pro at all of them. Most of these are fine-tuned and develop with time and experience. But having a strong foundation of these skills will make you an irreplaceable asset in the workplace.
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