Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career path, in which you can make a real difference in others’ lives. At the same time, however, it is also a lot of hard work. Every day, Registered Nurses (RNs) are working diligently to keep patients healthy, to treat ailments and injuries, and to prevent the spread of disease. All the while, they are consoling family members, teaching patients about aftercare, and educating other, younger members of the nursing staff. This profession is multi-dimensional. And, for this reason, there are a number of skills that nurses must have in their back pockets at all times—some of which are vital to keeping their careers alive.
Due to all the moving parts within the nursing profession, aspiring RNs must achieve a college degree, hands-on training, and board-issued licensure before entering the field. These various requirements all add-up to a highly skilled and qualified Registered Nurse. If you are just getting started in nursing, you will need to start with a college education, at an accredited nursing school.
An accredited school, approved by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), is an essential stepping stone. These institutions have met the highest standards for nursing education, and will equip you with the vital nursing skills and knowledge needed to succeed.
What are the most essential nursing skills, you ask? More importantly, which skills are needed to make nurses successful in their role, and to stand out amongst the rest? With over four million nurses in the United States, adopting the right skillsets now can give you a serious advantage down the road. Below are the top nursing skills you will want to develop, refine, and even highlight on your resume.
Soft Nursing Skills
- Effective Communication
On a daily basis, nurses must communicate with their patients, patients’ family members, and the larger medical team. They must be able to listen to and understand the concerns of their patients—this is essential for evaluating conditions and creating treatment plans. In addition, nurses need to be able to clearly articulate any instructions for patients, such as how to take a medication or change a bandage. Sometimes, RNs are responsible for training and directing other nursing staff, like Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses. They also must communicate with doctors and other nurses on a daily basis. For this reason, good communication is critical in every corner of the nursing field.
- Critical Thinking
Speaking of critical, critical thinking is another essential nursing skill. No day is the same in the life of a nurse. Nurses are constantly encountering new patients, new conditions, and new symptoms. Not to mention, health conditions change all the time. Existing patients may develop different symptoms, or react poorly to a treatment or medication. Registered Nurses must know how to think on their feet to approach all that comes their way.
- Attention to Detail
Nurses must be detail-oriented, as many of the situations they handle can be a matter of life or death. Nurses must be precise in ensuring that patients are given the correct treatments, in the right dosages and at the right times. In addition, they must pay attention to seemingly small details (like minor patient symptoms, or allergies), and ask questions to ensure nothing is missed.
- Flexibility and Adaptability
As noted above, no day is the same for a Registered Nurse. As a result, you must be able to adapt to all that comes your way. There may be last-minute changes to treatment plans, or shifts in your schedule. Paperwork may be delayed or accelerated. Patients may have bad days. Physicians may have some surprise requests catching you off-guard. As an RN, you must know how to juggle, stay flexible, and keep pressing forward.
- Commitment to Learning
Nursing is a field of constant learning. In fact, in order to maintain your RN licensure, you will need to complete several hours of continuing education every couple of years (requirements vary by state). This is common in the healthcare field, as things are always changing. New technology is coming forth, and new treatments are being established. In order to stay current, you must be committed to learning and developing your career. You can also stay up-to-date simply by asking questions in the workplace.
Clinical Nursing Skills
- Patient Care
Patient care is one of the core values of nursing, and truly the heart of the field. In order to provide proper patient care, it is important that RNs are competent in patient assessments and treatment planning. You must know how to listen to your patients, as well as strategize potential treatments, and determine what course of action they need. This requires training. You must learn how to deliver patient care through your nursing school. In a dedicated nursing program, you will learn:
- The basic, fundamental skills of nursing and care-giving
- How to conduct physical and psychosocial assessments
- How to deliver patient care across the lifespan (from pediatrics to geriatrics)
- Strategies for developing effective treatment plans
- Case management skills and the continuum of wellness
- The legal and ethical standards behind patient care
This, and more, will equip you with the skills you need to effectively handle patient care.
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
All nurses must know cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR. This is an emergency, life-saving procedure that is performed when the heart stops beating (for example, when a person drowns). According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival after suffering cardiac arrest. For this reason, all RNs are required to earn CPR training and certification, either during nursing school or as a prerequisite to entry.
- Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
In addition, all Registered Nurses must have some training in life support, both basic and advanced. Basic life support (BLS) is a foundational skill for nurses, and studies have shown that basic life support training can significantly improve a nursing student’s knowledge, practice skills, attitudes, and self-efficacy in the field. Those who know and are certified in advanced life support, specifically ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), will be well-prepared to save patients suffering from cardiac arrest—which, in the United States alone, takes 475,000 lives each year.
- Emergency and Critical Care Nursing
About 60 percent of all Registered Nurses today work in a hospital setting. While some may have regular patients suffering from chronic conditions, most nurses in this environment will have a constant flow of new patients and emergencies. For this reason, RNs should be well-versed in emergency healthcare services, and be prepared to work in a fast-paced, high-stakes setting. It is also recommended that RNs learn about critical care. Critical care involves working in intensive-care units in hospitals, helping patients with serious, complex, and acute illnesses or injuries that need close monitoring.
- Case Management
Case management is related to patient care, but serves on its own as a vital nursing skill. The fact is, nurses work with a lot of patients on a day-to-day basis. They are constantly creating treatment plans, monitoring patient conditions, and taking action to keep patients healthy and safe. RNs must know how to juggle this all, keeping up with multiple cases at once. In addition, they must serve as advocates for their patients and ensure all their needs are met, which requires a constant monitoring of cases.
Other Technical Nursing Skills
The above nursing skills are just the beginning of a long list of proficiencies that Registered Nurses must master. Because in addition to patient care delivery, case management, and effective communication, nurses must have the nitty-gritty, technical know-how to keep their patients safe. This involves knowledge of:
- Wound care
- Neonatal care
- And more!
Do you have what it takes to become a Registered Nurse? Do not be intimidated by this checklist of vital nursing skills. If you have compassion, empathy, and a desire to help others in need, you are already on the right track! The right nursing school can teach you the rest.
Learn how to kickoff your nursing career at Goodwin University, and become a skilled and proficient Registered Nurse in less than two years’ time. Call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn more.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.