Life Style

What Qualities Make A Good Nurse?

Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose. Apart from the fact that you are potentially saving lives every day, you are helping people in many other ways, too, from comforting them when they are scared or grieving, providing medication and advice, and celebrating after a good result.

On top of this, the fact that nursing offers flexible working, plenty of career progression, lots of choice in terms of exactly what kind of work you do, and so much more means that many people will consider it to be a good career choice, particularly when you also realize that there is a shortage of nurses so getting a job in this field may not be as difficult as in some others.

However, just because there are many positives in nursing, which doesn’t mean everything should apply. If you want to be a nurse, you’ll need to have a wide range of different qualities to help you succeed. Without these qualities, you may find the work more difficult and demanding than you imagined, and you might not enjoy what you’re doing at all.

Nursing is a great career with many benefits if you’re the kind of person who could thrive within the nursing sector. Read on to find out what qualities make a good nurse, so you know whether or not this career choice is the right one for you.


One of the most important qualities a nurse has to have is empathy. This is essentially putting yourself in your patients’ shoes and trying to understand just what they’re going through. Looking at things from a different point of view like this is helpful, as it will point the nurse towards the right way to deal with a patient and even their family too.

Being empathetic will help to establish a bond and level of trust between the patient and the nurse. This will mean that the patient is more likely to follow any advice given, and therefore get better much more quickly.

When you are empathetic towards someone, you can turn their entire experience around. From an angry and scared patient, you can help them feel more positive and know that everyone is working hard to help them, for example. This may not seem like a big thing, but for the patient – and perhaps for their treatment – it’s huge. It won’t take much, just a soothing word or gesture, but it can make a massive difference.

Not everyone is innately empathetic, but don’t let this put you off nursing if you feel this applies to you. Unlike some other qualities, empathy is something you can learn, and the more experience you have, the more empathetic you can be. As you move through your nursing career, each patient you meet will teach you a little more empathy, and by the time you have decided to take an online MSN-FNP program, you’ll be well versed in giving this kind of help.

Communication Skills

Another hugely important quality for a nurse to have is good communication. As a nurse, you are the conduit between doctors and patients, doctors and family members, other nurses, etc. It is part of a nurse’s daily tasks to relay information from one place to another and ensure that the message is given clearly and concisely.

When passing on critical information, getting something wrong could be the difference between life and death; it really is that important. Imagine what would happen if there was an error in medication or the information that was given to a patient or other medical professional just because the message was slightly misunderstood, either by the nurse giving that information or the person receiving it because the message wasn’t clear. The results could be devastating.

Not only is communication important when it comes to this kind of crucial medical information, but it can also be used as a tool to help patients feel more comfortable, more relaxed, and more able to answer questions. Nurses need to be able to instantly switch from one type of communication to the other, knowing exactly who they are speaking to and what they want the outcome to be.

Critical Thinking

What does critical thinking really mean, and why is it so important to nurses? Critical thinking means taking all the factors and evaluating them so that you can come to a sensible conclusion. This skill will always be incredibly useful for nurses, as it will allow them to ask the right questions and interpret the answers, they receive to understand the patient better.

When a nurse is triaging a patient before they are seen by a doctor, for example, they can use critical thinking to ensure they have all the facts and have a good idea of just the issue before this next step. They might even be able to treat the patient themselves, saving everyone time. They will also know when there is an emergency situation that needs to be dealt with immediately, instead of one that is less urgent and can therefore wait a little longer.

Nurses will never work alone. Even if they are technically by themselves, there will be a big team of medical personnel and admin staff involved in everything that is happening. For this large team to function as it should and ensure that the hospital, clinic, or any other setting continues to work smoothly, critical thinking is crucial. It can save a lot of time and ensure that teamwork remains a priority.

It can also save lives. For example, if a nurse knows they have to do something because they have assessed the situation and understand that they can’t wait for any help, then they must do whatever it is, whether it gives more medication for pain relief, call for help, or even save a life. Again, critical thinking will help them make the right choice.


Being a nurse is not something for those who are stuck in their ways and feel uncomfortable when they have to change their routines in even the smallest of ways. Nurses work shifts, to begin with, meaning that their working patterns change all the time. Often, the working pattern will be four days on, three days off, meaning that sometimes you’ll need to work weekends.

There will also be night shifts, and of course, any holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving will require nursing staff to work as well. After all, patients will be in need of medical care no matter what day of the year or week it is, and no matter what holiday they would normally be celebrating. This is why nurses need to be versatile. They need to be able to handle change.

It’s not just the working hours that a nurse will need to be able to deal with; that means they need to be versatile. They will often work with different people, especially as each nurse and doctor will have their own shifts to contend with.

That means they’ll need to be able to adjust to working with people they may never have met before, as well as those they like being around. So again, this is not something that everyone will be able to do, but if you can do it, then you should consider nursing, as it’s certainly a skill that will be well regarded.

Physical Stamina

Nurses have to be physically able to do their work. Unlike an office job which can be done from one desk, often from the comfort of your own home, and doesn’t require much physical effort, being a nurse is very different.

When you are a nurse, you’ll need to lift patients, turn them, carry heavy loads, help those who can’t walk well, push wheelchairs, change beds, clean up spills and messes, and a lot of the time, you’ll be standing and walking from patient to patient.

Although you will have breaks, and you should make the most of the chance to sit down and relax for a little while, most of your working day, which could be anything from an eight to a 12-hour shift, plus any overtime you might be doing, will be spent on your feet.

With this in mind, it’s not just the physical ability to do all of these things; it’s the stamina required to continue doing them for hours on end.

Of course, there are roles for less physically able nurses than others, and these will involve administrative positions of therapeutic ones. However, if you want to be face to face and literally hands-on with your patients, you need to be aware of just how much it will take out of you physically. Are you willing and able to do this, day in and day out?


When you are assertive, you can put forward your ideas and opinions about whatever is happening around you. Not only that, but you will do it in such a way that you instill others with confidence and ensure that they will listen to you.

They might not always just follow your instructions because being assertive doesn’t guarantee that you’re right, but it will certainly help you make your feelings clear and give you much more of an impact in your workplace.

It’s important not to confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. When you are aggressive, you are insisting on something and doing so in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable.

When you are assertive, you are communicating your feelings and thoughts in a straightforward way, but without insisting that your ideas are the right ones, and without making anyone feel bad or not want to voice their own opinions. It’s a fine line, and you may well overstep at times, but the longer you practice assertive behavior, the better you will be.

Being assertive will certainly help you when you are a nurse, as you’ll need to be able to make your voice heard, especially in an emergency situation. However, it will also help you if you want to progress your career, as being assertive is an excellent quality for leaders to have.


In the past, a patient’s chart used to be kept at the end of their beds where anyone could pick it up and read it. Over the years, this practice has been seen as unfair; the patient has the right to privacy, and only those who need to know what’s in the chart can read it – it’s kept in digital format, accessible only to those who are allowed to read the information within it.

This is a great step in the right direction. When patients know that their privacy is kept safe, they will be more willing to go and seek help at a hospital or other healthcare environment in the first place. On top of this, they will feel much more comfortable once they are being treated and talk to their doctor or the nurses taking care of them about exactly what the issue is without the fear that everyone will find out.

With this in mind, nurses need to have the quality of discretion. You will see and hear all kinds of private things within the healthcare setting, and you must keep those things to yourself, unless they are of a medical nature, in which case you will need to inform only the relevant medical personnel. If you like to gossip, then nursing could be a poor career choice; you must be discreet, and if you aren’t, you could lose your job.


Finally, a very important quality that a nurse needs to have is reliability. The people you work with – and your patients – need to know you’ll be there when they expect you to be.

As mentioned before, medical personnel work in a very close-knit team, and if just one of those team members can be relied on to do their work, work hard, or even to turn up at work at all, then they are not an asset and are more of a burden. You won’t get far as a nurse if you’re not a reliable person.

In a healthcare setting, the jobs that people are expected to do aren’t often something that can be put off until later. If you don’t like to work urgently, there are plenty of perfect careers for you, but nursing is unlikely to be one of them.

Atif Mallo

Atif Mallo is a freelance blogger with huge interest in technology, science, life hacks and health. He loves coffee, cheesecake and chess. Drop a line in comments to leave feedback for him.

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