Essential qualities of a good nurse in today’s modern healthcare environment

Nurses are among the pillars of healthcare. They are vital in delivering care, compassion, and comfort to patients and their families. Given their importance in a healthcare organization, understanding the qualities of a good nurse will help aspiring nurses polish their skills to land their dream jobs and advance their careers.

If you are considering going into nursing, there is a good chance you’ve pondered what it takes to be a good nurse. While classifying one as a good nurse is subjective and a matter of opinion, there are several qualities nurses must possess that contribute to their professional success and improve patient health outcomes.

Good nurses are effective communicators

Nurses spend a significant portion of their workdays communicating with patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. So, it is no surprise that the best nurses are proficient in various communication skills. Patients often have unique traits that impact how they communicate, such as their willingness to work with nurses and manage their health.

Therefore, nurses must learn various communication skills when interacting with them. This means paying attention to nonverbal cues and the patient’s body language. As a nurse, you must display appropriate, confident, and calm gestures reaffirming the patient. This can include maintaining eye contact when listening or speaking, having a relaxed facial expression, keeping arms uncrossed, and respecting the patient’s personal space.

Besides nonverbal cues, nurses must also master active listening to understand what the patient is trying to communicate. This means repeating their main point or message, reserving judgment, and clarifying anything unclear. When nurses can apply active listening to their conversations, they can determine quickly what the patients are experiencing and empathize with the situation.

Good nurses are critical thinkers

Nurses collect significant patient data through conversations, tests, and evaluations. This information is then interpreted and assessed to identify the best action to improve patient health. For nurses to be effective, they must learn to evaluate this data and see the bigger picture.

Critical thinking is essential, as it can help nurses analyze the patient’s condition and current treatments to predict outcomes and identify issues. Nurses who think critically can better communicate across disciplines to ensure that providers are aware of the patient’s responses, needs, and status to treatment. When nurses can think critically, they can make better decisions and collaborate with others when solving issues.

Moreover, it helps them decide based on available information, past experiences, and field knowledge. Doing so makes it easier for nurses to plan before making any changes to the treatment plan. When nurses can examine each situation and identify potential risks that may arise from subsequent mistakes, they avoid making mistakes and achieve operational efficiency.

Good nurses have great attention to detail

Attention to detail is crucial when it comes to providing medical care. Even in a pressure-packed environment, a good nurse must be detail-oriented. This means measuring medications accurately, listening to lung sounds thoroughly instead of taking a quick listen as you pass through the room, and noticing how your patient looks at all times.

Absentmindedly writing down the wrong patient name, medication, or symptoms can lead to negative consequences, while not following the doctor’s orders can lead to undue suffering and worsens the illness. According to a recent study, more than 250,000 patients in the US die annually from medical errors. By being detail-oriented, nurses can read a patient’s chart correctly, remember the nuances of a delicate case, and develop a care plan suitable to patient requirements.

A good nurse will be the first to notice subtle changes in a patient’s health condition and inform doctors and other healthcare team members to respond in ways that can avoid unnecessary hospitalization or a severe adverse health event. Being detail-oriented also means constantly staying on your guard, especially for the unpredictable and unexpected. This allows you to take immediate action to keep the patients away from harm.

Good nurses are problem solvers

Healthcare organizations encounter several crises and issues because of technological advancement and the increasingly complex healthcare system. These institutions encounter issues that relate to both employees and care recipients. These problems may occur unexpectedly and require immediate solutions.

During these unpredictable circumstances, nurses must be creative in devising a solution to manage daily processes, define patient issues, and select the appropriate treatment interventions. While nurses depend on clinical experience and expertise in various situations, those with problem-solving skills are better equipped to serve their patients. This is because nurses who use problem-solving skills can view issues not as obstacles but as opportunities to enhance patients’ health and well-being.

Once nurses identify the appropriate interventions, they can use their problem-solving skills to create a plan of action and decide how to move forward with the issue. This means identifying the steps they must take to monitor their decision and assessing the results of their solutions. By comparing the actual results with the expected goals and outcomes, nurses can identify the factors contributing to the plan’s success or failure and adjust accordingly.

Good nurses are empathetic

Empathy is the core of nursing. While sympathy helps nurses react in a caring manner, empathy allows them to step into the patient’s shoes and understand their unique requirements. Since every patient communicates and experiences health conditions differently, acting with empathy empowers nurses to find the suitable treatment method for every individual.

Nurses can provide better preventive and urgent care by treating patients based on their unique medical histories, backgrounds, and demographics. When nurses understand how medical conditions can appear in minority and underserved groups, they can avoid missing potential symptoms of a harmful medical condition, such as managing heart failure effectively.

It is, however, worth noting that empathy can also help nurses support each other. With the healthcare industry facing burnout, nurses who empathize with their colleagues can manage their stress effectively and vice versa. When you have a support network to de-stress and share stories, you can effectively treat patients in the long term rather than running into compassion fatigue.

How do these qualities reflect strong leadership? 

The importance of leadership in nursing is too hard to ignore, and leading academic institutions such as Walsh University emphasize this in their course curriculum. Strong leadership can significantly impact workplace culture and drive positive changes in healthcare legislation. With solid leadership, nurses can connect a team through a shared purpose and build work relationships that allow for increased productivity and the ability to thrive through diversity.

However, like everything else, strong leadership is an art of several components or, in this case, multiple qualities. These qualities range from being an effective communicator and a critical thinker to having great attention to detail, solving problems quickly, and empathizing with patients and colleagues. Through these qualities, nurse leaders can encourage their teams to create a supportive work environment to share ideas, discuss experiences, and deliver superior clinical experiences.

Becoming an effective leader takes practice and dedication. By embodying the above qualities, nurse leaders can work with nurses to show them how they benefit and why they matter to the healthcare process. Creating this culture allows nurse leaders to drive high reliability in their team’s overall performance, positively impacting patient safety and healthcare quality outcomes.

Working towards becoming an effective nurse leader today

Leadership is a continuous process requiring ongoing adaptation, growth, and learning. Thus, prospective nurse leaders must continually develop their skills and approaches as the healthcare industry and organizational needs evolve to lead their teams effectively and achieve treatment goals.