By Callie Malvik
Pursuing a new career can leave you with a lot of questions: Is this the right choice for me? Do I have what it takes to succeed in this position? How can I prepare myself?
Fortunately, the nursing field offers many paths for those interested in pursuing a hands-on healthcare career. And the job outlook is favorable, too. The demand for registered nurses (RNs) is expected to grow at the much-faster-than-average rate of 15 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Knowing that nurses are needed is reassuring, but just because the opportunities are out there, it doesn’t mean they’ll give them to just anyone. Working in such a high-stakes position means there are some critical nursing skills you’ll need to master to be qualified for the role. There are also some other qualities that lend themselves well to the profession.
We’re here to help you better understand the need-to-have nursing skills and the nice-to-have nursing skills. Whether you’ve acquired some already, or will add them to your arsenal while enrolled in a nursing program, you’ll know whether you’re ready to launch a successful career in nursing.
The must-have clinical skills you’ll need to become a nurse
As a nurse, whenever you’re on a shift, there are patients’ lives on the line. It should come as no surprise that there are many technical nursing skills that are necessary to perform the duties required of you. This is why there are such strict requirements for becoming a nurse.
We used real-time job analysis software to examine nearly 1.5 million registered nurse job postings from the past year. The data helped us identify the top clinical nursing skills employers are seeking. Here’s what we found: Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), hospital experience, critical care nursing, acute care, treatment planning, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), telemetry, life support, case management, patient/family education.
As you can see, the list above is comprised of very technical nursing skills. Most are not things you can learn on your own. But don’t be intimidated by this, because these are precisely the nursing skills you’d be trained in as part of a professional nursing program.
If you’re unsure of whether you should enroll in nursing school, learn more about the natural qualities that the best nurses share. You may already possess some of the transferable nursing skills needed to succeed.
The non-clinical nursing skills necessary for success
There’s no doubt that the nursing skills we covered above are essential. But a handful of soft skills that help separate a good nurse from a great nurse. Find out if you are naturally inclined for a career in nursing.
As a nurse, you’re on the front lines of care. You’re often the middleman, relaying critical information from a physician to a patient. You will also need to be able to foster an open dialogue with patients and their families, so they fully understand their diagnosis, medication, and any other medical concerns.
Effective communication among fellow nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals is also vital as you share the responsibilities of caring for your patients. Additionally, you may find yourself facilitating dialogue with worried or uncooperative patients, concerned family members, busy doctors, and everyone in between. Strong communication skills will be crucial for all of the above scenarios.
As a nurse, you never know what the day will bring. Last-minute changes constantly keep you on your toes while you juggle multiple treatment plans, physician’s requests, paperwork, and patients’ families. Many nurses would agree that adaptability is one of the most important non-clinical nursing skills.
“You need to be mentally flexible because if you have a patient that is non-compliant or a doctor who is having a bad day, you need to have alternative ways to solve problems and make everyone happy,” says Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN. Without the ability to quickly adapt to changes, a nurse simply can’t keep up.
A sharp and critical mind is essential for excelling in the nursing field. Nurses must be able to assess a situation and make crucial decisions on the spot. In nursing, there are often multiple options for treatment, which means critical thinking is essential for quickly analyzing a situation and determining the best solution.
Nurses must also be able to swiftly and confidently find best-outcome resolutions in high-pressure scenarios. Because of these reasons, critical-thinking skills are invaluable in the nursing profession.
Desire to learn
“The most effective nurses are curious and avid learners,” says Antonio Pizarro, MD.
Earning a nursing degree doesn’t mean your days as a student are over. The best nurses are the ones who continue to question, explore, learn, and develop throughout their entire careers. Because the field of medicine is always changing and evolving, nurses should be prepared to continue learning, says Fiona Spearing, clinical lead nurse.
“Always ask questions,” Spearing says. “Whether you’re a student nurse or a qualified nurse, there is always something that you can be learning.”
Attention to detail
Paying attention to minute details is important in the nursing profession, especially when you have a lot on your plate. For example, nurses must document everything they do in their patients’ charts. They must listen closely to their description of symptoms, ask the right questions, and remember to bring medications at appropriate times.
It’s critical to remember even the smallest detail amid all of the commotion. At the end of the day, one small slip-up could become a fatal mistake. The best nurses are naturally detail-oriented.
About Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college that is dedicated to changing lives and the communities it serves through high-demand and flexible educational programs. Since 1900, the College has been committed to academic innovation and empowering students to pursue a college degree. Rasmussen College offers certificate and diploma programs through associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in seven schools of study including business, health sciences, nursing, technology, design, education and justice studies.