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Today’s nurses do it all: offer clinical care, maintain sanitary environments, and provide comfort for patients as they face distressing circumstances. They must accomplish all this while abiding by evidence-based practices and keeping up to date on quickly changing tools, technologies, and methodologies.

Not just anybody is up to the task, but nurses dedicate themselves to honing their skills so they can provide the high standard of care that their patients deserve. Many of these crucial skills are developed within the classroom, where nursing students gain an extensive understanding of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and so much more.

Add soft skills and technological competency to the mix, and it becomes clear why nursing coursework is so rigorous. Nursing school provides a powerful framework for skill development. To demonstrate this, we will highlight the necessary skills to be a nurse and share examples of how these skills are acquired while studying for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing.

Understanding Nursing Skills

Like any field, nursing calls for a vast range of skills. The difference? In nursing, the necessary breadth of skills far exceeds that associated with most other fields. Nurses are expected to develop a variety of clinical capabilities but must also possess elite soft skills that play into ethics and general bedside manner, not to mention ethical understanding.

Nursing skills can be assessed via the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is a critical step on the path to licensure and enhancing professional practice. Once developed and verified, nursing skills enable nurses to perform more effectively on the job and achieve a higher standard of care.

The Importance of Essential Nursing Skills

There is no substitute for a strong nursing skill set. Nurses may demonstrate an amazing work ethic or a thorough understanding of clinical concepts, but without an array of practical skills, these qualities would be of little use.

By developing a well-rounded skill set, nurses prepare themselves for a number of complex patient scenarios that could be difficult to predict. Strong nursing skills also boost confidence and may even improve job satisfaction.

Key Areas of Focus for Effective Patient Care

Patient care is highly nuanced, as no one patient or health concern will call for the exact same approach. Nurses need to understand what each patient requires and how they can adjust their strategies or methodologies to match the situation at hand.

Despite the inherent breadth of this profession, there are several key areas of focus that all nurses are expected to emphasize. These are best understood within the context of the main NCLEX categories:

  • Management of care
  • Safety and infection control
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Basic care and comfort
  • Pharmacological therapies
  • Reducing risk potential
  • Physiological adaptation

Essential Soft Skills for Nurses

Soft skills do not always receive the attention or respect they deserve, but these competencies are vital in nursing. As we have mentioned, these play heavily into bedside manner and can also influence how effectively nurses collaborate with one another or with other healthcare professionals. Key soft skills include:

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Communication is at the heart of everything nurses do. This enables them to understand and interact with their patients. It also facilitates better collaboration with other healthcare professionals.

To be effective communicators, nurses should master essentials such as active listening and nonverbal communication skills. They may need to shift their tone to reflect the communication styles or language abilities of various patients.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Registered nurses work with a variety of healthcare professionals to provide a solid continuum of care. This means communicating with one another about patient treatment plans and understanding the roles different healthcare team members play.

Collaboration is important due to the sheer demands of the healthcare field. All nurses, regardless of their skill level or knowledge, need support. They can accomplish far more when working as a cohesive and cooperative team. Cohesive teams may also make nursing less stressful and more enjoyable.

Empathy and Patient Advocacy

Empathy is essential, as it allows nurses to understand what exactly drives their patients or why they behave the way they do. From there, nurses can tailor their care, ensuring that they continue to demonstrate compassion and respect, anticipate their patients’ needs, and respond to them accordingly. Empathy also improves patient satisfaction by demonstrating to patients that their nurses truly care.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Today’s registered nurses benefit from a great deal of autonomy, which would be challenging to navigate without strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Critical thinking allows nurses to evaluate situations objectively to develop logical explanations of — or connections between — complex ideas.

In addition, critical thinking is important because nurses are exposed to such a wealth of information. This includes cutting-edge research and patient data that must be gathered and synthesized to determine the best next steps. Problem-solving is key; upon making conclusions based on the objective analysis of available information, nurses must develop viable solutions, often at a moment’s notice.

Time Management and Adaptability

There are never enough hours in the day for busy nurses, who juggle sizable caseloads. Time management ensures that they make the most of every minute. The less time spent on mundane, manual tasks, the more time they can dedicate to connecting with patients, collaborating with fellow professionals, or thinking critically to drive powerful problem-solving.

While well-organized routines and processes can expedite everyday tasks and leave more time available for direct patient care, adaptability is also crucial. Like it or not, nursing schedules, procedures, or best practices will change. Nurses must keep up; this is the basis of evidence-based practice.

Ethics and Professionalism

Nursing presents many complex ethical concerns and medical dilemmas. For example, nurses may struggle to allocate limited resources or interact with parents who do not approve of standard healthcare practices (such as vaccination) for their children.

Thankfully, guidance is available. And while completing degree programs and studying for the NCLEX, nurses have plenty of opportunities to think critically about ethical concerns they will likely face later. The American Nurses Association (ANA), for instance, maintains a strict Code of Ethics, which supports nurses as they strive to provide empathetic and humane care.

Essential Hard Skills for Nurses

Hard skills involve a range of clinical and technological competencies nurses must develop so they can maintain a high standard of care. These skills are far-reaching, and in some cases, the need to develop specific competencies will depend on the specialization or level of nursing. In general, however, all registered nurses should possess these essential skills:

Basic Care Techniques and Knowledge

While many complex and unexpected situations may arise within the course of an ‘average’ day on the job, nurses also carry out a variety of daily practices and procedures that bring structure to their interactions with patients. To that end, they must be capable of performing many tasks, such as:

  • Evaluating vital signs and objective symptoms during patient assessments.
  • Discussing and recording patient medical histories, along with current symptoms.
  • Guiding the development of patient goals, such as pain management or long-term recovery.
  • Implementing nursing care plans by carrying out relevant interventions.
  • Evaluating patients to determine whether desired outcomes have been met.

Emergency Care Proficiency

Many nurses work in emergency rooms, acute care facilities, and other high-stakes settings. Even those employed in primary care may provide emergency care. They must work effectively under pressure while also exhibiting clinical skills to complete tasks such as:

  • Triage patients to determine severity and urgency.
  • Insert intravenous (IV) devices.
  • Monitor vital signs to verify patients are stable.
  • Clean and dress patient wounds.

Patient and Family Education Strategies

Educated patients are empowered patients. Nurses play a key role in ensuring that patients understand their conditions, their treatment plans, and the role their daily habits can play in improving general health and well-being. Family education can help, especially when family members function as caregivers.

Nurses must calmly and compassionately share complex information, including details about diagnoses and treatment plans. Additionally, they may need to adjust their approach to reflect differences in patient learning styles. Done effectively, this could boost patient adherence and long-term health outcomes.

Patient Safety Protocols and Measures

Clinical facilities should be safe and sanitary. Nurses bear much of this responsibility. This begins with maintaining strict sanitization protocols to reduce the spread of disease. Careful patient monitoring also plays into this. In general, nurses should understand and abide by industry best practices for maintaining a culture of safety.

Technological Proficiency in Healthcare

From electronic medical records to wearables, registered nurses need to feel comfortable using (and instructing patients how to use) a wide range of software solutions and devices. The pace of technological change is rapid these days, so nurses must also be willing to embrace new solutions as they emerge.

Enhancing Nursing Skills for Better Patient Care

It takes years of rigorous coursework and in-depth study to develop the skills described above. This is a major commitment, but the payoff can be considerable: the personal satisfaction of making a difference for patients, their families, and entire communities.

College programs provide a solid start, but there are many ways to develop nurse skills. Below, we identified several key strategies related to both soft and hard skills.

Strategies for Improving Soft Skills

Because soft skills are so nuanced, they can often be difficult to develop. Goal setting is a must, as this drives motivation as well as adds an element of accountability. College programs and continuing education coursework could provide a helpful framework to promote ongoing skill development.

Beyond this, awareness and self-reflection make a world of difference. Nurses should consistently be aware of how they conduct themselves and room for improvement. The best nurses are driven to improve and realize this is a life-long process.

Techniques for Enhancing Hard Skills

Clinical skills are primarily obtained through focused study and hands-on experiences such as clinical rotations. Skills can also be developed through on-the-job training, especially with new research innovations or as nurses specialize in specific areas or patient groups.

Hard skills are best improved through college coursework, continuing education, and membership in professional organizations. Evidence-based practice can play a valuable role in guiding skill development and ensuring the right skills are leveraged at the right times.

How Can Nurses Showcase Their Skills?

Skill development is only the beginning — nurses also need to showcase these skills. Every time they interact with patients or fellow professionals, they have new opportunities to demonstrate soft skills such as communication or teamwork. Other skills can be showcased via resumes, LinkedIn, or professional networking. This may be as simple as describing acquired skills and their value.

Is Continuing Education Vital to Maintain and Improve Nursing Skills?

Continuing education is a must for nurses, as evidence-based practice is always evolving. Nurses should keep abreast of significant changes through continuing education, which introduces them to new concepts or strategies while providing opportunities to hone always-relevant skills such as problem-solving or empathy.

Develop a Strong Nursing Skill Set With Post

As you seek a stronger or broader nursing skill set, look to Post University for guidance and support. We offer many programs suited to passionate and ambitious nurses, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Reach out today to get started.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.