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Qualities of a Successful Nurse

Nursing programs provide the knowledge and the skills necessary for a career in nursing, but it takes more than that to be a great nurse. Certain personal qualities can make the difference between “good” and “great” in this challenging profession. Though these traits cannot necessarily be learned in a classroom, it is possible to develop them with some effort. Doing so will make a powerful difference in one's career.

Empathy and Compassion

Nurses deal with people constantly, including fellow nurses, physicians, and patients and their families. The most important qualities for nurses to possess are compassion and empathy, for these qualities help them to relate to others, even if they do not understand exactly what others are experiencing. It is enough that a nurse simply expresses concern by making an effort understand what others are feeling. Showing compassion for patients will help them to feel more comfortable during their recovery. It will also help nurses to build rapport with patients' family members.


Another important quality for nurses to possess is patience. This is important because nurses come in contact with many people throughout the course of the day. Patience is especially important when dealing with patients and their families. As sickness and injury has a way of bringing out the worst in people, these interactions may be unpleasant at times. For example, family members may object to the course of treatment or patients may be unwilling to take necessary medication. It is important to understand that the patient and family may be uncomfortable and under a great deal of stress, and to be patient when addressing the situation. Lacking patience cause situations to escalate beyond nurses' control and may hurt relationships.


Another important personal quality is confidence. Exhibiting confidence to patients is key, as said patients are often fearful or stressed, and a nurse's confidence may put them at ease and make them feel as though they are in good hands. Patients often do not fully understand the situation, so they look to nurses and physicians for answers. Confidence is also helpful in helping one earn the respect of coworkers, supervisors, and physicians. Having confidence in one's skills and ability can help them achieve their professional goals.

Communication Skills

Good communication skills are critical in nursing. These skills are necessary for nurses to do two things in particular: To work well with a team and to effectively converse with patients and their families. Communicating well may help reduce medical errors and unnecessary conflicts. This quality also comes in handy when it comes to being able to advocate for patients in an effective manner.

Emotional Stability

Nurses often encounter traumatic and stressful situations. For this reason, nurses must be emotionally stable and able to remain calm during emergencies. Another reason why emotional stability is important is because nurses must witness suffering and even death as part of their jobs. Remaining calm and collected will help patients and their families to do the same.


Nursing occupations demand a fair amount of flexibility, when it comes to schedule and on-the-job tasks. This quality comes in handy when a nurse is called on to work overtime shifts, often unexpectedly and abruptly. Nurses are often required to work weekends, nights, and holidays. They may also be required to be on call during time away from work, meaning that they must come in if a need arises. A nurse's schedule can also have some advantages, though, as they are not restricted to working normal 9 to 5 business hours. Some nurses welcome working three to four 12-hour night shifts a week so that they have more time with family and friends.

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