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7 Characteristics of a Good Nurse: Leadership and Personality

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

What Characterizes a Good Nurse?

Registered nurses (RNs), as the country's largest healthcare profession, show no indications of slowing down in terms of predicted job growth, influence, and leadership demand.

Understanding the traits of a competent nurse is vital to hospitals and health systems attempting to attract and retain the greatest nursing staff, given the large projections of RNs' national and global growth.

As more nurses enter the field, identifying and encouraging key nursing skills can assist hospitals and health systems in identifying outstanding nursing candidates for employment as well as determining which current nurses on staff would make excellent leaders.

With an estimated 2.86 million registered nurses in the United States, it's important to consider these 13 attributes of a good nurse that will help them succeed in today's fast-paced and ever-changing healthcare landscape.

1. Compassion

While it may appear to be a given, most people assume that all nurses enter the industry since "caring" is one of their top qualities—but this isn't always the case.

Many nurses who pursue a career in nursing do so because they value work security, want to use it as a springboard for another career, or don't have any other ideas or possibilities.

Caring, on the other hand, is a nursing quality that makes all the difference to patients.

A nurse's inherent predisposition to actually care about how their patients feel (and, as a result, how well they perform their job) has a considerable impact on their nursing success, making caring a key predictor of a nurse's success.

2. Ability to Communicate

A nurse's ability to communicate effectively is essential.

The capacity to communicate successfully with other nurses, physicians, disciplines from other units, patients, and their families is critical to a nurse's function.

Medical errors are more likely to occur when people lack the ability to perceive and express communication appropriately. Patients often feel neglected or misled, and the entire unit suffers as a result.

Nurses will deliver safer care for their patients, their unit, and the entire hospital/health system if they prioritize and practice communication skills, not to mention their long-term career.

3. Compassion

It's all too easy for nurses to get desensitized or forget what it's like to be a "nonclinical" person after caring for thousands of patients over the course of their employment.

A good nurse is one who empathizes with each patient and makes a genuine effort to put themselves in their patients' position.

Nurses who practice empathy are more likely to consider their patients as "people" and focus on a person-centered approach to care rather than strictly following protocol.

When patients are lucky enough to encounter these qualities in an excellent nurse, their treatment experience improves significantly.

4. Paying Attention to the Details

Nurses are clearly under a lot of stress as they try to combine getting orders from doctors with using their own knowledge, skills, and critical judgment to deliver the best possible care for their patients. When you add in the fact that you're caring for numerous patients at the same time, human error seems practically unavoidable.

A skilled nurse understands that the stakes are high, and that, unlike most other professions, they are in charge of people's health and, more crucially, their lives. One of the nurse personality traits that can simply and rapidly indicate how effective they will be in their profession is having a high attention to detail.

5. Problem-solving Strategies

While a nurse's clinical knowledge and training are taught throughout their school, on-the-job training is the most effective technique to help develop a nurse's problem-solving abilities. And, while years of experience can help improve this skill, some nurses are born with greater problem-solving abilities as part of their nursing attributes and traits.

Nurses get the most one-on-one contact with patients and are often responsible for much of the decision-making related to their care, thus problem-solving abilities are vital. Even seemingly insignificant decisions can have significant consequences and result in negative patient outcomes if made incorrectly.

7. A good sense of humor

Nurses who can find time for a chuckle in such a psychologically and physically demanding profession are often more effective in their responsibilities. Because nurses deal with a wide range of high-stress circumstances, taking the time to enjoy the downtime and adopt a lighter attitude can provide significant stress reduction.

Having a good sense of humor also contributes to the spread of positivity among nurses, patients, and their families. A good sense of humor is not only a trait of a nurse leader, but it also reminds patients and their families that "nurses are people, too," which builds trust and opens the door to sharing comments and concerns. Patients and their families appreciate any efforts (no matter how tiny) to assist offer some joy during particularly trying times.

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