Top 5 skills needed to be a nurse today

While these qualities may not be in the job description, hiring managers are definitely looking for them.

Top 5 skills needed to be a nurse today

These skills can help you stand out from your competition.

When a nursing employer has a stack of resumes on their desk and are reviewing candidates that have the same general experience and technical skills, the interview can help you stand out from your competition. Of the many skills needed to become a nurse today, there are a few that top the list.

Leaders in the nursing field say the following top skills may or may not be listed on the job description, but as nursing employers are conducting their interviews, they are on the lookout for them.

1. Cultural competency

The American Hospital Association defines cultural competency as “the ability of systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors, including the tailoring of health care delivery to meet patients' social, cultural, and linguistic needs.”

This is a big priority, not only in health care but across all industries, says Michele George, MBA, BSN, RN, National Director of the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses.

“Nurses today need to be able to provide care that is culturally appropriate and to do so in a non-judgmental ways,” she says.

If it’s not something that the job interviewer asks you about, you should mention it, George adds: “Provide an example of a situation where you were able to provide culturally competent care to a patient.”

Cultural competency applies not just to caring for patients of various religions and ethnicities, but also to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

“Nurses need to be aware of their own biases, and to remember that we take an oath to provide the very best care for patients, regardless of someone’s race, religion, or sexuality,” says George. 

2. Flexibility

Nursing, and the entire health care field, is changing rapidly, so an ability to tolerate change and an openness to learning new things are key desirable traits, says Deborah Dunn, EdD, MSN, GNP-BC, ACNS-BC, GS-C, President of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association.

“There are so many instances today of technologic changes in the health care environment that drive change in clinicians’ everyday work,” says Dunn. “Being able to adapt to these changes and learn new systems and applications while maintaining patient safety and quality care is critical.”

Flexibility and adaptability is especially important for nurses who are working in specialties that are undergoing a lot of change, says Lillian Pryor, MSN, RN, CNN, President of the American Nephrology Nurses Association.

“In nephrology, we are at the dawn of innovation and expansion of a field of nursing practice that has largely remained the same for more than 20 years,” she says. That means nurses who want to work in nephrology need to be able to coordinate care across a variety of complex settings.

3. Positivity

Nurses who are able to maintain a positive attitude and uplift the people around them who may be feeling down will stand out from their competition during job interviews.

“Positivity is such an important quality for this field,” says Dunn. “Nurses have to be able to exude hope and calm to reduce the stress levels in the health care environment so they can make a space to usher in healing energy.”

4. Emotional intelligence

Defined as the ability to be aware of your own emotions when dealing with others, and to interact with others in an empathetic manner, emotional intelligence is a soft skill that’s highly valued in health care today.

“In nursing, we need to work collaboratively and be able to effectively deal with conflict,” George says. You need to be able to have difficult conversations with people on your team while managing your emotions and keeping things calm and fact-based.

“Being kind matters, and sometimes it’s the only thing that matters,” adds Dunn. “I’ve worked with nurses who were so kind; before you even saw them enter the room, you could just feel they were there, bringing kindness, peace, and calm.”

5. Passion

When considering the skills needed to be a nurse, know that the best nurses are passionate about their work and have an intense enthusiasm and desire to care for their patients, says Kristene Grayem, MSN, CNS, PPCNP-BC, RN-BC, President of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing. “When nurses are passionate about their work, the patients and families know it, and they benefit from the care that they receive from these individuals,” she says.

The benefits apply to co-workers, as well, says Dunn. “Nurses who are passionate about what they do stir passion in others. They lead the teams that they work with to perform better.”

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