Going Into Nursing? 10 Qualities that Will Make You a Great Nurse

Like all career paths, it is important to research the qualities that allow someone to thrive in it. Nursing is no different. Before starting your career in nursing, you should know the qualities that will make you a great nurse, such as compassion, empathy, and patience to name a few.

Madonna ABSN student smiling, standing in lab

Nursing is a great field to go into — it’s in high demand, pays well, and is often considered recession-proof due to the fact that regardless of economic performance, society needs nurses. How do you know if nursing is a good fit for you?

Before going into nursing, you need to have a realistic idea of the skills and traits that make a great nurse. If you’re wondering if you’re a good fit for Madonna University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, read on for more on the qualities that will make you a great nurse.

1. Compassion

It goes without saying that compassion is a must in the nursing profession. When you show patients you care about them and what they’re going through, they’re more likely to listen, engage with, and open up to you. Additionally, there’s a growing body of evidence that compassionate care can lead to patients having shorter hospital stays, improved outlooks, and even less pain and anxiety. Not to mention compassionate caregivers feel a greater sense of purpose about their work. As a Catholic, Franciscan university, Madonna University is committed to developing caring, compassionate nurses who are dedicated to serving their communities.

2. Empathy

Not to be confused with compassion — although the two often go hand in hand — empathy is the ability to relate to what someone is feeling or going through. Before deciding a patient is overreacting or being difficult, imagine yourself in their shoes. How would you feel or want to be treated? Doing this can greatly impact the kind of care you provide, and your patients will thank you for it. In fact, it’s also one of the top patient satisfaction factors. Of course, there is such a thing as too much empathy. Be aware of your emotions; too much empathy can mean taking your work emotions home with you at night, which can lead to burnout.

3. Patience

As a nurse, one thing you’re going to need a lot of is patience. It goes without saying that you will have difficult patients, family members who believe they know more than you, coworkers who feel frazzled, and days you can barely catch your breath. You’re also going to spend a lot of time educating patients on their health, which could mean explaining concepts you’ve already discussed or that seem obvious to you.

Calm Under Pressure

A big part of being patient is being able to remain calm under pressure. The nursing profession may be a lot of things, but “low stress” is not one of them. In fact, stress is one of the main causes of nurse burnout. Whether juggling a handful of patients or treating someone in critical condition, it’s essential that you keep a level head during stressful situations. Though there are certainly less-stressful positions in nursing — for example, nurse administrators seldom feel the kind of stress emergency room nurses do — if you don’t handle stress well, you may want to reconsider. That or seek out healthy methods of managing stress, such as meditation and exercise.

4. Excellent Communication Skills

A major component of nursing is being able to work with people, and that requires excellent communication skills. Make no mistake: lives are at stake. Failing to clearly communicate (verbally and in writing) important details of a patient’s condition to other healthcare staff could mean the difference between life and death. Likewise, what you tell your patients matters. It’s no secret that the average American doesn’t score high for health literacy, and this can easily translate into misinterpretation.

When educating patients, it’s important to listen for clues about whether they really understand what you’re telling them. Remember, listening is as much a part of communication as speaking. Similarly, it’s important when talking to people in other positions (such as physicians) to keep in mind that they approach care differently, and this can lead to different communication styles and preferences. Don’t worry, though; you will be able to sharpen these skills during your clinical rotations as you experience firsthand communicating with patients and healthcare professionals in a variety of specialties.

5. Open-Minded/Non-Judgmental

There will be times when you find yourself treating patients whose decisions or opinions you do not agree with. With the autonomous nature of nursing, a patient has the right to make decisions for themselves, and you may not always agree with those decisions. However, you must remain open-minded, respectful of those choices, and still committed to providing the best care possible.

You may even treat someone who has been accused of committing a crime or who is being incarcerated. This, however, should not affect the care you deliver. Your job is to treat every person with dignity and respect.

6. Eager to Learn

Nursing is an ever-evolving field, so it is important for nurses to be eager to learn. You are going to be faced with new challenges every day, and the only way to avoid letting that slow you down is by having a desire to learn from those challenges. With the diverse population you will be treating, it is important to be open to new approaches and tactics when it comes to communicating with a patient, examining them, providing treatment, and anything else you might encounter in the field.

nursing students studying together with whiteboard

New graduates are given the opportunity to continue growing professionally through mentorship programs and ongoing training opportunities, and the learning doesn’t stop there. Nurses are expected to stay on top of developments in the field and continuously self-evaluate their own skills and abilities to keep growing individually.

7. Analytical

Nursing is anything but a paint-by-numbers type of career. Even when treating two people with the same condition, the treatment plan, the way you interact with and care for them, and outcomes can be vastly different. As a result, you’ll need to take into account a wide variety of factors and use that information to make informed decisions, sometimes with very little time to react.

Attentive to Details/Observant

Nurses have a wide variety of responsibilities, all of which require strong attention to detail. These include administering medications and other treatments, monitoring patients’ conditions, educating patients and their family members, and seeing patients before the physician comes in. As a nurse, you’ll also spend a lot more time with patients than physicians, putting you on the front lines of care. In other words, you’ll often be the first to spot potentially life-threatening changes in condition, so you must be vigilant. This means bringing your “A game” every day. If you’ve never been one for nitty-gritty details, nursing may not be the best fit for you.

Madonna University ABSN student

Explore more on how this characteristic translates into your nursing career.

8. Emotional Strength

Nursing is a gratifying profession, but it can be emotionally draining, especially if you let the work get to you. It’s important to be honest with yourself about this before going into nursing. Starting out, there will be times when you question whether nursing is for you. This is natural. Talk to other nurses, classmates, and professors about it, and take full advantage of the support system you gain from collaboration in skills and simulation labs. Practice self-care and seek out healthy mechanisms for coping with stress. And whatever you do, don’t focus on the negatives — sure, nurses witness sadness and suffering, but they also get to be there for some of the happiest moments of people’s lives.

9. Efficient with Time

You’ve heard the saying “When it rains, it pours.” In nursing, there will be days when it pours. The ability to manage your time efficiently is a must. Also a must? Being able to admit when you’re overloaded. It can be particularly difficult for someone new to a profession to ask for help; remember that you’re part of a team. Sometimes you will help another nurse, other times they will help you.

Group of Madonna Accelerated BSN students studying together

10. Versatile/Flexible

Depending on the setting you choose to practice in, you may need to be versatile and flexible when it comes to your work schedule. Unless you’re working in a physician’s office, school, or specialty clinic where your hours are more consistent, you will need to be flexible with working evenings, weekends, and holidays. With the around-the-clock nature of nursing, help is needed at all hours of the day. Because of this, it’s important for nurses to be versatile.

Ready to Start Your Nursing Career?

ABSN student standing by whiteboard

To find out more, give us a call or fill out the form to have an admission representative call you. If nursing seems like a good fit for you, and you have at least 60 college credits from an accredited institution, Madonna’s accelerated nursing program in Michigan can help you become a nurse in as few as 16 months.