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. So, what qualities make a good nurse?
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.
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 his or her 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.
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. Which brings us to the next important trait …
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 medical 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 doctors) to keep in mind that they approach care differently, and this can lead to different communication styles and preferences.
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 are able to 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.
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 doctor comes in. As a nurse, you’ll also spend a lot more time with patients than doctors, 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 he or she will help you.
There will be times when you find yourself treating patients whose decisions or opinions you do not agree with. 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.
If nursing seems like a good fit for you, and you have at least 60 college credits from an accredited institution, the ABSN@Madonna program can help you become a nurse in as few as 16 months. To find out more, give us a call or fill out the form to have an admission representative call you.