Graduating from nursing school and passing the NCLEX is the obvious first step to becoming a registered nurse. Education and clinical training are certainly a critical component to a nurse’s success, however there are certain traits that set apart truly great RNs. For some, these traits mark the difference between surviving and thriving. Although most nursing schools make an attempt to touch on these defining qualities, they are often limited by various time factors and unable to give the nursing student an opportunity to have a deeper understanding.
- Patience: This is perhaps the number one character trait that separates nurses who excel and nurses who merely do their jobs. There will be plenty of opportunities that will push a nurse to their limits emotionally, and an abundance of patience is an absolute must. You will face angry and often belligerent people, including patients, family members and possibly coworkers. A sense of humor and an extra dose of compassion will pull you through the day with a smiling face. You will be dealing with people who are in great pain, both physically and emotionally. Empathy helps you see from the patients’ perspective and allows you to provide a higher quality of care. At times it can be challenging for RNs to maintain a pleasant and cheerful demeanor while comforting distressed patients and family members, but this communicates to those you are serving that you truly care about each individual situation.
- Diligence: Unlike most other jobs, as an RN, you are responsible for people’s health and often their life. There are ongoing tasks that need to be done. The diligent nurse goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that nothing is overlooked. This type of behavior exudes professionalism. It is unlikely that much down time will exist during your workday. If it does, and you’ve addressed your own self-care needs, then pitching in even on the menial tasks that no one else wants to do can go a long way. Lending a hand in any situation is a true extension of a collaborative approach. This type of devotion and work ethic will be noticed not only by your patients but also by your co-workers, and supervisors.
- Stability: An RN Career is a demanding, though noble and rewarding, but a nurse is at times exposed to a great detail of pain and in some cases, suffering. It can go doubly for those pursuing a pediatric RN career. It is a stressful job with long hours that requires you to constantly give of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. A good nurse is able to fully engage while on the clock yet still be able to walk away at the end of the day. Taking your work home with you is not an option, as this will leave nothing for your family and social life. While it is okay to mourn loss, the difficulties that patients deal with can become overwhelming and crippling to a nurse who is not firmly grounded. Self-care practices are paramount to sustain personally and professionally, and adopting healthy practices early on is key. Adopting a practice of good nutrition, an exercise routine, and maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends are great first steps.
- Communication Skills: Good interpersonal skills are crucial to your success with patients, families, doctors, hospital staff and your fellow RNs. It is essential that you are able to clearly articulate through both verbal and nonverbal means. Effective communication includes speaking as well as listening. Nurses not only need to know what to do in various situations but also what to say. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s “routine” for a nurse during a workday, but being able to effectively communicate with patients and their families about what is happening throughout the day is a true gift, especially in the midst of a clinically challenging situation.
- Flexibility: Good organizational skills and attention to detail will greatly reduce the likelihood of mistakes. However, flexibility is just as necessary in this profession. Situations change in the blink of an eye; people under stress are extremely unpredictable. A good nurse must be swift to respond and adapt to whatever presents itself in the moment. Medical emergencies follow no schedule. In clinical settings nurses are often called upon to work varying hours, overnight shifts, weekends and holidays. Each day has a unique set of challenges. Flexibility is a mindset that will help a nurse stay on top of his/her game.
Nurses who possess these five qualities are a tremendous blessing to their patients and co-workers. It is extremely comforting to know that a capable and qualified individual is in charge. Nursing is becoming an increasingly popular career choice. This allows employers and nursing schools to be much more selective about the employees and students that make the cut. Set yourself apart from the crowd by cultivating these five character traits now. Time and experience will help hone these skills. In the meantime, place yourself in situations that draw you out of your comfort zone, demanding that you give a little more of your time and energy while at the same time finding ways to make it a sustainable practice.
About the Author: Martin Cook is a health education consultant with Health Education Solutions, specializing in online medical education and certification. He provides information to those seeking everything from basic health certifications to a full career in the healthcare industry.