Considering a Nursing Career? Five Good Traits to Have

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.

Young Woman Meditating on the Floor

  • 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.


  1. Nursing Shortage on July 24, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Great piece here, students and perspective career changers need to think about if they are really a match for nursing. Nursing jobs are prevalent and a nursing career is rewarding and well paid, but it’s not right for everyone! More at

  2. WorldNursingJob on September 26, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Nursing Shortage Very well said! Before entering into the path of nursing, ask yourself first why and know the outcome. We believe nursing is a calling and becoming a nurse is for a cause!

  3. LarryHudson on March 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    This is a great post, touching upon some great tips for entry-level nurses or those seeking to enter the profession.  I completely agree with your mentioned points, to which I would like to add that nurses add a very meaningful contribution to patients, their recovery and their families.  The five traits that you listed are very true, and offer a good insight to what makes a good nurse.  With that said, I would imagine that these same 5 traits are essential in most professions today, and not just nursing.  I think a great nurse should definitely possess these traits, and at the same time I think a great nurse is born with the right kind of personality to be a great nurse, not necessarily to make herself into a great nurse. To be great – maybe you just have it or you don’t?  Owing to the vast technological and economical changes, nurses have a wide array of benefits as well as challenges today (technological advancements, competitive salaries, high demand, and etc.). There are different agencies like, medicusfirm that help nurses that are seeking employment to get a feel for what they are getting into and hopefully make the right choices.  Prospective nurses should explore these options before they get into the field so they know if they have the right personality match.  It’s not for everyone!

Leave a Comment