Essential Skills For Nurses: Skills That Are Anything But “Soft”

Essential Skills For Nurses: Skills That Are Anything But “Soft”

This blog post was originally published by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP on the Lippincott Nursing Center's blog.

To be successful nurses, there is no doubt that we need specialized skills to perform clinical tasks. These are often referred to as “hard” skills – those things that we learn through our education programs and on-the-job training. They are measurable and we are tested on these competencies both in school and at our places of employment. But how important are skills such as teamwork, communication, and work ethic? Often termed “soft” skills, it’s important that we recognize that these skills are anything but soft. These skills are just as crucial – sometimes even more so – to our professional success.

A better word to describe these skills would be essential. So here’s a look back at this previous blog post, with some thought-provoking questions as to why these skills are essential, and not soft at all.

Ten Essential Skills for Nurses

  1. Communication

What if you were excellent at inserting IVs and the nurse your colleagues came to when they had a patient with “impossible veins,” but you could not effectively communicate important details about your patient’s care at change of shift hand-off?

  1. Attitude and confidence

What if you knew your patient was exhibiting the classic signs and symptoms of heart failure, but you did not have enough self-confidence to alert the nurse practitioner of the ominous change in your patient’s clinical condition, due to the fear of being incorrect in your clinical assessment?

  1. Teamwork

What if your colleague admits a new patient while you chat with colleagues about your weekend plans and later you need assistance during a rapid response event?

  1. Networking

If you are considering a career change now or in the future, what role could colleagues in nursing and other disciplines play? Do you routinely introduce yourself to new team members and collaborate?

  1. Critical thinking and creative problem solving

How have nurses risen to the challenges due to COVID-19? Think about personal protective equipment and limited family visitation. What innovations have you witnessed or been a part of?

  1. Professionalism

Your words and actions speak volumes to your character and our profession. How do you portray yourself as a nurse?

  1. Empathy

What if a patient with addiction relapses and is admitted to your unit for the second time this month? Do you reserve judgement and show empathy?

  1. Conflict resolution

When an issue arises, do you address it with the involved persons or vent your frustrations to others?

  1. Adaptability

When a change in policy or practice is instituted, are you open to the evidence supporting the change?

  1. Initiative and strong work ethic

What if you frequently left tasks undone for the next shift and arrived late for work, and then you applied for a charge nurse position? Would you expect to get the job?

These essential skills can have an enormous impact on patients and colleagues, and on our own well-being and satisfaction. They are hard to learn and they require practice. What other essential skills would you add to this list?