Education

6 Qualities of a Good Nurse

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It can be challenging to narrow down the list of qualities that good nurses exhibit. Yet some characteristics rise to the top consistently for those who excel at nursing. 

Defined as characteristics, traits, abilities, talents, strengths, values, beliefs, or morals — qualities in a good nurse span the personal and professional realms. These six qualities stand out.

  1. You’re a person who deserves a high level of respect. Kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy, and compassion are aspects of your personality that serve you well as a nurse.
  2. You exhibit strong communication skills. You communicate well with patients and colleagues — sometimes at their worst life moments.
  3. You effectively use critical-thinking skills to identify and solve problems. With this strength, you improve organizational protocols and patient care, and you also demonstrate nurse leadership skills.
  4. Your attention to detail helps you successfully carry out instructions from colleagues and nurse leaders. By having this precision and following up on the instructions, you individualize care to meet each patient’s needs.
  5. Your time management and delegation skills are top notch. This is especially helpful with patient care responsibilities.
  6. You’re a team player, working fluidly with patients, families, and interdisciplinary healthcare staff. Your collaborative approach allows you to adapt to changing situations on the fly.

With years of education, training, and practice, you develop and strengthen these capabilities and skills. These qualities of a good nurse enhance your effectiveness and elevate the entire profession.

The American public values good nurses

For two decades, the American public has ranked nurses number one in Gallup’s poll of the most ethical and trusted professions. In this year’s poll, 81% of people surveyed ranked nurses as very high or high in ethical and honesty standards.

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The American Nurses’ Association (ANA) praised this accomplishment in a press release, applauding “America’s 4.4 million incredible nurses.”

“Your ranking in this poll is an acknowledgement that without your bravery, professionalism, and clinical expertise, our health care system could not function,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.

You deserve so much praise for all your time working with patients and their families. What greater compliment can that translate into than having the public acknowledge your honesty and ethics?

Leadership qualities in a good nurse

Working in concert with hardworking nurses are dedicated nurse leaders. These leaders bring so much value to the profession. Their contributions are moving the nursing profession and healthcare forward, and it’s an honor to have them at the nation’s healthcare planning and decision-making tables.

However, nurses on the front lines are the ones who interact with patients the most and also display leadership qualities every day. They are who most people envision when thinking about the qualities they want to see in a good nurse.

Front-line nurses and other nursing professionals constantly gain education for professional licensure, certifications, and advanced degrees. They continue to seek out more extensive training and clinical expertise to improve patient care. These nurses are the foundation of the profession’s outstanding Gallup poll results.

Nursing professionals continue to earn the admiration and praise of patients across America — truly embodying qualities in a good nurse. Maintaining such a position of esteem in the minds and hearts of Americans for so many years is proof that you’re great at what you do.

It’s not just the polls that demonstrate how highly regarded you are or how much you’re admired. Similar sentiments often come in the form of:

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A desire to help others

As a nurse, your generosity of spirit, special sensitivity, and desire to help, comfort, and provide care are at the center of every healthcare setting.

When patients allow you into their lives in the most personal ways at the most important times, you feel privileged . You’re the ones patients talk with, ask for, and remember after discharge.

As you decided on nursing as a career, you didn’t think about letters of appreciation, survey statistics, or Gallup poll results. You chose nursing because you wanted to be part of something important, challenging, and rewarding. You knew that you’d be good at this role, and that it would bring fulfillment and empower you for the rest of your life.

These characteristics and more are what make you excel in your role. By exemplifying these qualities of a good nurse each day in practice, you represent your profession well and help all nurses shine.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated with new content.


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Capella is an accredited, online university dedicated to providing high-quality education for adults who seek to maximize their personal and professional potential. Our RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs help equip nurses with the education to become leaders in health care. With our self-paced FlexPath learning format, nurses can pursue their degrees on their schedules. Learn more.

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