What Makes a Great Nurse?

Specific personal characteristics earn distinction and respect for nurses in their many roles and skills, such as compassion in bedside care, truthfulness refined by tact in communication, and respect for human dignity in patient advocacy.

No nurse has all these qualities naturally, but every nurse has a few and can practice and strengthen others.

Bedside Care

  1. Compassion
  2. Empathy
  3. Appreciation of cultural diversity

Truly caring makes all the difference to patients, and it will significantly impact professional success as a nurse.

Caring and compassion can be tiring, and nurses suffer compassion fatigue. Here are a few practical tips to give yourself a boost.


  • Notice things that have meaning to the patients, maybe a ring that might have a story behind it or a book on the bed. 
  • Listen to patients and show interest in their lives and feelings with genuine respect and kindness, and continually learn from them about diverse cultures.
  • For a woman unhappy that she can’t comb her hair, or for a man who needs help shaving, compassion means taking the time to do it for them.

Skillful Communication:

  1. Truthfulness
  2. Tact 
  3. Trustworthiness
  4. Open-mindedness

Strong communication skills, crucial to nursing, depend on qualities such as truthfulness with tact, trustworthiness, and open-mindedness, key characteristics to work effectively with other professionals and foster healing for patients and their families.

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For example, be honest when a patient is about to begin chemotherapy and is anxious about it. Kind, considerate, and honest.

Practicing communication with these qualities, nurses benefit their patients, their unit, and the entire hospital or health system— to say nothing of their professional career.


  • Practice active listening, focus on what the patients or team-workers say, and provide honest, thoughtful feedback. 
  • Learn to understand body language.
  • Also, something as simple as making eye contact with patients and family members shows that you care and are listening.

Quick and Accurate Problem Solving

  1. Attention to Detail
  2. Critical thinking

Often, conscientious observation of small details guides life and death decisions. For example, some medications have very narrow therapeutic ranges, and the doses must be exact. Paying close attention to more information in tiny incremental changes is vital for recovery for some patients in critical conditions.

Taking in and assessing the relevant information, raising insightful questions, and identifying problems are crucial to decision-making. Anticipation, seeing issues before they arise, and acting quickly are traits of a leading nurse who picks up detail without losing sight of the larger picture.

Is this daunting? 


  • Review instructions thoroughly before beginning tasks.
  • Re-read all nurses’ notes and physician’s orders carefully.
  • Break more complex assignments down into smaller jobs.
  • Take a timely break. 

Don’t go around complaining about problems; propose solutions!

  1. Patient Advocacy
  2. Respect for human dignity
  3. Commitment to patients’ safety and rights
  4. Courage

This concept is the crux of healthcare, and patients depend on the trusted nurse to recognize and stand up courageously for their safety, well-being, and rights.  

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  • To strengthen advocacy, keep the healthcare team informed, and pass the patient’s wishes on to other team members.
  • When family members or friends may not fully understand the patient’s wishes or best interests, encourage meaningful communication among the patient and family members and help protect the patient from unnecessary stress.
  • Before a procedure starts, make sure your patient understands the risks and benefits.
  • Take time to answer questions.


  • Stamina
  • Resilience (humor)
  • Life-long learning

Within one shift, a nurse lifts an average of 1.8 tons (about the weight of a hippo), and even in a “No Lift Facility,” the nurse often deals with heavy equipment and obese patients. Furthermore, studies show that nurses walk an average of 4-5 miles per shift.

The physical demand on nurses is often underestimated or ignored.

Reliable nurses exercise physical and emotional stamina, developing a high degree of resilience, that capacity to pick yourself up after a mistake or an angry face and keep on going.


  • Take the stairs instead of the elevators.
  • Have a self-care routine, including plenty of sleep, whenever possible.
  • Do things you enjoy, for example, visit friends or family, take a leisurely walk or a swim, or enjoy a bubble bath. 
  • Get rid of the fear of failure, face mistakes, and learn.
  • Learn something new each day. 
  • And remember to laugh.

And the Rewards of Being A Nurse?

In addition to good humor, fitness, respect, and trust, all exceptional personal rewards in and of themselves, nursing offer job security, above-average pay, and flexibility.

Hospitals everywhere need nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job prospect for Registered Nurses (RNs) is expected to grow by 9% through 2030. According to the American Nurses Association, there will be more demand for RNs than any other professional. 

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The average RN salary is $75,330, well above $56,310, which is the annual average wage of all occupations.

Moreover, an RN can find flexible scheduling opportunities, even choosing where and when to work, using the Nursa app to find PRN shifts and try various hospitals or health centers. The possibilities are boundless!

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