How to Be a Good Nurse: 5 Traits of a Good Nurse

traits of a good nurseBy Erin Wallace

Learning how to be a good nurse takes hard work, years of proper training and some innate personality traits. 

Familiarize yourself with these five characteristics of what makes a good nurse, and put them into practice during your next nursing shift.

5 Traits of a Good Nurse

1. Attention to Detail

Jane Byrne, project coordinator for First Care, a network of nursing homes in Ireland, says that while it takes all sorts of traits to be good nurse, one characteristic stands out among all of them, and that is attention to detail.

“Attention to detail ensures a reduction in mistakes and enables nurses to spot problems before they fully develop,” says Byrne. 

“This applies to physical ailments as well as more subtle things such as changes in mood, which if noticed, can help get support in place more quickly. It's simply about paying attention,” Byrne notes.

2. Clinical Competence

How else to you become a great nurse? Patients and their families expect good nurses to “know their stuff” and be able to perform their responsibilities with accuracy and detail. 

Their role in assessing and treating patients' medical conditions is critical, and having the knowledge they need to do this responsibly is essential in being a good nurse.

3. Excellent Communication Skills

Kristin Baird, RN, BSN, MHA, and current President/CEO of the Baird Group, says that it's essential for good nurses to be effective communicators, both verbally and non-verbally. 

“Keeping patients and families informed is extremely important. Help them understand what they can expect to happen next, and listen actively so the patient always feels heard.”

4. Compassion and Empathy

When they're under your care and supervision, “patients are often at their most vulnerable," says Baird. “It's important to let patients know you care and are there for them.”

Being a generous listener is a great way to show empathy. Other strategies include taking time to answer patient and family questions and explaining procedures to them in terms they understand.

[RELATEDWhat Your Body Language is Telling Patients]

5. Be Confident

What’s another great trait of a good nurse? Confidence.

“Patients need to believe that you know what you are doing. Oftentimes, they are frightened and benefit from seeing that their nurse has everything under control,” says Baird.

Baird shares one example from her own experience when she was being cared for by a nurse who seemed distracted and how unsettling it was. 

“My nurse left the room three times to get various supplies needed to start my IV. She seemed scattered and flustered. She actually started it [successfully] on the first try, but I was not comfortable in her hands,” recalls Baird.

Whether you're enrolled in nursing school or a veteran RN, it's important to keep these traits of a good nurse in mind as you advance in your career.

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