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Top Skills You Need to Successfully Advance
Your Career in Nursing

See also: Personal Development

Unlike doctors, nurses can start working with just a few weeks of education under their belt. That first position as a certified nursing assistant is far from glamorous, but it does provide you a unique opportunity most doctors do not get: you can work and study in your chosen industry.

That first certificate can be completed in just a few weeks, but every position onwards will require years of dedication and juggling. Working while studying, especially as a nurse, is incredibly difficult. Burn-out is a big risk if you do not properly manage your time, health, or wellbeing.

That is why you need to develop these skills to succeed. By going into your BSN with the right mindset and tools under your belt, you can start a marathon towards your ultimate goal as a nurse.

Skills You Need in the Workplace

To be an exceptional nurse, you need to do so much more than the bare minimum. Hard work and leadership is recognized in every business, even healthcare. By developing these top seven skills, you will be recognized by your supervisor, and many career options will open up to you.

1. Cultural and Psychological Awareness

Nurses have the difficult job of patient care. This means so much more than discussing their treatment options and having a good bedside manner as doctors do. You are the front face of their care and recovery, and when people are in pain, they get angry and scared. A good way to maintain good relations with all your patients is to have good cultural awareness and understanding.

You need to be able to treat all patients with the same care and compassion regardless of their beliefs, values, sexual orientation, or wellness. This isn’t just about not being insensitive, either. Your patients will often be experiencing one of the most frightening situations of their lives (if they are being kept overnight), and as a result, they can become difficult to deal with.

By understanding the human psyche behind actions, you can provide better care while also giving yourself the physical distance you need to care for someone, even if their beliefs go against yours or if they are being actively harsh. By having this innate understanding of how other people live, as well as how people react in stressful situations, you can provide the professionalism your patients deserve in every situation.

2. Attention to Detail

The devil is in the details, and there is no place where that is more true than in a hospital. Making a mistake here could mean life or death, malpractice suits, and so much more. The details that you need to look for extend far beyond writing down their charts correctly. You need to be able to spot issues, symptoms, and even emotions in your patients so that you can provide better care.

Patients can be embarrassed about a symptom, or might not think it is a big deal. You need to be able to spot these problems and report them to their doctor. Your keen eye could help a patient significantly, and as one of the people who see and interact with patients the most, you are the first line of defense.

3. Problem Solving

Nurses are so much more than assistants. They need to be problem-solvers, capable of critical thinking, and able to react quickly to the situation at hand. High-level nurses are directly involved with patient care and recovery, but you shouldn’t feel like you need to hold your tongue until you are the Head Nurse or Director of Patient Care to speak about an issue.

If you have ideas on how to improve patient care, budgets, or anything, tell others. Work together to improve your hospital and care.

4. Compassion

Nurses have the difficult job of caring for both the patient and being the front-face for the family. Having compassion and being able to handle a range of emotions that both the patient and their family may feel is a sign of a great nurse. This never means that you need to take abuse or put yourself in a situation where you feel threatened, but instead, it means being emotionally intelligent and compassionate towards those in such difficult situations.

On the other end of the spectrum, it also means establishing an emotional distance. It can be exceptionally hard on anyone’s mental health to be looking after other people all the time. Provide compassion but protect yourself.

5. Great Time Management

Nurses naturally need great time management in order to do their job. If you feel swamped, go back through your organizational methods and rethink your strategy. Try to multi-task when possible, and don’t be afraid to create your own checklists or spreadsheets to keep track of yourself.

6. Exceptional Communication

You need to be able to communicate with medical staff, patients, and their families effectively. All three often require different communication skills in order to properly convey the situation at hand. Knowing how everyone communicates and how to talk to them most effectively is an innate skill that will serve you well throughout your career.

7. Self-Care

Nurses have one of the most difficult jobs in the entire world. Doctors may lose patients on the table, but it is nurses who deal with death, pain, and suffering first hand in most situations. It is you who is there while they are having tests done and are scared about their future. It is you who is there while they recover from an accident or surgery.

You will lose people, and it is likely that you’ll be overworked and stressed. Therefore, you need to have a very strong support system in place to handle the downsides of nursing and still come out thriving. Friends, family, your fellow nurses – rely on those near you so that you can manage your mental health, stay healthy, and still enjoy a personal life.

Skills You Need When Taking Further Studying

Advancing your career could involve heading back to school to extend your qualifications. Though online education has come a long way, you need more than to just attend online classes or do the workload.

You need to adapt so that you can continue to work hard studying after a long day at the hospital. Fortunately, there are institutes that can help you in with this by offering a part-time schedule. Choosing one of the Marymount University Online degrees means you can focus on just a few courses at a time and still achieve your next level of nursing in just a few years.

That being said, you need what you learn to stick. Great study skills can help you really take advantage of what you learn and put it to good use.

1. Time Management

Once again, time management comes into play; only this time, it is to stay on track with your studying goals. You can try to set aside the same time slot per day to study and work on your degree, but to help you offset your workload, it’s a good idea to combine activities.

Your commute to work, for example, is going to be a great time for you to work on your degree. If you drive, you can even use simple text-to-talk programs (your phone likely has one) to read out the notes or readings you need on your way to work. If you take public transport your options are almost the exact same as if you were studying at home.

2. Understanding Syllabus in Your Own Terms

We all learn in different ways, with different learning styles. This difference is why some children thrive in school, and others fall behind. How you learn is not a barrier, but rather just an extra step. To really help you absorb the curriculum and retain the necessary information, try to rework what you have learned into a medium or method that works best for you. This could be with jot-notes. It could be with explanations; it could even be with voice notes.

3. Memory Retention and Memorization

The best way to retain and memorize the information you are using is to try to use it immediately in the workplace. Even if it’s just repeating the information you have learned when something at work reminds you of it, this will help you associate theoretic with real-life and ground it into your memory better.

4. Asking for Help

Never, ever be afraid to ask for help. Chances are there are other nurses who are also working towards their next qualification. Your fellow nurses, as well as your friends and family outside of work, are your greatest asset when it comes to completing an online degree.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

Adapt to Thrive in Nursing

The very nature of healthcare is that it consistently changes. New discoveries, treatments, and even diseases arrive on your doorstep every day.

You need to adapt as a nurse to thrive, and part of that will mean making opportunities for yourself. If you push yourself and your job role, your supervisors will notice. Combine that with your commitment to your education, and you will work your way up towards a top position.

About the Author

Maggie Hammond is a proud mama to two little people, and has one too many furry friends. She is passionate about alternative medicine, the great outdoors and animal welfare.