It’s clear many of us want to know exactly which characteristics make a good nurse, or even a great nurse.
Defined as qualities, traits, abilities, talents, strengths, values, beliefs or morals — characteristics can be personal or professional.
I believe it’s a combination of both of those types of characteristics that we find in good nurses, and these seven qualities stand out:
- Being a person who deserves a high level of respect. Our kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy and compassion are part of who we are as people on a personal level and serve us well as nurses.
- Exhibiting strong communication skills that help us communicate with patients and colleagues, sometimes at their worst life moments.
- Effectively using our critical-thinking skills to solve and identify problems to improve protocols and patient care.
- Our attention to detail, which helps us follow detailed orders from colleagues and individualize each patient’s care.
- Time management and delegation skills help us keep up with patient care responsibilities throughout our shifts.
- Our ability to be flexible and adapt to changing scenarios and situations on the fly.
- Being a team player that works fluidly with patients, families and interdisciplinary healthcare teams every step of the way.
We develop and strengthen all of the skills above through our years of education, training and practice.
Bedside nurses embody what makes a good nurse
For nearly two decades, the American public has ranked nurses No. 1 in Gallup polls as the most admired, ethical and trusted profession.
“More than four in five Americans (84%) again rate the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as ‘very high’ or ‘high,’ earning them the top spot among a diverse list of professions for the 17th consecutive year,” Gallup reported again in December.
What higher words of praise can all your years of working with patients and their families translate into than “honest and ethical?”
We all value the great nurse leaders whose many contributions are moving the nursing profession and healthcare forward. We’re proud of the seats they have at our nation’s healthcare planning and decision-making tables.
But the nurses who work on the front lines of patient care are the ones who interact with patients the most and are who we think of when we answer the question about what makes a good nurse.
Those nurses constantly work toward professional licensure, certifications, advanced degrees, and more extensive training and clinical expertise to improve patient care.
Bedside nurses are the source of nursing’s outstanding Gallup poll results, and continue to earn the admiration and praise of patients across America. They truly embody what makes a good nurse.
It’s not just the polls that demonstrate how highly regarded we are, or how much we are admired. Similar messages often come from:
- Patient satisfaction surveys
- Letters from grateful patients
- Commendations from physicians and other healthcare colleagues
- Various sources in anecdotal stories
And who among us hasn’t known nursing students who said they chose nursing because of a nurse they admired?
Maintaining such a position of esteem in the minds and hearts of Americans for so many years is proof positive that we are good at what we do.
We all have a desire to help
We are at the center of every healthcare setting with a generosity of spirit, a special sensitivity and a desire to help, comfort and provide care.
We are privileged to be allowed into patients’ lives in the most personal ways at the most important times.
We’re the ones patients talk with and ask for and remember after discharge, and the ones patients vote for in polls and surveys and write letters of gratitude about.
When deciding on nursing as a career, we didn’t think about letters of appreciation, survey statistics or Gallup poll results.
We choose nursing because we want to be part of something important, challenging and rewarding. Something we knew we would be good at and something that will bring us fulfillment and fuel us for the work we will be doing the rest of our lives.
It is these good characteristics that make a good nurse, and what many might describe as great.