6 Qualities a Good Nurse Embodies

By | 2023-05-03T15:39:49-04:00 April 24th, 2023|17 Comments

Content courtesy of Capella.

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.

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:

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.

About the Author:

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Eileen was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York (now Northwell Health System) where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of their System hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in nursing administration and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. A former board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing, Eileen currently is a member of the Adelphi University, College of Nursing and Public Health Advisory Board.


  1. Avatar
    Rizza Grands March 6, 2019 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Choosing a profession relating to health or medical career is a rewarding job but, also a tough one. It is important to know where you are passionate and pursue that dream of yours! Thank you for sharing this helpful information.

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    Folayemi M Adesola March 14, 2019 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    A good nurse is patient, caring,dedicated to duty and be an advocate for the patient.

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    Egbere, Theophilus Ifebunachi April 7, 2019 at 6:55 am - Reply

    A good nurse is compassionate, empathic, honest, confident, respectful, reliable and responsible. He/she give the same care to clients as he/she would wish for him/herself and loved ones while being conscious of the individual needs of clients. A good nurse strives for excellence at all times: complete any given task with high levels of accuracy, diligence and pay attention to every details of his/her clients. Given that nursing job is inherently stressful, a good nurse should have the ability to manage stress and be in control at all times. He should have good leadership skills and delegates appropriately. I will stop by saying “there’s no good nurse without good communication skills”.

    • Avatar
      Barbara Moss May 29, 2020 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      I have spent my entire life in nursing from the age of 20 and now I’m on 55 I’ve seen nursing change so much I have also seen nurses change so much I never intended to have a nursing career I always just like taking care of people I never expected to be a supervisor or well-respected nurse by my peers I was just doing what may be happy which was taking care of people

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    Liz Hudson August 19, 2019 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    That’s interesting that 84% of the American public has rated the ethical standards of nurses to be high. My close friend is a nurse, and she is one of the most caring people I know. I’m glad that nurses are receiving the appreciation that they deserve.

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    Sandra Adlawon September 12, 2019 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Amazing article! Apart from critical thinking skills, nurses need to be compassionate and trustworthy. Also, a high degree of emotional stability and endurance, what with their long working hours in high pressure situations.

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    Carol Wood September 30, 2019 at 7:49 am - Reply

    According to my experience in the nursing field. 4 most important qualities are Communication, Thinking, Patience, and Sacrifice

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    CHRISTINE A. SMITH September 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Nurses are the most trusted people, the backbone and blood in healthcare. . Without nurses, the healthcare industry will never survive. An optimal patient outcome and high quality patient care are the byproducts of a nurse’s compassion, empathy, critical thinking, and communication skills. To my fellow colleagues , I commend you for all your hard work and sacrifices!!!!!!!!

    Christine A. Smith, MSN,RN,CLNC

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    JW Weems LVN April 10, 2020 at 3:06 am - Reply

    Those who can do……
    Those who cannot teach.

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    Roxanne Hartz RN, BSN June 9, 2020 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Wow. Reading the comments i feel honored to be in this profession. I chose nursing, however, the BSN program chose me. I was waiting for the LVN program and never in my wildest dreams did i believe in myself, nor think i could ever get a Bachelor degree. God knew, and had a plan for me. I do not live up to the Title as I found the bigger, the less patient interaction. I choose to serve people, not the paperwork. I love the elderly and i find myself happiest with them and getting paid the very least. Im happy i chose nursing.

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    Julie April 25, 2021 at 8:24 am - Reply

    Now let’s do an article about what makes a good nurse manager….I think there in lies an issue.

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    Marvin Mitchell, MBA, BSN, RN April 26, 2021 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Let us not forget that modern nursing was born in battle. Crimea, Antietam and Fredericksburg gave the world the professional nurse. Nursing was refined by fire at Inchon, Da Nang and Kuwait. A good nurse has a heart and soul that is at once tender as a parent’s love and hard as steel. We nurses stand on the shoulders of giants gone before.

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    john October 12, 2021 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Both yes and no. Yes and no. However, the dedication and perseverance required to succeed in college will serve the nurse well. A nurse must also develop critical thinking skills and be able to apply the knowledge to real-life situations. While college students may be able to learn well, nurses must also be able to apply that knowledge to the care of those they serve.

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    ELSIE JEAN OLMEDO MENDOZA November 7, 2021 at 5:37 am - Reply

    Becoming a Successful nurse.
    Nurses come into close physical and emotional contact with their patients, honesty, empathy, reliability and patience are important characteristics within the profession.
    Time management and delegation skills help us keep up with patient care responsibilities throughout our shifts.
    Exhibiting strong communication skills that help us communicate with patients and colleagues, sometimes at their worst life moments.
    Nursing is one of those rare professions that in addition to knowledge and skills requires all the best qualities you would look for in a friend.

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    Kennedy June 7, 2022 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    I love Nursing. God bless you all!🤩

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    assignment help February 28, 2023 at 1:03 am - Reply

    Nursing is a challenging yet rewarding profession that requires a unique set of qualities to provide excellent patient care. Six qualities that embody a good nurse include compassion, critical thinking, attention to detail, communication skills, adaptability, and patience. These traits are essential for nurses to deliver high-quality care to patients, provide support to their families, and work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals.

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    Paola May 16, 2023 at 10:03 am - Reply

    I have to disagree. Each time I’ve spent in hospital as a patient there has been at least one decidedly unpleasant nurse. I find they mostly lack empathy. And some unfortunately are downright creepy and manipulative enjoying the power differential. I find them mostly uncaring. It’s rare in my experience in Australia over the past 3 decades to find all nurses pleasant or kind.

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