Five Traits That Nurses Need

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Making The Rounds
If you are thinking about becoming a nurse, you may wonder what traits that nurses need to be successful.  Of course, a willingness to help people is almost mandatory, but that isn’t the whole story of what it takes to be a nurse.  Nursing requires many traits that other professions may overlook.  Aside from the ability to handle strong smells and disgusting sights, you should look at your personality and see if you possess some, if not all, of these traits that nurses need.  Even if you don’t have these skills, many of them can be learned with time spent on the nursing floor.

Traits that nurses need


Nurses have to be super organized.  If you work as a med-surg nurse, you will likely have over four patients.  If you work in a critical care unit, you will only have two patients, but the amount of information on those two patients more than makes up for the lack of numbers.  To keep everything straight – and everyone safe – you have to know how to organize yourself.

When you walk onto a nursing floor, it’s like going into battle.  You need your papers that tell you blood test results, med pass times, patient history, and previous assessment data.  Then you need to come up with a systemized plan of attack so that you don’t miss any important points.  Finally, you need to be able to come back to your routine when you are interrupted . . . and you will be interrupted a lot.


It almost goes without saying that a nurse needs to have compassion for the people he or she is caring for.  You need to want to help people, to care for their outcomes, and to do everything in your power to help them overcome or cope with their illnesses.  It can sometimes be hard to be compassionate when you have so much to do, but the best nurses know how to budget their time in a way that lets them give that caring ear to a patient.

Not just patients need compassion, either.  Your patient’s family is often the first and sometimes only people you provide compassion to in an interaction.  If a patient is unable to respond or slowly going bad, you need to listen to the emotions of family members, as well.  Your coworkers need a ton of compassion because you are all fighting the same fight, and doctors and other medical professionals are stressed most of the time.  In fact, you need to extend your compassion to all you meet while you are on the floor.


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Closely related to compassion is communication.  You need to be comfortable talking to a wide variety of people: doctors, coworkers, orderlies, patients, family members, children, the elderly, and management.  Every person requires a special brand of communication, and sometimes it can be challenging to switch gears and communicate effectively with a diverse population of patients and coworkers.

Nurses are like the equal sign in an equation.  They bridge the gap between the problem and the answer.  They help patients make sense of confusing situations, and they give clear pictures to doctors who may not have a familiarity with the patient.  It falls to nurses to communicate clearly so that people remain safe, proper care is initiated, and mistakes are minimized.


It often takes a great deal of intelligence just to make it through nursing school, but that isn’t where the need for intelligence ends.  Nursing school gives a great overview of medicine, the nursing process, and critical thinking, but it is nothing like real world nursing.  It helps, of course, and you would not succeed if you didn’t have a great education.  When you are on the nursing floor, you have to be able to quickly size up a situation and deduce the correct action to take.

This is where critical thinking becomes so important.  Why are that patient’s lips blue?  Why are they de-satting?  What can I do to make this better?  Is this something that I need to call for help on or is it something momentary that will pass?  Your ability to answer these questions is not as important as your ability to even realize they are salient points.  You have to know the right questions to ask and then seek the proper answer.  This requires a special critical intelligence that makes the best nurses.

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You may find many issues in nursing that frustrate you.  From short staffing to patients you can’t save, you will find that nursing can challenge your ability to maintain your cool.  You may get yelled at when you are trying your best, and you may fail when you did everything you could.  Not only does this require a great sense of emotional maturity, it also requires patience.  You have to accept that some patients will be difficult to deal with.  Some will yell at you.  Some will be too disoriented to be safe.  Some will ignore all good advice of doctors, loved ones, and nurses.

In these situations, a nurse has to draw on a deep well of patience.  You have to look at one task at a time and progress through the process slowly.  If a patient yells, you have to realize they are scared and approach them with compassion.  If someone is disoriented, you have to realize they don’t know what they are doing, and you need to take action to keep them safe.  If someone is hell bent on destroying their health, you have to do the best you can to educate and assist them.  Patience is probably the most important trait in a nurse’s arsenal.

These traits are only the beginning of what it takes to be a great nurse.  Physical stamina, computer skills, and thick skin are also very helpful.  You can cultivate any of these traits as you progress through nursing school and beyond.  In fact, much of nursing school attempts to teach you how to organize patient information, how to communicate with others, and how to think critically and intelligently.  Once you are on the floor, your learning continues, and you eventually hone each of these traits to become a successful nurse.

Have a Great Day!

– Lynda ❀