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Five Traits for a Successful Nursing Career

Nurse_traitsFinishing school and passing the state board exams are the obvious first steps to becoming a nurse. Only those who are truly trained and qualified can enter this field. However, there are certain traits that set apart truly great nurses. For some, these traits mark the difference between surviving and thriving.


This is perhaps the number-one character trait that separates nurses who excel and nurses who merely do their job. There will be plenty of patients to deal with, and an abundance of patience is an absolute must. Patients and family members can get angry or even belligerent, especially when facing bad news. A sense of humor and an extra dose of compassion will pull you through the day with a smiling face.

Empathy helps you see from the patients’ perspective and allows you to provide a higher quality of care. When you’re pleasant and cheerful, you can comfort distressed patients and family members while communicating that you truly care about each individual situation.


Unlike most other jobs, as a nurse you are responsible for people’s health and often their lives. There is constantly something that needs to be done. The diligent nurse goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Idle time is rare, but when it does occasionally come around try to keep your hands busy, even it if means picking up the menial task that no one else wants to do. Consider no job beneath your station, and be willing to lend a hand in any situation. This type of devotion and work ethic will be noticed not only by your patients but also by your supervisors.


Nursing is a noble and rewarding profession, but also physically and emotionally demanding. Nurses stare death in the face each and every day. It is a stressful job with long hours that requires you to constantly give of yourself.

A good nurse is able to fully engage while on the clock, yet still be able to walk away at the end of the day. Don’t take work baggage home with you. Enjoy your family and friends, and leave your job for the next day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Strong communication skills

Good interpersonal skills are crucial to your success with patients, families, doctors, hospital staff and your fellow nurses. It is essential that you are able to clearly articulate through both verbal and nonverbal means. Effective communication includes speaking as well as listening.

Nurses not only need to know what to do in various situations but also what to say. The right words can save a patient’s life, and give them hope.


Good organizational skills and attention to detail keep you from making mistakes. However, flexibility is just as important. Situations change in the blink of an eye; people under stress are extremely unpredictable. A good nurse must be a quick thinker who can adapt to whatever presents itself in the moment.

Medical emergencies follow no schedule. Nurses are often called upon to work varying hours, overnight shifts, weekends and holidays. Each day has its own unique set of challenges. A good nurse can roll with the punches and stay on top of the game.

Working to excel with these five strengths can be a tremendous blessing to your patients. It is extremely comforting to know that a capable and qualified individual is in charge.

Nursing is becoming an increasingly popular career choice. This allows employers and nursing schools to be much more selective about the employees and students that make the cut. Set yourself apart from the crowd by cultivating these five character traits.

Don’t worry if you do not possess all of them right now; few people do. Time and experience help to build them. In the meantime, place yourself in situations that draw you out of your comfort zone, and enjoy what you do!


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