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5 Crucial Soft Skills for Nurses

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Even as the demand for trained nurses increases amid the continuing global pandemic, the job market remains competitive in the profession. Nurses learn a specific set of hard skills in their nursing programs, while developing soft skills that help advance their careers.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) recognizes six standards for successful nurses: skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision-making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership. These standards foster nurse retention, improve team effectiveness, prevent burnout, and increase patient safety and outcomes.

Some nurses enter the profession already skilled in effective communication, leadership, and empathy, but others need training and experience to attain and hone the soft skills required for nursing. This guide details five soft skills for nurses that enable them to succeed in their careers and meet the AACN standards, along with methods for acquiring them and applying them in the workplace.

1. Communication

One of the most important skills for nurses is effective communication. Nurses must ask questions respectfully and carefully listen to patient responses to obtain accurate assessment data. They must provide critical information to other healthcare staff who also treat the patients. Nurses need to be able to convey treatment and recovery plans clearly and effectively to their patients.

The best communicators employ sincerity, kindness, and confidentiality. Nurses who communicate in this way impart empathy to their patients and patients’ families to improve quality of care.

2. Critical Thinking

Problem-solving and critical thinking rank high on the list of essential nursing skills. Nurses make crucial decisions that can save lives and affect policy. When thinking about patient care, nurses must approach problems with clarity, logic, and precision.

Critical thinking involves interpretation of information or events, data-based analyses of courses of action, and evaluation of whether the desired outcomes have been achieved. Critical thinking also requires self-regulation, where nurses check their thought processes for assumptions or bias.

3. Compassion

Because nurses work directly with patients, one of the most crucial soft skills required for the job is compassion. In unfamiliar, emotionally stressful environments like hospitals, patients are easily overwhelmed: They might be scared about their health problems, frustrated that their recovery isn’t going smoothly, or even angry that their needs aren’t met. Being able to approach these patients with compassion is crucial, especially since nurses have a lot of contact with patients, checking in on them repeatedly over the course of a shift. Providing compassionate care for patients who find themselves in vulnerable situations can help patients feel safer and happier, which in turn reduces stress for nurses on the job.

4. Professionalism

All employers value staff who perform their jobs with professionalism. Not only does it maintain the integrity of the nursing profession, it also fosters trust between nurses and the patients and instills confidence that patients will receive the best care. In addition, maintaining a professional relationship with patients can prevent nurses from becoming overly involved and can decrease emotional burnout.

Professionalism also includes maintaining necessary credentials and staying updated on industry and institutional standards and procedures through continuing education and professional development.

5. Teamwork

Beyond patient interactions, nurses also need to work well with others on their care team, including doctors and other nurses. Interdisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals positively impact patient outcomes and safety. Nurses must be able to effectively communicate with team members, understand the workplace culture, resolve conflicts, and accept team decisions. Other attributes of successful care team members include honesty, discipline, creativity, humility, and curiosity.

Members of well-functioning teams report enhanced job satisfaction, role clarity, and well-being. Nurses who contribute to a positive team environment perform their work more efficiently and avoid burnout.

How Do Nurses Gain Soft Skills?

Gaining soft skills that a nurse does not inherently possess can be accomplished through a number of methods. Essential nursing skills can be cultivated through professional development seminars and trainings on communication, teamwork, and professionalism. Critical thinking often develops during nursing school, as well as continuing education courses.

Working with a mentor can advance soft skill acquisition, particularly with regular feedback on the nurse’s working style. That and volunteer experiences, internships, and practicums that provide opportunities to practice and receive feedback from supervisors cultivate essential nursing skills.

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