What Does It Take to Be a Nurse? Top 10 Nursing Characteristics & Skills

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What does it take to be a nurse? If you dream of a career in healthcare, there are many nursing characteristics and skills you’ll need. Some of the top nursing qualities include communication skills, collaboration, empathy and professionalism. You’ll also need technical skills like patient assessments and IV placements.

closeup of nurse hands writing on clipboard at desk

Considering a career in nursing? While nurses are in high demand across the country, healthcare employers must be selective about who they hire. First, of course, aspiring nurses must meet the education and licensure requirements. However, there are also several nursing characteristics nurses need.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Northeastern University makes it possible for qualified individuals to meet the above criteria in as few as 16 months. But before we dive into the details of our 16-month ABSN program, it helps to understand the art and science behind nursing.

What does it take to be a nurse? Take a look at these top nursing qualities and skills you’ll need to acquire.

4 Hard Skills You’ll Need

Hard skills are sometimes called “technical skills” because you’ll learn them during your education and experiential learning activities. Hard skills tend to be job-specific, measurable and improvable. That is, although you’ll acquire them during your nursing program, you’ll continue to improve your skills throughout your career as a nurse.

At Northeastern University, you’ll first study nursing concepts and theories in online coursework, followed by hands-on learning activities in skills and simulation labs, as well as clinical rotations. Here’s a look at four top nursing skills.

1. Fundamental Care Techniques and Nursing Knowledge

There are many types of nurses, but they all need to know the fundamental care techniques informed by nursing knowledge. These care techniques include:

  • Performing patient assessments
  • Taking vital signs
  • Assisting with treatments
  • Administering injections
  • Knowing medical terminology
  • Knowing how to interpret lab results

2. Urgent Care and Emergency Care Skills

Northeastern ABSN student holding books

While you are a nursing student, you may complete a clinical rotation at an urgent care facility or an emergency room. There are several emergency care skills nurses need, including the following:

  • Triage
  • IV placement
  • Basic life support
  • Advanced cardiovascular life support
  • Wound care
  • Blood draws
  • Telemetry

3. Patient and Family Caregiver Education

When you officially become a licensed nurse, you’ll be equipped to understand complex medical terminology and physiological concepts. However, your patients might not understand these things. You’ll need to deliver patient and family caregiver education in a way that empowers your patients to have an ideal health outcome.

For example, let’s say you’re working on discharging a patient who needs an oxygen machine to breathe. You’ll need to first understand how to operate the equipment yourself, and then demonstrate to the patient and their family caregivers how to also operate the equipment.

4. Health-Related Technology Skills

The healthcare field takes full advantage of technological innovations so patients can receive the best possible care. Because of this, nurses need to be tech-savvy. The ability to use technology proficiently is one of the top nursing characteristics you’ll need to be successful in your career. For example, you’ll need to work with electronic health records (EHRs), set up and use monitoring equipment and use healthcare software.

Northeastern ABSN student working in sim lab

Wondering how hard is nursing school? Read more to learn what makes nursing school difficult and how you can meet these challenges.

Nursing Characteristics: 6 Soft Skills You’ll Need

Soft skills are the personal nursing qualities you need to succeed in the field. These skills primarily revolve around how you work with and relate to others.

Our nursing simulation labs and other aspects of our ABSN curriculum do a great job in teaching interpersonal skills and clinical confidence.

During these realistic learning exercises, our instructors have you apply your critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a variety of patient care scenarios. Simulation also provides us the opportunity to reflect on how well you communicate and collaborate with others.

1. Professionalism and Ethics

Professionalism and ethics are among the top nursing characteristics. Nurses literally have their patients’ lives and well-being in their hands. The commitment to “do no harm” is central to the nurse’s code of ethics and professionalism. Nurses need to have an intrinsic feel for right and wrong, and a dedication to protecting each patient’s dignity, privacy and health.

Cultural awareness and an appreciation for diversity are part of a nurse’s professionalism. Nurses care for patients from all walks of life, without regard to appearance, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, ethnicity or race. It’s essential to provide care respectful of the patient’s culture, faith and personal wishes.

2. Communication Skills

Communication skills are significant for nurses. You’ll need to communicate clearly with other nurses, other healthcare providers, patients and family members. Written and oral communication skills are top nursing characteristics because a misunderstanding could jeopardize a patient’s health.

Northeastern nursing students standing in room smiling

3. Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion are crucial nursing qualities because not every patient experiences the same diagnosis in the same way. Every person has a unique journey through the healthcare system, and it can be tougher for some to navigate. Through empathy and compassion, nurses can better understand what their patients are experiencing. With better understanding comes personalized care that truly empowers the patient.

4. Leadership Skills

Some nurses officially hold leadership roles, such as a charge nurse or nurse manager. However, every nurse needs leadership skills, regardless of their job title. As you gain experience in the field, you’ll have the opportunity to set a good example and serve as an inspirational role model to your peers.

5. Collaboration and Teamwork

No nurse works in a vacuum. You’ll need to work well with a diverse range of colleagues, including nurses, physicians, specialists, technicians and more. Some examples of nursing characteristics and skills related to teamwork and collaboration include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Rapport-building
  • Problem-solving
  • Active listening skills
  • Respectfulness
  • Open-mindedness

6. Critical Thinking Skills

The last of the top 10 nursing characteristics you’ll need is critical thinking. Critical thinking skills will enable you to assess a situation without preconceived judgment, identify the goal and determine the path forward to achieve that goal. Critical thinking allows you to make the best decisions for the patient’s care.

Northeastern ABSN students practicing in skills lab

Other Career Considerations

While these are some of the top nursing qualities and skills you’ll need to pursue a nursing career, they aren’t all you’ll need. For example, you’ll also need emotional resiliency, as you’ll likely be exposed to trauma and death.

It might seem a little overwhelming to think about the responsibilities of a nurse. However, you should know many different subfields exist within the nursing career. As you gain experience, you’ll likely identify a nursing specialty or niche that best suits you and your personal characteristics. For example, the patients an ER nurse cares for are very different from those of a school nurse.

How Our ABSN Program Works

By leveraging your non-nursing bachelor’s degree, our full-time, four-semester ABSN program makes it possible for you to earn a quality BSN in as few as 16 months. The program follows a hybrid learning format that blends online coursework with hands-on nursing labs and in-person clinical rotations.

At the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, you’ll be taught how to:

  • Provide competent, compassionate care to diverse patient populations.
  • Deliver care that meets the unique faith and cultural needs of patients.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professions to improve patient outcomes.
  • Demonstrate clinical judgment and critical thinking within evidence-based practice.
  • Apply leadership skills in the provision of patient-centered care.
student nurses working in sim lab

What is nursing school like? Check out this blog to learn what you can expect.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Nurse?

If you think you have what it takes to be a nurse, you’re invited to apply for enrollment in our ABSN program, which can help you accelerate your nursing career.

When you’re ready to make your dream career a reality, contact the friendly admissions team at Northeastern University to discuss our ABSN eligibility requirements. You’ll need a non-nursing bachelor’s degree for our Burlington site location or at least 62 credits for our Charlotte site location, along with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.

With small class sizes and dedicated faculty to provide direct support, our nursing school is committed to supporting your nursing journey. Contact our admissions team to learn more about our ABSN program sites in Burlington, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Get Your Free ABSN Program Guide

Our ABSN program guide includes everything you need to know about the accelerated path to nursing.

Northeastern University ABSN program guide