What Qualities and Characteristics Make a Good Nurse?

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Last Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Nursing is a rewarding job, especially if you’re looking for a sense of purpose in your career. There are lots of job opportunities and the chance to progress throughout different levels in this sector. Plus, the variety of day-to-day work makes it an interesting and diverse option.

While there are many positives about this career path, it’s not without challenges – but what job isn’t? The work you do helps others and assists the community in many ways, but it’s not just for anyone; a nurse needs several qualities and characteristics to ensure they enjoy this career and are successful in it.


Qualifications and experience are a given and are just one section of how well you do a job – and for nursing, the minimum requirements include obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. While you study, you’ll also be required to put other skills into practice, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and communication. All these soft skills often come naturally, but some can be improved to ensure you get the best results from your job.

In conjunction with soft skills, you also need a variety of personal attributes. These traits can help with everyday situations and give you balance within your job. There are several that are ideal for nursing, and some of the examples are below:

Ability to Maintain Balanced Emotions

The role of a nurse comes with a variety of challenges and experiences. Many people will require your input, knowledge, and experience, including patients, colleagues, and management. As such, it’s no surprise that the job can be mentally demanding, raising a range of emotions depending on the type of patient you’re dealing with. Therefore, it’s vital to remain level-headed and in control of situations as they arise.

Still, being emotionally balanced doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about your work or try to switch off from showing emotions – this is a separate trait altogether. Instead, your feelings should support your work and provide stability in all types of scenarios.

Emotional balance is a skill that can be learned, so don’t worry if you feel it might be lacking before you move into this career. Practical experience will guide you through the different emotions you may have to deal with, which can help foster a stable and balanced mindset throughout your career.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are often cited among the important soft skills needed in nursing, but they can also be a quality many people naturally possess. However, your role as a nurse involves honing this skill and perfecting it for various situations. You will be talking to varying levels of people, such as patients who don’t understand medical terminology and doctors who need important data. Therefore, each type of person requires a slightly different approach to communication.

Another vital aspect of good communication is relaying information correctly. In this line of work, accurate data and information are essential for things like getting the medication right or transcribing notes. Any errors could have severe consequences, so being able to communicate accurately in written and verbal form are crucial.

Being Open-Minded

You will see people from all areas of life. Some are open to nursing care, while others may have very different beliefs about the healthcare system. As the country is multicultural, nurses also have to be open to different cultures and work with resources such as interpreters to break down language barriers.

There are many aspects to being open-minded. For example, you must have an impartial view of gender, religious beliefs, and decisions people make about their healthcare. However, you are available to advise on medical situations and reiterate doctors’ medical advice in a factual manner.

Overall, keeping an open mind allows you to appreciate the differences people have as individuals. Plus, it gives you scope to provide the best care depending on your patients’ needs.


On a basic level, being empathetic means you can put yourself in someone else’s position to see things from their side. As a nurse, this is a vital quality to have. In addition, showing empathy, especially when dealing with patients, is a good way to garner trust between them and the healthcare system.

While it’s not always easy to predict someone’s feelings, a small inclination can help reassure patients who are confused or struggling. The ability to show empathy often stems from learning about various situations that affect different people. This could be cultural issues, health problems, or general lifestyle pressures. Different people experience things in different ways, so being open to understanding this assists your empathetic traits.

Some people are naturally empathetic, but it is a skill that can be learned over time. However, if you don’t have some empathy, it’s not always a negative aspect. Instead, it can just indicate that you don’t have experience with a particular situation and are new to dealing with it yourself.


In today’s medical industry, patient confidentiality is a legal requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This ensures a patient’s medical history and information are only used for specific purposes. So, as part of your job as a nurse, it’s essential to remain discrete and follow procedures regarding patient medical data.

This also means that you can’t take your work home with you, so to speak. Discussing patients outside of work with friends and family is a strict no-no. Also, only colleagues working on the patient’s care can discuss and share the information.

Of course, this is a genuine understanding for many people and a prerequisite of the job. But, you’ll also learn the importance of discretion during your studies and the legal framework that accompanies it.


The beauty of nursing is that no two days are the same, although this can mean you need to be highly flexible to meet the needs of the job. In most positions, you will have a daily schedule and tasks to complete; however, some days might see emergencies pop up, and you’ll need to adapt quickly.

Another element of nursing is the need to be flexible with learning new things. The medical sector is advancing every day, and new medications and procedures mean things may change – sometimes at a mere moment’s notice. In addition, technology speeds things up dramatically, but again, quickly adapting to new systems will help you manage better.

Furthermore, working hours are an additional aspect that requires flexibility. When you take a nursing job, you’ll have an idea of the hours and shift patterns. Still, be prepared for modifications to the schedule and out of hours working where necessary. Nursing is not your typical 9-5, so a degree of flexibility is required to do the job effectively.

Time Management

Managing your time as a nurse is a crucial part of the job. The whole of the sector relies on time-sensitive aspects, from medications to surgery. However, with emergencies thrown into the mix, it can create challenges.

As such, a good nurse works to organize and manage time throughout the day to reduce stress. Using technology is another way to improve time management as the whole team has access to schedules and procedures to ensure tasks are completed on time.

On the whole, being organized is something that many people can naturally do. However, it is a skill that is learned through education and clinical training.


There is often a misinterpretation of assertiveness being compared to aggressiveness – but the two are very different. Being assertive doesn’t mean you can shout the loudest in a room full of people. Instead, it highlights the attribute of expressing your thoughts, ideas, and feelings in an honest and tactful way.

This quality is essential in nursing as it enables an individual to express their needs and those of a patient. If you just sit back and let others decide for you to avoid conflict, this can lead to issues over time. Plus, it’s vital to show respect and be constructive with your views when being assertive; it helps to resolve problems quickly and avoids disagreements between people.

This attribute may not come easily to some people, as it feels slightly odd when you try to balance assertiveness without coming off as overbearing. However, the benefits of learning this skill are positive, as you are able to work alongside others with respect for each other’s thoughts and feelings. It’s all part of communication, and when learning different ways to get your opinion and point across, you’ll learn the boundaries required for assertive behavior.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a good nurse requires many hard and soft skills. These are learned over time, and it doesn’t matter if they’re not perfect as soon as you step foot into a new job. However, with guidance and experience, you’ll encounter a range of positive qualities that assist this career path. Additionally, showcasing reliability, respectfulness, stamina, and compassion all help you gain success in this medical field.

What’s more, working as a nurse opens up further opportunities for development as you progress in your career. This, in turn, gives you a chance to hone your personal qualities to enhance your work experience.

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