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What Makes a Nurse Professional?

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You’re finally a nurse! You went to nursing school, earned your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), passed the NCLEX-RN with flying colors, and are licensed and ready to practice. 

As you prepare for your first day as a registered nurse (RN), you’ll have to ensure you have nutritious lunches for the week ahead, and remember to pack your stethoscope and hand sanitizer. But more importantly, it’s time to adopt the mindset of being an amazing nurse by displaying the utmost professionalism, quality care, and respect for your patients.

We don’t doubt that you’ll hit the ground running in your nursing career, making huge strides to help patients and perfect your clinical skills. We know your unique strengths will make you stand out as stellar healthcare professional. 

Every career has its nuances, especially those in the realm of healthcare. In this article, we’ll explain what makes a great nurse so you can head into the hospital on your first day with a solid grasp of the professionalism this work requires. 

What does it mean to be professional in the field of nursing?

Remember, to be a pro at professional nursing, practice makes perfect. Nurses, like any healthcare professional, can use their experiences to hone both “soft” and “hard” skills. 

Hard skills come from your nursing education and clinical practice, including your knowledge of pharmacology terms and how to correctly insert an IV, for example. These skills are crucial to performing under pressure and displaying competency in patient care.

Soft skills are traits and sensibilities that you build over time. All of us have natural strengths and areas we need to improve. Perhaps, you’re a strong verbal communicator, but being organized isn’t your forte. Don’t worry, we’ll discuss the traits and top qualities nurses should have to excel as healthcare providers. We encourage you to identify which characteristics you already have and to practice those you might be lacking. 


Ten top professional nursing traits

Nurses need countless skills to maintain professionalism in the field, so this is by no means a complete list. After all, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, so remember to consider the traits that make you great and consider what you would possibly add to this list as a nursing professional:

  1. Attention to detail: Your patients trust you, and they do so with good reason. You’re knowledgeable and confident about it. Nevertheless, even the best of us can make mistakes, and errors can severely affect patient outcomes in a healthcare setting. So nurses must stay in the moment and remain sharp when assessing patients and recording their conditions. 
  1. A positive attitude: Nurses often work with patients in their time of need, so staying upbeat and optimistic can help positively reassure worried patients and their families. But nurses need to take care of themselves, too! Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have an off day or are experiencing empathy fatigue due to burnout. It’s normal—and we know you’re doing your best. But don’t forget, your mental health and well-being are also important. 
  1. Leadership: All nurses, regardless of their experience level, work as a team. At some point, you’ll likely be called upon to step up and implement a care plan, provide guidance for a new colleague or even act as a nurse leader and communicate your patients’ concerns to the rest of your healthcare team. 
  1. Communication skills: Your everyday work as a nurse requires a great deal of listening and processing. You need to listen to your patients with an empathetic ear and try to understand what they are feeling. You’ll also have to communicate patient status to the rest of your team and explain care plans to patients and their family members. 
  1. Stamina: It’s no secret that nurses work long hours—stamina is crucial in the nursing field. We encourage you to listen to your body, take breaks, practice self-care and prepare yourself for your shifts in healthy ways. 
  1. Sense of humor: A little humor can go a long way, especially when keeping things light with patients or cheering up a team member that has had a tough day. Professional nurses know when to be serious and when it’s appropriate to slip in a joke. 
  1. Problem-solving skills: A patient’s status could change in a heartbeat, especially if you work in an emergency or acute care environment. You need to practice critical thinking and act quickly to adapt to developing situations.  
  1. Organization skills: Nurses work rotating shifts and have a lot of information to keep track of. In many work environments, you’ll see new patients every shift and will need to bring your team up to speed. Keeping all of their cases straight can be challenging. You’ll need to schedule your time around checking in on your patients, administering medication and reacting to emergencies. 
  1. Advocacy: Nurses often speak on behalf of their patients and advocate for their needs and well-being. Patients’ health outcomes are a top priority for nurses. But nurses also need to voice patients’ concerns and wishes, acting as a liaison between patients and physicians, clinicians, nurse practitioners and other RNs on their team. 
  1. Curiosity: The field of medicine is ever-changing, with new research and technology entering the healthcare system every day. Good nurses are curious and dedicate themselves to life-long learning that will help them provide the best possible patient care. 

Starting with these 10 traits will help you and your professional development as a nurse. We recommend you practice these skills and mindsets to prepare for your nursing career, and remember, these are just the tip of the iceberg!

As you become a better healthcare professional, we hope to continue making even better scrubs that support you on even your most challenging days. We recognize how hard you work, and we want to match your energy as we provide you with motivational content and scrubs that will make you feel your best as a professional nurse.

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