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17 Qualities That Make a Great Nurse

17 Qualities That Make a Great Nurse
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While considering career options, future healthcare professionals can gain some insight into how well they'll fit into a given role by taking an honest look at themselves and their character and personality traits.

Nursing, unlike many other professions, takes a certain type of person who exhibits a caring nature for people in general. Nurses need the resolve to take action in order to remedy the pain of others, and the understanding to put themselves in the shoes of their patients and coworkers to reach better patient outcomes.

Great nurses strive to improve the qualities necessary for success on a daily basis. But which are those that they focus on most? We've outlined some important reasons for you to consider when you're trying to evaluate whether or not you'd make a great nurse, in addition to some of the most common qualities that you should have to make a great nurse.

Why These Qualities Matter

Even if you don't have many of the most common qualities or personality traits that we've outlined below, you can still find success working in the healthcare industry as a nurse. One of the reasons that these qualities we've outlined are important is because they ensure that individuals will be happy throughout their career as a nurse. The healthcare industry asks a lot of their healthcare professionals and employees and having these common qualities ensure that they can do the job well and find enjoyment as well.

The next important reason behind why these qualities and character traits matter is that it helps job seekers and healthcare professionals stand out as the ideal job candidate and applicant. Human resource professionals know what to look for to find the ideal candidate for certain positions, and they've noticed how some qualities and character traits shine compared to others when they're evaluating candidates. Therefore, if you have several of these character traits or qualities, you'll increase the likelihood of getting to the interview portion of the candidate selection process, and increase your chances of getting the job.

Another reason that these qualities matter is that they indicate whether or not a healthcare professional or job seeker will actually find job satisfaction. There are plenty of fantastic job opportunities out there in the world, but they might not always be the right fit for someone based on their own skillset and character traits. You might have an absolute desire to work towards helping others in a technically challenging role, and initially begin pursuing something like computer science to become a software engineer. Over time, you might realize that while that role is great, but it doesn't have the same teamwork and social environment you were looking for in your career as the healthcare industry does.

Having the common qualities that make a great nurse ensure that you can find satisfaction in your role as a nurse. You don't have to go through several years in the industry, only to realize that there are certain character traits or qualities that are needed to succeed, that you don't have.

The next important reason that these qualities matter to become a great nurse is that it helps each nurse feel like they can do their work without feeling overwhelmed when they go home. When you feel like you're lacking the important skills, the qualities, the character traits, the education, and the experience, oftentimes you can feel overwhelmed and you don't leave work at work. You can take that with you, and it wears you down over time.

When you have the common qualities that we've outlined below, you can ensure that you leave your work at work, and your home life doesn't suffer because you constantly feel like you're falling behind or lack the tools that everyone else has.

Most Common Qualities That Make a Great Nurse

Some of the most common qualities and character traits are innate, while others can be fostered and developed into lifelong skills that you can use throughout your career as a healthcare professional. If you feel like you don't have one of the common qualities or character traits that we mention below, take the time to develop those traits and add them to your repertoire.

The following are the 17 most common qualities found amount great nurses:

1. Communication

The #1 quality or trait that a nurse absolutely must have is the ability to effectively communicate with not only other healthcare professionals but also patients and their families. Although solid communication skills are beneficial for any career field, in nursing it is mandatory for your success.

Great nurses have no problem following directions accurately and efficiently and ensuring that everyone involved is one the same page for the sake of the patient through proper and effective communication. Excellent communication skills are essential in the healthcare industry because others are constantly relying on you to make clear assessments and then disseminate information to whomever the source might be, whether it's other healthcare professionals, the patient, or the patient's family members.

Part of communicating effectively and efficiently is also being an excellent listener. Communicating with others means that you need to accurately take the information in that they're giving you, and be able to provide them with the information they need to respond to their statements or questions.

If you find that you're not a great communicator or communication isn't your strong suit, then working as a nurse might not be the right role for you. Another way in which being an effective communicator is important is because you'll have to find ways to effectively communicate with people from all different types of backgrounds. Some people will be more open to sharing what their ailments are, and others will be more closeted. Being an effective caregiver and healthcare professional means trying to get to the root cause of what they're struggling from, and communication is at the heart of that process.

If you find that you can communicate really well and get along with others from all different types of backgrounds, then you should definitely consider becoming a nurse.

2. Empathy

Another quality that should be obvious but definitely needs to be stated is empathy. Even if your communication skills are sharp, anyone lacking in empathy will find nursing to be a particularly challenging field.

Great nurses are among the most compassionate and take pride in providing comfort. However, nurses have reported that this can also lead to what is known as compassion fatigue.

There needs to be a delicate balance between feeling empathy towards patients and getting overwhelmed from the compassion fatigue that might creep in. Patients often feel isolated as they're going through their own struggles and dealing with their ailments. That's why having compassion and empathy for patients is an essential quality to have if you plan on working in the healthcare industry, especially as a nurse, because you can identify with them and understand what they might be feeling and how you can go above and beyond to let them know that you're there for them and you're going to help them get better.

3. Emotional Stability

Nurses are at the forefront of healthcare and must exhibit a high degree of emotional stability in order to remain effective at their jobs. Although some of the cases that come through are entirely heartbreaking to those around, a great nurse must be able to look at these situations with objectivity so that other patients do not end up neglected. If each healthcare professional gets stuck on the feeling of sadness or remorse regarding their situation, and that can negatively impact your ability to care for others.

This can be one of the most challenging aspects of working in the nursing field, as it seems to conflict with having empathy and compassion for patients and their conditions. However, if nursing is in your future, it would be best advised that you start learning how to balance your empathy with your emotional stability.

4. Adaptability

The environment in a hospital can go from peaceful to erratic in a moment's notice, and great nurses are fully aware of this and are always prepared to adapt to the situation at hand. To be a successful nurse, it is imperative that you're able to prioritize the tasks in front of you from most-to-least important at the time, ensuring better patient outcomes.

Another part of demonstrating that you're capable of adapting to new things is the ability to demonstrate social-emotional learning. When you use social-emotional learning, you can demonstrate your ability to use your soft skills to adapt to new situations as they arise.

Part of being adaptable and flexible as a healthcare professional means that you're ready to tackle the new challenges as they arise, even when you're not prepared for them. If you've ever heard the expression, think on your feet, then you'll be prepared to work in the healthcare industry. Because the environment is constantly changing, you'll need to deal with three patients when you're in the middle of assisting one, and then some more paperwork gets stacked on top of it.

Sometimes things just go awry in the healthcare industry or in a healthcare environment, and you need to be prepared for those situations when they arise without getting bogged down in the details and stress that might arise. The healthcare industry also means that you're working with a ton of people on a daily basis. The larger the workforce and responsibility, the more things can become unpredictable.

Frequently, you'll find that the healthcare industry requires you to be adaptable and flexible as these scenarios happen. If you find that you're looking for a career where your day is the same routine day-in and day-out. There are several roles in the healthcare industry that are routine, but for the most part, working as a nurse is not one of them.

5. Attention to Detail

Nurses work in a sensitive environment and carelessness can cause life-altering, or ending, consequences. Both the physicians they work under and the patients they're treating depend on them to be as accurate as possible in their administration of medications and other treatments, leaving little margin for error.

Great nurses work diligently to ensure that they don't make an error or skip a step with their patients or the administrative duties that they're responsible for. When it comes down to it, as little as possible should be left to chance. Have you found that you're great at paying attention to all the little details? One great way to identify whether or not you've had this quality is to evaluate whether or not you've been able to lead projects in the past and have followed all the little things that other groups didn't notice.

Having a good attention span for detail is important in the healthcare industry because there are a lot of little details that need to be correct in order to properly care for patients. A simple mistake here and there might cause someone to become seriously ill as we've mentioned earlier.

6. Action-oriented

This quality and character trait goes hand-in-hand with adaptability in that great nurses must change their actions in accordance with changing circumstances. Depending on the department of the healthcare facility in which you're working, nurses may be more active than in other departments.

It's imperative to your success as a nurse that you maintain an action-oriented approach to the job. Laziness or carelessness cost precious seconds that could mean the difference between positive and negative outcomes for the patients, other healthcare professionals, and yourself. This doesn't mean that you'll always be running around and you'll never have a moment to rest, but there are times when things can get pretty busy and you need to have an energetic spirit to remain upbeat during the process.

If you're passionate about finding a job where you're active throughout the day, instead of sitting at your desk and trying not to fall asleep, then you should consider becoming a nurse. Throughout your role as a nurse, you'll find that you're doing one thing and then need to run somewhere else to deal with a patient that needs something immediately.

7. Solid Composure

Nurses must hold their composure under pressure in order to effectively and efficiently provide the care necessary to their patients. Those who fall short of doing this will also fall short in their performance and ultimately make very avoidable mistakes in their work.

A great nurse will ensure that they are focused on the task at hand, regardless of what's going on around them, how busy they are, or any personal issues that may be weighing on them. Being composed under pressure is important to ensure that you can effectively care for others and you don't let things rile you up when you need to make important decisions that have a very set of steps and directions that you need to follow. Working in the healthcare industry means that there are always certain steps that need to be followed to ensure that a patient is accurately diagnosed, cared for, and then observed.

In the event that you're feeling frazzled because something happened, a lack of composure will cause you to make mistakes quickly. If you find that you're comfortable under stressful situations, or that you thrive when you're under pressure, then working as a nurse is the role for you to consider in the healthcare industry. You'll find that there is no shortage of times when you feel like you're under pressure and you need to have an ability to remain composed as a key quality.

8. Physical Endurance

Nurses spend most of the time during the day on their feet, going from task to task, lifting objects and sometimes patients, and standing for long periods of time. Great nurses know this and work to maintain their energy throughout their shifts. Part of having the physical endurance to work as a nurse is related to being energetic throughout the day. If you're energetic throughout the day, you'll find that being energetic makes your day go by a little bit easier because you won't feel like you're struggling to be active throughout the day.

However, this is easier said than done, especially on busier days. Even the best of the best get tired after consistently going for hours on end. Part of being ready to fulfill the daily routine and challenge of being physically active starts with being smart about what you put in your body throughout the day. Eating healthy meals throughout the day ensure that you have the energy and physical endurance to tackle the active challenges that rise up as a nurse.

As long as you're always trying to improve, you'll do fine. Its when we become complacent in our performance that mistakes are made because we're running low on energy and aren't used to being physically active.

9. Respect

You'll go much farther in all career fields, and life, if you treat others with the respect that they deserve. Great nurses know that their patients are not just an injury, they're an autonomous individual with aspirations, hopes, and dreams just like themselves, and they are of value.

Not only with patients, but nurses must also respect their fellow healthcare workers, the work that they do, and their priorities, and work to find adequate compromises to any potential issues that may arise. Being respectful might be a challenge if you've never had to interact with other people from different backgrounds. In some cases, you're going to deal with people who aren't friendly or aren't effective as a communicator and unintentionally come across as rude.

When those scenarios happen, it's important to remain respectful and treat others as you would like to be treated. If you find that you're comfortable interacting with others or others have told you in the past that you're easy to get along with, then you most likely already have a respectful quality about yourself. Being respectful is something that everyone needs to consistently work on and develop over time, as it is a lifelong skill that never goes away.

10. Interpersonal Skills

This also ties in with communication skills, but puts more emphasis on dealing with individuals at different levels. Great nurses must know how to treat their superiors, their subordinates, and the patients & families in which they serve. Each may require a different approach, and that approach may vary based on the circumstances at any given time.

Developing and using interpersonal skills takes time. Like some of the other qualities on our list, it can be developed and fostered throughout your time as a professional. The good news about many of the qualities on this list is that you don't have to worry about not having interpersonal skills, because if you don't have it you can work on it and foster it into one of your best assets. To be as successful as possible, nurses should seek to hone their interpersonal skills and learn to gauge each situation independently.

11. Passionate

Being passionate is one of the most important qualities and character traits that all healthcare professionals need when trying to become a great nurse. While being passionate about your job isn't exclusive for working in the healthcare industry, those individuals who work in the healthcare industry won't last long without it. As we've mentioned earlier, healthcare professionals and nurses need to be passionate about working with others because it can be a tough job from time to time.

It's important to be passionate about being a great nurse and going above and beyond to assist patients and their family members in any way you can. As we've covered earlier, there are going to be times when a patient and their family member test you, and this is where your passion will really shine because you know that getting them to feel healthy is what matters. If you find that you've always been passionate about helping others in any way you can, then you've already got this quality in the bag.

12. Ability to Multitask

The healthcare industry is one of the most chaotic and busy environments you might ever professionally work in. There are going to be a dozen different things that need to happen and sometimes it might feel like you're falling behind. Working as a healthcare professional and a nurse means that you should be capable of multitasking when the situation arises, and most importantly you find that you're comfortable in those scenarios.

Some common scenarios that you might find yourself in as a nurse include trying to check in on one patient, assess the health of a new patient, interact with doctors, check on a patient, coordinate with your teammates and assistant caregivers, and stay up to date on your notes all at the same time.

An ability to multitask is often inherent. If you've found that over time you're more comfortable doing one task at a time, then becoming a nurse might not be the best role for you. Don't fret though, because you can work towards developing an effective ability to multitask.

13. Problem Solver

When you're working in the healthcare industry, there is one thing that you can constantly rely on, and that's that there will be problems to solve on a daily basis. Sometimes the problems that you will need to solve are very basic, like making sure that a patient is headed to the right destination for their next appointment. Other times, there will be scenarios where you need to really think on your feet and be creative with your problem-solving.

Working in the healthcare industry means that you'll be faced with a number of problems that you'll need to solve on a daily basis, and they'll often come from a variety of sources. Whether it's your daily routine, co-workers, superiors, physicians, patients, or a patient's family members, there are going to be problems from all directions that you need to solve. If you find that you not only solve problems efficiently but you also enjoy the process of seeking out the correct solution and then implementing it, becoming a nurse will be a great career option for you and set you apart as one of the great nurses.

14. Hungry for Knowledge

Seeking and obtaining knowledge is one of the best qualities you can add to your repertoire to set yourself apart from other healthcare professionals and nurses. If you find that you're a passionate learner and enjoy the quest for knowledge, then you're already on the pathway to becoming a great nurse. Working in the healthcare industry means that you'll be constantly exposed to new techniques, new training methods, new skills, and new healthcare information that you need to absorb and use.

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is one of those industries where everyone needs to be open to the idea of learning in areas where they're unfamiliar or don't have a lot of experience. The good news is that being a lifelong learner will serve you in any career, regardless of whether or not you do decide to become a nurse.

If you find that you've always had a passion for learning new skills, then you've most likely got the qualities to make a great nurse because the healthcare industry asks healthcare professionals to constantly learn new things and become more well-rounded professionals.

15. Patience

There are some things you can't account for when you're trying to work in an industry that requires you interact with and deal with a handful of people, and one of those things is working with people who test your patience. Unfortunately, working in the healthcare industry means that for every ten grateful and kind patients you interact with, there is a likelihood that the next patient you'll interact with will be incredibly rude or ignore your recommendations in their care plan.

Over time, this means you might even find the same patients are coming back because they're not following their care recommendations. While this is certainly frustrating because it seems like they're not following the advice and plan that's been given to them, these things do happen in the healthcare industry and you need to be patient. There will be an influx of stubborn patients who might test you every now and then, and you should be prepared to deal with them and be patient during the process.

16. Reliable

Do you find that you're consistent in everything that you do? If so, that makes you reliable. Working in the healthcare industry means that others are counting on you every single day. For some, this is a burden and they don't like that pressure. For others, it gives you an opportunity to rise to the occasion and showcase your reliability. Being reliable in the healthcare industry means that you're capable of showing up to work on time, that you're capable of putting in solid work each day, and that others can rely on you when they need you.

Because the healthcare industry is such a collaborative environment, being a reliable member of the team is essential to providing efficient and effective care to all the patients as they come in. If you find that you've been reprimanded in the past or others have outright told you that you're not reliable, then it's something you should consider working on. You should not expect to call out of work or ask to take sick days frequently. Because the healthcare industry asks that you show up to work each day and you're a reliable member.

Being reliable often means that you do the little things well and you're consistent about covering all the bases. Being reliable in the healthcare industry also means that patients will come to count on you and find that you're one of their favorite caregivers, which will ultimately help you become a great nurse over time.

17. Strong Moral Compass

The next quality and character trait that will help establish you as a great nurse is having a strong moral compass. Healthcare professionals need to have a strong moral compass because they need to abide by standards that have been set in place to ensure the safety of patients, their family members, and other healthcare professionals. Part of being a great nurse is knowing when things are potentially going too far, and when you need to report that to a superior to potentially investigate the issue.

Working in the healthcare industry means that you are prepared to follow rules to the tee and you're confident in following the regulations to a tee. If you find that you've been iffy about following rules and a certain conduct code in the past, then you need to work on our moral compass. There is no leeway for not following proper rules and regulations in the healthcare industry because it means that someone could potentially get hurt or serious errors might occur.

If you find that you have an easy time following the rules, you know right from wrong with ease, and you've displayed strong integrity in the past, then becoming a healthcare professional is perfect for you and you'll establish yourself as a great nurse in no time.


We've outlined several of the most common qualities and character traits that are often found in great nurses. Nurses are special individuals in the healthcare industry, and the best thing about becoming a great nurse is that it only takes a little bit of time and practice to work on developing these qualities and character traits to set you apart and secure that job you've always wanted.

Advance your career. Change your life.


( Article / Content Updated 2019 )