To mark National Nurses Week, we asked new RNs about what every nurse needs to succeed. Five nurses from the Greater Chicago region, all with two years or less of experience, answered the following question: What qualities or characteristics are most important to posses as a nurse, and why?
The quality that I find most important is compassion. As a nurse, everything I do stems from the fact I care about my patients. Whether I am performing a procedure or a daily task, being compassionate means that I want to partner with them in achieving their goals. Showing compassion makes it seem as though I am treating a family member, rather than just another patient because I care so much more about them. Having compassion makes nursing more holistic. I am not just treating the patient’s illness, but I am caring for the whole person - body, mind and spirit - as well as caring for their family.
Several years ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was one of the toughest years of her life.
To this day, she still says to me:
“While my physicians were good to me, it was the nurses who cared for me that were my angels.”
When I asked what made her think so, she responded she saw competence and, most importantly, compassion in her nurses.
In my work as a nurse, I strive to exhibit the qualities that my mother’s nurses exhibited: competence and compassion.
A nurse must be adaptable and resilient. With constant change in healthcare, a nurse must maintain an open mind and be able to adapt to new standards and practices. A nurse has to install high reliability in their nursing practice and always ensure that the patient is the first unrelenting priority.
High reliability drives a nurse to apply the best evidence-based practices for improved patient outcomes and to grow a sense of ownership throughout the rest of his or her team.
As a nurse, you will be faced with adversity, but having resilience and enjoyment of the nursing profession will empower your purpose in the field. Although adaptability and resiliency is a must in today’s healthcare landscape, compassion and empathy are still the cornerstones of our nursing profession.
A successful nurse should possess many skills, but the ability to communicate is the most important to have. To identify patient needs and to address them appropriately, communication is absolutely necessary for a nurse. When we meet our patients, we greet them with a smile, which sets the tone for the rest of their stay. If we hear that a patient is depressed, we want to have a warm and caring conversation with him or her to see what weighs on his or her heart and to try to ease the patient’s mind.
Good communication also builds a trusting relationship with patients, so we can provide the best care possible. Lastly, communication is key in patient satisfaction. According to Jean Watson, a transpersonal caring relationship depends on, ‘the nurse’s caring consciousness and connection having the potential to heal since experience, perception and intentional connection are taking place.’ All this is possible through the ability to communicate effectively.
While in nursing school, one of my instructors would say, “People may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” These words express the compassion nurses must give to patients. While I have learned there are many important characteristics a nurse must possess, I believe the most essential is having compassion for patients. A day can be very busy with numerous tasks, but the most important one is getting the opportunity to create a relationship with each patient. For me, nursing in its simplest form comes down to one person caring for another. I believe that feeling compassion toward that person or patient and their situation can help motivate a nurse to use all of their skills and knowledge to provide the best possible care and make the biggest impact.
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