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New kids on the block: DC/Maryland/Virginia RNs share thoughts on nursing


To mark National Nurses Week, we asked new RNs about what every nurse needs to succeed. Five nurses from the DC/Maryland/Virginia 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?

Hannah Hanscom, RN, BSN, CPN, clinical nurse, surgical care unit, Children’s National Health System, Washington, D.C.

Hannah Hanscom, RN

As a pediatric nurse, I believe there is no one quality or characteristic that is most important to being a nurse. Nurses must be passionate about caring for children and their families and be able to think critically and on their feet. But we also must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with the family, patient and interdisciplinary team. We must be compassionate and able to stay calm when escalating care is needed. Although there is no one quality or characteristic that is most important for nursing, having a passion for the field, for caring for those in need, for educating others and for continuing your own education ties all the other qualities together. Nursing is not just a job or a career. Being a pediatric nurse is in many ways a calling; it is something that comes from the heart and is a lifestyle you must be passionate about.

Shannon Levin, RN, med/surg unit, Novant Health Haymarket Medical Center, Gainesville, Va.

Shannon Levin, RN

Nursing is more complex than ever. Nurses are managing new technologies, constant advances in best practices and more and more patients with multiple morbidities. Nurses must be organized multitaskers, with quick critical thinking skills. But a nurse who possesses empathy for his or her patients is the best kind of nurse. Nurses with genuine empathy understand that we often see patients and their families at one of the most difficult times. Most of our patients are experiencing some level of physical and emotional pain and often feel anxious and fearful about their hospitalization. An empathic nurse cares enough to identify and understand his or her patient’s feelings. The nurse listens to his or her patient’s medical history and current symptoms and eases his or her fear by explaining the need for hospitalization, the plan of care and ordered procedures. These actions help build trust and ultimately are the foundation of a successful nurse-patient bond and remarkable care.

Rachel Nugent, RN, emergency department, Carroll Hospital Center, Westminster, Md.

Rachel Nugent, RN

It takes many characteristics to be a nurse. I believe the most important characteristics to possess are empathy, compassion, hope, patience and good communication skills. Being empathetic for patients and also for their families shows true compassion. Nurses must give patients a sense of hope when they may be at the lowest point in their lives. Nurses smile, and with that smile, a positive perception is given to patients and their families. Patience with not only yourself, but with patients, family members, doctors and coworkers is a must. Nurses must know when to speak up for themselves or their patients and when to intervene – especially when they suspect something may be wrong. Nurses advocate for their patients when they are in dire need. And, finally, one of the most important parts of communication is that nurses must always be great listeners, even after a long 12 hour shift.

Brooke Schautz, RN, emergency department, MedStar Harbor Hospital, Baltimore

Brooke Schautz, RN

To be successful, flexibility is the single most important attribute a nurse should have. Throughout nursing school you are taught many skills to prepare you. However, there are some things that cannot be taught, yet are essential to becoming a nurse. As with most things in life, having the right balance is equally as important. Being flexible, yet having the ability to stay focused, is critical to ensure you are providing excellent care to your patients.

Mandy Ward, RN, emergency services, Novant Health Prince William Medical Center, Manassas, Va.

Mandy Ward, RN

There are quite a few qualities that are important to possess as a nurse, but I would have to say the most important one would be compassion. Compassion is listening to a patient, showing him or her sincere concern, being kind and showing empathy.
Our patients look to us to help them when they are most vulnerable. It is up to us to help them when they need it, and we can start by showing them compassion and that we truly care about them. Compassion alone isn’t enough; but, by showing compassion, it makes a big difference for those that we take care of.


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