When it comes to nursing, the first thought that might spring to mind in reference to the essential traits a nurse should have would almost definitely be ‘caring’. Caring is the very definition of the core of a nurse role and those who do not have an innate desire to care for, look after and help others might not succeed in some specific nursing roles. That being said, it is not the only trait that is important to a nursing role at all – there are actually many traits and skills which are essential to jobs in a nursing role, some of which might surprise you.

Because of the varying levels of roles and sectors in nursing, there are plenty of desirable and essential traits that are looked for in a nurse. Read this piece to find out where your skills can be best put to good use in the medical field and what traits you have that would suit a nurse role.

Why Are There Essential Traits for a Nurse?

Like any job, there are always minimum requirements that a person is required to have to be able to be a good fit for a specific role. This is absolutely the same when it comes to nursing. However, it could be argued that it is even more important when it comes to roles within the medical field as serious decisions have to be made and lives will be on the line – especially for roles such as nursing practitioner and DNP (doctor of nursing practice).

Because of this, nurses in practice will need a combination of skills to help them give the best care they can to their patients.

That being said, skills and personality traits are two very different things. Skills can often be learned, whereas personality traits are more ingrained and help create our identities.

“Are you a naturally caring person?”

Being a Caring Person 

Its often the first go-to trait we all think of when it comes to nursing, and while it is not the only one needed by any means, it is still one of the most important and for good reason!

Whether you are a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner or a DNP for those who are in the role to perform well. That being said, not everyone who opts for a role in nursing is naturally caring or has a desire to help people. There are many reasons someone might choose a career path, even if it does not necessarily suit them, such as prioritising job security or a decent annual salary.

That being said, if you do not possess this essential trait, you might find the job much more difficult and find that others are able to give a better quality of care to their patients. It is important to ask yourself if you are becoming a nurse or DNP for the ‘right’ reasons, which is essentially to care for and help other people. Everything else is an added and well-deserved bonus.

Demonstrating Empathy

Similarly to being caring, having empathy is also an important trait that those in nursing roles should have. This is the same through all levels of care, from a registered nurse straight up to DNP. This is because when someone is able to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are caring for, they are often able to give a better level of personalised care. This can go a long way in aiding someone’s response, recovery and health journey. It is often easy to become desensitized to the situations we are surrounded by often, and when it comes to the medical field, where strict rules and regulations apply, it is important that someone in a nurses role is able to use a person-centred approach to nursing, thinking about what is best for individual patients as cases and circumstances arise.

“Being able to laugh in between bad situations is crucial for stress relief!”

Having a Sense of Humor 

Perhaps another one of the most important traits in jobs that are emotionally and physically demanding is a good sense of humour. There will be days when tasks feel impossible, where certain procedures, meetings or treatments will not turn out the way you hope or expected to and where devastating news is received. Whatever it is, without having a sense of humour, having to work in such a stressful and demanding role such as a dnp will most likely mean you will not only suffer yourself, but so will your team. A sense of humour is essential for a leading role such as a DNP, and this is because you need to be able to help take the burden off other nurses and colleagues where necessary, which is crucial for some well-deserved and well-needed stress relief.

A sense of humour can also serve as a great reminder that those in the medical field are humans too! This can help increase trust between not only the patients but colleagues which are part of a team too, letting them know they have a safe space to come to you with feedback, concerns and questions.

Being Able to Critically Think

While critical thinking is rather a skill than a trait, it is still essential for those who are the head of a medical role, such as a DNP. Critical thinking can not only help prevent mistakes and prevent prolonged issues in patients, but critical thinking can also be the very skill that helps save someone’s life. When you are a professional in the medical field, you will often be faced with challenges where you might have to think outside of the box, and when working as a team, this skill is also essential for making sure others limit their mistakes and make the right decisions. It will come as no surprise that being a doctor or dnp will often involve high-stress situations, so being able to think critically is an absolute essential. That being said, it is a skill that is often improved over time, especially when practising within the field, which also comes from knowledge with experience.

“From communicating with patients, relatives of patients, colleagues and other health practitioners – this skill is crucial to the job”

Having Good Communication Skills 

Having good communication skills is important to daily life, as this is how we ask for what we want, let other people know our needs, and also how we feel. This is also how we share humour, make sure wires do not get crossed or people misunderstand a situation and perhaps most importantly, allow someone to receive the information we are telling them in the way it is intended. This is absolutely vital for a nurse practitioner or DNP, as they will often have to give clear and concise information to patients and their families, important updates and also have to make sure that a patient understands any implications, positives or negatives of a diagnosis and how to manage their treatment plan – just to name a few!

Communication is also vital between colleagues and other medical professionals, as a misunderstood direction or miscommunication could mean patients issues becoming worse, the wrong treatments being administered, or in a worst-case scenario, result in the death of a patient. This is why it is vital that those in the medical field are able to communicate effectively.

“Technology, medical procedures, new information and research, and new ideas are paramount in the medical field and will all require a willingness to learn!”

A Willingness to Learn 

Even after years of studying and training, there will always be so much more to learn. Medicine is forever changing, and the more we learn the more we have to adapt. Being a nurse practitioner or a dnp means that you will constantly have to adapt to new information, new situations, and also welcome new ideas. It is often said that you do not truly learn something until you are actively autonomous in your learning. For example, you do not really learn how to drive until you have passed your test and are driving on your own. So, no matter what you have learnt through education, be prepared to learn plenty of things all over again and more.

Putting new knowledge into practice is also another important part of working in the medical field. As we progress with medical technology, health science and other improvements, it is important that nurse practitioners and DNP’s are able to implement these changes quickly and successfully, in order to offer the highest level of health care available to patients.

This is also true for the education sector when it comes to nursing, as improvements and changes that are made to educational approaches such as personalised learning techniques and strategies also need to be implemented, to ensure that learning environments are as successful as they can be. If a nurse possesses the sheer will to learn, right from obtaining a bachelor’s degree through to becoming a DNP, this will only benefit patients in the long run and will almost definitely contribute to better care. It is also essential to the growth of a nursing career and will contribute significantly to the experience.

“Managing time for your patients is essential, but so is managing time for yourself”

Solid Time Management

Time management is empirical when it comes to medical occupations, especially those who take on a nursing role. Nurse practitioners or a DNP will be handling multiple patients at any given point, including medications, scheduled check-ups and of course, things that happen which are not scheduled, so medical professionals need to be on the ball. Shifts can get particularly long, so being able to manage time not only in the workplace but also personally is vital to mental and physical health.

Nurse practitioners or DNP’s will need to be able to take on the critical tasks first and also set aside time for self-care, such as a small break in between a 12-hour shift or taking a moment for a breather. Breaks are extremely important to manage as not looking after yourself will affect not only your mental health but also your quality of care.

Paying Attention to Detail 

Having a strong attention to detail is another important trait to have when it comes to being a nurse. In relation to the medical field, the stakes are much higher when it comes to human error, so being able to pay attention to even the smallest of details will almost definitely impact the level of care you can offer and reduce the number of mistakes that are made, either yours or others!

It is no secret that medical environments can get extremely busy, and that an ml out of the correct dosage for a patient could prove fatal, so it is imperative that everything is done properly, including the documentation of any actions too such as filling in records efficiently and accurately.

“Wanting the absolute best for your patients and speaking up when they cannot, will always be one of the best traits to have as a nurse.”

Having Integrity for Patient Advocacy 

In a medical role, professionals are often a mouthpiece for those who are not able to speak for themselves. Having integrity means that you will uphold a commitment to patient advocacy and upholding a Hippocratic Oath which is part of almost every hospital’s mission statement. The fundamentals of the Hippocratic Oath is to keep patients safe and to deliver the highest possible quality of care at all times. Having integrity means sticking by this no matter what and will always do the right thing with nobody is looking.

It will be a common occurrence that some patients will turn up confused, disorientated, unable to speak or otherwise impaired, and it is the nurse’s duty to advocate for each and every one of the patient’s safety. A nurse practitioner or DNP which upholds this trait during practice will show they are always fighting for the best care and treatment for their patients.