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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

24 Nursing skills to showcase healthcare expertise and knowledge

17 min read
24 Nursing skills to showcase healthcare expertise and knowledge
Nursing is a highly skilled job that requires years of continuous training and practice. We explore the hard and soft nursing skills that employers are looking for.

Nursing skills are crucial as they form the backbone of patient care, embodying a blend of scientific knowledge, technical proficiency, and compassionate communication. 

Nurses are often the first point of contact in healthcare settings, playing a vital role in assessing patient needs, administering treatments, and monitoring outcomes. Their expertise enables them to identify subtle changes in a patient's condition, preventing complications. 

Additionally, nurses provide emotional support and education, empowering patients, and their families to manage health conditions effectively. The amalgamation of these skills ensures holistic care, improves patient outcomes, and supports the healthcare system's efficiency and effectiveness.

We researched 24 of the top nursing skills for a nurse who is looking for a new job. What are the top skills that employers are demanding? Do you have nursing stories that can illustrate your skills? How can you demonstrate your continuous learning? In this blog, we look at:

  • 12 hard skills for nurses (with examples)
  • 12 soft skills for nurses (with examples)

Which 12 hard skills should nurses learn?

Hard skills are the specific, teachable abilities or skill sets that are required to perform a job. These skills are often acquired through formal education, training programs, certifications, or on-the-job experience. 

For anyone working in the medical field, including nurses, there are countless hard skills related to technology and medical procedures that require mastery. An ability to pick up hard skills is essential for any nurse. Twelve nursing hard skills follow:

1. Emergency care

Emergency care skills enable nurses to respond swiftly and effectively to life-threatening situations. These skills can make the difference between life and death, such as administering CPR, using defibrillators, managing airways, and controlling bleeding. 

Proficiency in emergency care ensures nurses can stabilize patients, minimize complications, and support recovery until further medical treatment is available. Types of emergency management skills include:

  • Triage management
  • Fracture stabilization
  • Hemorrhage control

2. Healthcare technology

Healthcare technology skills allow nurses to deliver efficient, high-quality care. These skills involve using electronic health records (EHRs) for documentation, operating advanced medical equipment, and interpreting data from patient monitoring systems. 

Healthcare technology enhances patient safety, improves diagnostic accuracy, and streamlines care coordination processes. It is essential for modern nursing practice. Types of healthcare technology skills include:

  • Medical software
  • EHR management
  • Mobile health applications

3. First aid

First aid skills enable nurses to provide immediate and effective care for injuries or sudden illnesses, often in settings outside of hospitals. These skills can prevent conditions from worsening, providing vital support until advanced care is available. 

For example, nurses use first aid to perform CPR, treat burns, manage bleeding, and stabilize fractures, ensuring patient safety in urgent situations. Types of first aid skills include:

  • Burn treatment
  • Wound care
  • Seizure management

4. Medication management

Medication management skills ensure the safe and effective administration of medications to patients. These skills involve accurately calculating dosages, understanding pharmacodynamics, and monitoring patient responses to therapy. 

Proper medication management prevents adverse effects and ensures optimal therapeutic outcomes, such as administering insulin for diabetic patients or managing pain relief protocols. Types of medication management skills include:

  • Pharmacology knowledge
  • Side effect monitoring
  • Medication administration

5. Infection control

Infection control skills are crucial for nurses to prevent the spread of infections within healthcare settings. These skills include implementing standard and transmission-based precautions, such as use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and sterilization of instruments. 

Effective infection control practices reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), and contribute to overall public health. Types of infection control skills include:

  • Aseptic techniques
  • Waste management
  • Isolation precautions

6. EMR charting 

EMR (Electronic Medical Records) charting skills enable nurses to accurately document patient information, treatments, and outcomes. These skills facilitate efficient communication among healthcare team members, and enhance patient care continuity. 

Proficient use of EMR systems allows for quick access to patient histories, allergy information, and medication records. With improved decision-making comes enhanced patient safety. Types of EMR charting skills include:

  • Progress notes
  • Privacy compliance
  • Clinical decision support

7. IV administration

IV administration skills allow nurses to deliver medications, fluids, and nutrients directly into a patient's bloodstream, ensuring rapid treatment. These skills include safely setting up IV lines, monitoring for adverse reactions, and maintaining sterility to prevent infections. 

IV administration supports critical care interventions, such as rehydration and blood transfusion. Patient recovery is dependent on efficient IV admin. Types of IV administration skills include:

  • IV fluid regulation
  • Blood transfusion procedures
  • TPN administration

8. Surgical care

Surgical care skills support patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. These skills ensure patient safety, optimize surgical outcomes, and facilitate recovery. 

Nurses need to manage pre-operative preparations, assist in maintaining a sterile environment during surgery, and provide post-operative wound care and pain management. Types of surgical care skills include:

  • Surgical instrument technique
  • Infection prevention
  • Post-operative management

9. Patient transport

Patient transport skills ensure the safe and efficient movement of patients within a healthcare facility. These skills include transferring patients from their bed to a wheelchair or stretcher, minimizing the risk of falls or injuries. 

Proper lifting techniques are essential to prevent back strain for the nurse and discomfort for the patient. Additionally, navigating through crowded hallways requires spatial awareness and coordination. Some of these skills are as follows:

  • Lifting techniques
  • Spatial awareness
  • Mechanical lift equipment

10. Healthcare education

Healthcare education skills are vital for nurses as they empower patients to manage their conditions and make informed decisions. For example, teaching a diabetic about insulin administration and glucose monitoring promotes self-care and prevents complications. 

Effective communication ensures that educational material is understood, while cultural competence respects diverse patient backgrounds. Healthcare education skills include:

  • Health literacy promotion
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medication management teaching

11. Phlebotomy

Phlebotomy skills facilitate the accurate collection of blood samples for diagnostic testing, critical in determining a patient's health status. Proper venipuncture technique minimizes patient discomfort and reduces the risk of infection. 

Knowledge of different collection tubes and their additives ensures the integrity of samples for accurate test results. Efficient and safe handling of sharps prevents needle injuries to healthcare professionals. Phlebotomy skills include:

  • Tourniquet application
  • Patient preparation
  • Venipuncture technique

12. Wound care

Wound care skills prevent infection, promote healing, and reduce complications. For example, proper assessment of a wound's depth, size, and signs of infection guides the selection of appropriate dressings and treatments. 

Mastery in techniques like debridement and applying compression bandages supports recovery, while patient education on wound care at home ensures continued healing and prevents re-injury. Wound care skills include:

  • Wound irrigation
  • Dressing application
  • Suture and staple removal

Which 12 soft skills should nurses develop?

Soft skills refer to a broad set of personal attributes, social abilities, and emotional intelligence traits that enable individuals to work well with others and perform at work. Soft skills are more related to one's personality and are often transferable between different jobs and industries.

Soft skills are essential in nursing as they enhance interpersonal interactions in the medical setting, ensuring the best possible care for patients. Here are twelve soft skills for nurses:

1. Empathy

It is vital for nurses to connect with patients on a personal level and provide compassionate care. Empathy enhances communication, builds trust, and facilitates a supportive environment that can significantly improve patient outcomes. 

When we are suffering, we need someone who will try to understand how we are feeling on a deeper level. Other nursing empathy skills include:

  • Compassion
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Validation

2. Active listening

Active listening skills enable nurses to fully engage with patients, ensuring they understand their concerns and emotions. This skill involves more than just hearing words; it's about interpreting tone and recognizing non-verbal cues.

Through active listening, nurses can build trust, foster a sense of safety, and create a therapeutic environment conducive to healing. It's essential for accurately assessing patient needs and providing personalized care. Other nursing active listening skills include:

  • Mirroring
  • Clarifying
  • Non-verbal cues

3. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills enhance patient care, foster effective communication, and facilitate teamwork. They enable nurses to build rapport with patients, ensuring a comfortable and trusting environment. 

Strong interpersonal skills also improve collaboration with healthcare professionals, contributing to efficient care coordination and problem-solving. Ultimately, these skills lead to better patient outcomes, higher satisfaction, and a more supportive healthcare environment. Interpersonal skills include:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Cultural competence
  • Negotiation

4. Critical thinking 

Nurses need to think critically as they can ensure the provision of high-quality, evidence-based patient care. These skills allow nurses to assess patient conditions accurately, make informed decisions, and anticipate potential complications. 

By applying critical thinking, nurses can analyze complex situations, identify viable solutions, and implement effective interventions, ultimately improving patient outcomes and safety. Critical thinking skills for nurses include:

  • Logical reasoning
  • Inference
  • Evaluation

5. Teamwork

Teamwork skills are important as healthcare delivery often involves collaboration with a multidisciplinary team. These skills enable nurses to work effectively with colleagues, ensuring coordinated care and optimal patient outcomes. 

Effective teamwork enhances communication, increases efficiency, and reduces errors, creating a supportive environment that promotes patient safety and satisfaction. Some nursing teamwork skills are:

  • Trust
  • Delegation
  • Collaboration

6. Attention to detail

Attention to detail directly impacts patient safety and care quality. Precision in administering treatments, monitoring patient vital signs, and documenting patient information helps prevent medical errors. Diagnoses are more accurate, and care plans more effective. 

Meticulousness for nurses in these areas enhances patient outcomes, builds trust, and maintains high standards. Such skills include:

  • Observation
  • Concentration
  • Documentation

7. Leadership

Leadership skills help nurses to navigate complex healthcare environments, advocating for patient care, guiding teams, and influence positive changes. Effective leadership fosters a collaborative culture and enhances team performance. 

Nurses with strong leadership abilities can inspire others, manage resources efficiently, and face challenges proactively, making them essential for advancing healthcare practices and promoting a supportive work environment. Types of leadership skills include:

  • Vision
  • Integrity
  • Influence

8. Flexibility

Flexibility skills are required due to the dynamic and unpredictable nature of healthcare settings. These skills enable nurses to adapt to sudden changes, such as emergency situations, varying patient needs, and evolving healthcare protocols. 

Flexibility ensures that nurses can provide high-quality care under any circumstances, manage stress effectively, and maintain a positive work environment. Types of flexibility skills include:

  • Innovation
  • Learning agility
  • Open-minded approach

9. Communication skills

Communication skills facilitate clear and effective interactions with patients, families, and healthcare teams. These skills ensure accurate information exchange, patient education, and emotional support, enhancing patient trust and care quality. 

Effective nurse communication also prevents misunderstandings, reduces errors, and promotes collaboration, making it fundamental for patient safety, satisfaction, and the overall efficiency of healthcare delivery. Types of communication skill include:

  • Persuasion
  • Assertiveness
  • Clarity

10. Ethical approach

Bearing in mind ethical considerations is paramount for nurses to uphold the integrity and trustworthiness of the nursing profession. Ethical skills ensure respectful, fair, and compassionate care, guiding nurses through moral dilemmas and confidentiality issues. 

Adherence to ethical principles safeguards patient rights, promotes autonomy, and supports informed decision-making, thus reinforcing professional standards, enhancing patient satisfaction, and fostering a just healthcare environment. Types of ethical skills include:

  • Beneficence
  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity

11. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence skills enhance interpersonal interactions and self-awareness, allowing for compassionate, empathetic patient care. High emotional intelligence helps nurses manage their emotions and understand those of patients and colleagues, leading to improved communication, conflict resolution, and stress management. 

These skills foster a supportive healthcare environment, strengthen team dynamics, and contribute to patient and nurse satisfaction. Types of emotional intelligence skills include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Compassion
  • Empathy

12. Stress management

Stress management skills help nurses to maintain their well-being and provide high-quality care in the high-pressure environment of healthcare. Nurses can then cope with the emotional and physical demands, preventing burnout and ensuring they perform. 

Effective stress management leads to better decision-making, improved patient care, and a more positive work environment. Types of stress management skills include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Positive thinking
  • Exercise

Key takeaways

Nursing requires a whole host of hard and soft skills to ensure optimal care for patients and smooth working processes with colleagues. It is a hugely demanding job – just one gap in a nursing skill set can mean a catastrophic failure of care. Nursing employers will be looking for all the above, so make sure that you have plenty of stories to tell.

  • Keep working on your skills and address your weak spots.
  • Take advantage of any educational opportunities.
  • Ask for another perspective when assessing your skills.
  • Take pride in your nursing skills – you are making a difference.
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