Nursing Skills (With Definition, Tips, and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 30, 2022

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nurses are respected healthcare providers whose services are in demand across the country and all over the world. These professionals need special skills to relate well with others and to carry out their duties successfully. Understanding the skills required for nursing and how to develop them can help you decide whether to pursue this career. In this article, we discuss what nursing skills are and why they're important, give examples of nursing skills that employers require, and show you how to highlight these skills to boost your chances of getting a nursing job.

What are nursing skills?

To succeed in your nursing role, you require a blend of technical skills and soft skills. Technical nursing skills are clinical capabilities you gain through education, training, and relevant certification. Soft skills are personality traits that help you relate well with others and carry out your duties effectively.

Related:

  • How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse? (A Guide)

  • 13 Highest Paid Nurses' Roles To Consider (With Salaries)

Why are nursing skills important?

Nursing skills help nurses offer the best health care to patients, work well with their fellow medical specialists, and relate well with other community members. Before qualifying for nursing practice, nurses go through rigorous training and comprehensive education. Aside from gaining knowledge and expertise, training and education give nurses a perfect opportunity to develop essential nursing skills they need to excel in their careers.

Important technical nursing skills

Nurses gain technical skills through relevant training, education, nursing certification programs, and on-the-job experience. Technical nursing skills are specific to the nursing role. Here are the most critical technical nursing skills employers look for when hiring for a nursing role:

Basic care skills

Nurses are front-line health workers and are often the first person of contact before a patient sees the doctor. For this reason, they need to equip themselves with basic healthcare knowledge and skills to help patients. Basic care skills include:

  • examining patients

  • checking patients' vital signs and recording them

  • administering injections

  • helping with examination and treatment

  • understanding medical language

Urgent care and emergency care

Nurses need to react quickly when there is an urgent medical issue or when there is an emergency. This skill applies not only to nurses who work in emergency rooms but also to nurses in other departments, as an urgent issue can arise anywhere at any moment. For instance, while administering an injection to a patient, an allergic reaction to the medication may cause them to lose consciousness or experience shortness of breath. This situation calls for you to apply this technical skill and respond swiftly to save the patient's life.

Experience in nursing exposes you to various urgent care situations; with time, you can focus on a specific area of care with specific technical skills. Areas of care in health care that you might be interested in focusing your technical nursing skills include:

  • pediatric care

  • emergency care

  • neonatal care

  • cardiac care

  • prenatal care

  • adolescent care

  • surgical care

  • intensive care

  • neurologic intensive care

  • maternal care

  • oncology care

  • hospice care

Most technical urgent care skills are specific to a patient's condition and the treatment they're receiving.

Patient movement

One responsibility of a nurse is to help patients move around while in the hospital. Some patient movement skills you need for nursing practice include:

  • showing patients how to move on wheelchairs, crutches, and other devices

  • understanding how to use a wheelchair safely to avoid accidents

  • moving and propping up hospital beds

  • moving a patient from a vehicle upon admission and to a vehicle when being discharged

Nurses also help patients understand how to use movement devices in their homes.

Patient safety

Nurses strive to keep patients safe when they are in the hospital and even at their homes once they leave the hospital. They apply patient safety skills to help in the following:

  • reducing the risk of falls

  • preventing hospital-acquired infections

  • enlightening patients on at-home safety measures

  • making sure they administer medication as required

  • providing physical help to patients where necessary

Patient safety skills reduce the chances of harm to patients, optimize recoveries, and safeguard medical establishments and employees from liability problems.

Patient and family education

Nurses with excellent patient and family education skills are in a better position to enlighten the patient and their families on the health condition of the patient. This skill also helps you to update the patient and the patient's family on the progress of the patient's treatment and educate them on how best to care for the patient to prevent a relapse which may cause them to go back to the hospital.

Checking vital signs

This is one of the basic technical skills for a nurse. As a nurse, you need to test and monitor your patient's vital signs. Some vital signs you need to know how to check are the temperature of the patient, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. The ability to check these vital signs helps you gather significant information to establish treatment procedures to follow and track how your patients are responding to treatment, and it gives you vital information to make life-saving choices.

Technology skills

These skills give you the ability to use various technologies in healthcare facilities to succeed in your nursing role. You can use technology to test and monitor your patient's vital signs, monitor their progress, share information on patient and family education, and keep your patient's records. These skills are valuable to you as many healthcare facilities continue to embrace fresh technological developments in the workplace.

Wound care

This skill helps you to care for and dress a wound. Nurses in most areas of expertise have to clean and put bandages on their patient's wounds at some point. They also have to teach their patients how to care for their wounds at home to prevent infection or further injuries.

Related: 13 Nursing Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

5 most sought-after skills for nurses

Here are important soft skills that hiring managers consider when hiring a nurse:

Communication

To interact with your patients, their families, and other medical staff, you need to know how to communicate effectively. Effective communication ensures that you understand other people, and they understand you even amidst fear, confusion, or uncertainty. For this reason, you need to know how to communicate verbally, nonverbally, and in written form. Other important components of effective communication include:

  • active listening

  • responsiveness

  • respect

  • tone

  • clarity

  • confidence

You can highlight this skill during an interview for a nursing job by explaining how you showed excellent communication skills during a difficult situation at work.

Ethics and confidentiality

Nursing ethics are a set of moral principles that define the behaviour and decisions of nurses. Nurses must adhere to a strict code of ethics when performing their duties, as they often make decisions that can save or take lives. Nurses also need to maintain confidentiality, especially regarding a patient's condition. They need to seek their patient's permission before sharing sensitive information about a patient's medical condition.

Teamwork and reliability

To succeed in the nursing profession, you need to work together with doctors and other medical personnel. Working together enables sharing of information and improves the delivery of services to patients. Being a good team worker also means the medical team can rely on you in all situations, especially when there is an emergency that requires the team to work together.

Time management and multitasking

Nurses take care of many patients at once, which means they need to plan their time well and prioritize to ensure every patient receives their medications at the stipulated time. When attending to patients, nurses have to give drips, administer injections, give oral medications, dress wounds, change machines, and check patients' vital signs. They need to multitask and complete these tasks on time to ensure patients don't skip their medications or procedures.

Attention to detail

To offer excellent care to patients, nurses must be very observant and not miss a crucial detail that could make a tremendous difference in the condition of a patient. They need to pay close attention when patients are describing their symptoms, when recording patients' information, and when monitoring the condition of patients. Any slight medical mistake can be detrimental to the lives of the patients. This is one of the essential skills to consider if you are interested in a nursing career.

Read more:

  • What Are Technical Skills in Nursing? (With Tips To Improve)

  • 8 Essential Skills To Include In Nursing Resumes

  • How To Write a Nursing Objective for Your Resume

How to highlight your nursing skills

The following are tips you can use to bring your nursing skills to the attention of the hiring manager when looking for a nursing job:

1. Include the skills in your resume

When creating your resume, reserve a specific section in which to mention your soft skills. Mention skills that are in line with the job description to increase your chances of getting the job. If you have experience in the field, mention your technical skills in the work history section.

2. Customize your cover letter

Tailor your cover letter to fit the skills required in the job posting. Mention your best and relevant skills in the letter's body. Also, describe a time when you applied the skills at the workplace.

3. Highlight the skills in interviews

Go through the job posting and note the skills listed as a requirement for the job. Mention the most relevant skills in the interview that are specific to the nursing position. Give examples of how you've previously used the skills effectively.

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