The Key Traits of an Educated Nurse

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A female nurse in blue scrubs assesses patient in hospital bed

Nursing is a rapidly growing career field, in terms of both the future outlook for nursing professionals and the advancements being made in technology, care practices, and health care spaces. For example, registered nurse positions are expected to grow by 15% (438,100 jobs), and licensed vocational nurse and licensed practical nurse positions are projected to grow by 12% (88,900 jobs) between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With so much projected growth, nurses need to constantly update their skills to stay proficient or risk being left behind.

A way to gain advanced skills and more extensive knowledge is through advanced education, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practicing (DNP). Through study and observed experience, nursing professionals can develop the key traits and skills needed to prepare for future changes in the medical field. Nursing professionals who are considering pursuing a higher course of study should learn about some common key traits of nurses at the advanced level. To help nursing professionals get a bigger picture of the DNP process, various aspects — types of nurses, education, skills, and professional traits — are outlined in this article.

Nursing Facts

Nursing is a complex profession comprising many careers. The following facts about the most common types of nurses, the education aspiring nurses should obtain, and fundamental nursing job skills, are an excellent place to start when considering a career or advancing one’s career in nursing.

Types of Nurses

There are many types of nurses, including registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse supervisors, each with their own unique duties and requirements. Here are four major types of nurses.

Licensed practical nurse. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in Texas and California, complete patient care tasks, such as administering medicine, giving injections, and checking vital signs, under the supervision of a registered nurse.

Registered nurse. Registered nurses (RNs) aid physicians in treating patients in hospitals, other health care facilities, and even homes. There are many RN specializations: intensive care unit, travel, home care, emergency room, labor and delivery, medical or surgical, oncology, critical care, neonatal intensive care unit, dialysis, and post-anesthesia care unit.

Nurse practitioner. While some states require nurse practitioners (NPs) to work under the supervision of a physician, others allow NPs to work autonomously and diagnose patients, prescribe medicine, and begin treatment regimens, among other duties.

Nurse supervisor. Also known as nurse managers, nurse supervisors perform many functions, handling administrative tasks in addition to collaborating with doctors, patients, and families to provide high-quality care. An intricate working knowledge of health care practices and systems is critical.

Essential Education

Higher education is essential for sharpening nursing competencies. One of the most advanced degrees in the nursing profession is Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The following are a few benefits of a doctoral education, as noted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing:

Advanced competency. DNP-educated nurses become exceptionally skilled in complex practices and have extensive experience in administrative or other leadership positions.
Extensive knowledge. DNP-educated nurses are able to take an active part in improving patient outcomes and nursing practices, using informed methods and experience-based strategies.
Enhanced leadership skills. DNP-educated nurses may develop essential leadership skills, which can be used to elevate their health care delivery and nursing practice methods.

Fundamental Job Skills

While many nursing positions require niche skills, all nurses need fundamental skills, such as the following:

Health assessment. The ability to accurately assess patient health is one of the most crucial skills a nurse can have. Recording — but not interpreting — observations on aspects of patient health, such as blood pressure, temperature, consciousness level, pulse, and respiratory rate, is a fundamental skill for any nurse. Many nurses develop more advanced health assessment skills over the course of their careers.

Communication. Having the ability to accurately and effectively communicate is extremely important for a nurse. Communication includes “verbal, non-verbal, and written means,” according to American Nurse Today. Clear communication enables nurses to build strong relationships with coworkers and gain the trust of patients.

Health care delivery. Effective health care delivery is the cornerstone of nursing. This could range from assisting a patient with small tasks to delivering specialized care. A nurse must be able to deliver care calmly and professionally.

Professional Traits of a Nurse

Beyond the fundamental skills, there are many professional traits of a nurse that are less recognized but equally important. Nurses can aim to further develop these traits through a combination of education and experience.

Integrity. One of the most essential traits of a nurse is integrity. Due to the nature of the nurse-patient relationship, ethics and integrity are inevitably bound to the care that nurses provide. A study in The Nursing Clinics of North America noted that “nurses who practice with moral integrity possess a strong sense of themselves and act in ways consistent with what they understand is the right thing to do.”

Leadership. Whether leading patient care or other nurses, strong leadership is a professional trait, which is necessary to establish authority and smooth channels of communication.

Cultural competency. Sensitivity to different cultural norms and needs is a crucial aspect of becoming a competent nurse who can provide excellent care to patients from any background. The ability to see things through a cultural lens is commonly known as cultural competency.

Competency with patient care technology. As technology progresses, many emerging technologies in health care spaces may change the future of nursing and how patient health is assessed. For faster and more accurate patient health processing, it is necessary for nurses to become competent in these new technologies.

Empathy. Excellent nurses have great empathy for patients. The ability to understand what a patient is feeling to provide comfort, relief, and effective treatment is a key aspect of the nursing profession.

Critical thinking. Whether assessing a patient’s immediate health or providing treatment recommendations or medication clearance, critical thinking is a must for nurses. It is a trait that is born out of education and experience.

Emotional stability. The nursing profession, with its sometimes high-risk circumstances, can be stressful. Nurses should develop emotional stability, so they can remain calm and mentally healthy, and thus provide effective care even under stress.

Elevate Skills with Education

To provide the best care to patients, the nursing industry may change as new health care options become available. For example, it is already evolving along with advances in health technology. To not be left behind in these changing times will require updating and elevating skills with further education and nursing-related competencies. Pursuing an advanced degree like the Doctor of Nursing Practice from Regis College can offer the knowledge a professional needs to stay relevant and prepare for new opportunities in the nursing field.

Recommend Readings:
DNP Essentials: 5 Courses and the Skills Doctor of Nursing Practice Students Can Master
Social Media and Nursing: Can Using Social Media Benefit Nurses?
What Are Some of the Most Popular Advancement Opportunities for Nurses?

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice
American Nurse Today, Essential Nursing Skills Checklist
Regis College, Online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Cultural Competence: A Conceptual Framework for Teaching and Learning”
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Moral Accountability and Integrity in Nursing Practice”