RN Skills Needed For A Nursing Career

If you want to be an RN, or a registered nurse, there are a number of skills that you will need to have in order to do the job well. These include practical skills, but there are also a number of more subtle skills involving your personality and your interpersonal aptitude as well. These are necessary as you will be dealing with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. RN skills are many and diverse and there are layers of fine-tuned abilities that you will be required to demonstrate.

Patient Care

First and foremost an RN has to be skilled in patient care/ this includes the following:

  • You will provide health care.
  • You will give immunization.
  • You will give first aid and assistance in hospitals, schools and industry.
  • You will modify a patient’s treatment plan as necessary.
  • You will order and evaluate diagnostic tests to further understand or assess a patient’s condition.

Working with patients on a daily basis in an effort to help them recover from the illness or injury that they have endured is the cornerstone of the nursing profession. Consequently you will need to be skilled in all aspects of providing care to patients.  These skills can be taught, although a certain natural affinity for the work will be helpful in helping you learn.

Compassionate Personality

Compassion: “Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”.

As an RN you absolutely have to have a compassionate personality. You will be dealing with a number of people on a daily basis, all of whom may require compassion from you at some point:

  • The patients themselves will need your compassion as they struggle with the injury or illness that they face.
  • The family members of the patient may require your compassion as well, especially in cases where the illness or injury is extremely severe.
  • Your colleagues in the health care setting will also be under a lot of pressure and will therefore also require your compassion to a certain degree.

This is an absolutely essential aspect of your job as an RN so a lack of compassion will mean that you will struggle.

Physical Fitness

As an RN you will need to have physical fitness skills. This is because your job is extremely hands-on and you will need to work with patients actively. Things that you may do that require physical fitness include:

  • Standing for long hours.
  • Lifting patients from a chair to the bed and vice versa.
  • Lifting patients when they fall on the floor.
  • Assisting patients with limited mobility to shower or bath.
  • Turning patients over in an attempt to avoid the onset of bedsores.

As an RN you will usually have help form LPNs in this regard, but you will need to assist as well. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the above actions are properly performed if and when they are necessary.

High Attention To Detail

RN SkillsAs an RN you will need the skill of high attention to detail. This is one of the RN skills that are essential and that you cannot afford to miss. This is because the life and health of a patient can depend on your ability to accurately observe and record all aspects of that patient’s condition as well as your ability to accurately report those aspects. If you make a mistake you could endanger the patient’s life. For example if you misread an instruction left by the doctor because you are in a hurry and administer an incorrect dosage of medication to your patient, that could be dangerous. Medication administered in excessive quantities can be the same as poisoning a patient. On the other hand if you give the patient too little medication, he or she may not recover.

Monitoring And Record Keeping

There is a surprising amount of monitoring and record keeping involved in being a nurse. It is not all practical work, so a certain degree of administrative skill will also come in handy in a job such as this one. There are a number of things that you may find yourself responsible for in this arena:

  • Monitoring and recording medical information.
  • Monitoring and recording vital signs.
  • Monitoring and recording symptoms.
  • Monitoring and recording changes in condition.
  • Monitoring and recording changes diet.
  • Monitoring and recording physical activity.

Admin is a necessary part of being a nurse. If you have a strong aversion to doing this kind of admin work you should either get over your aversion or choose an alternative course to follow as you may not be suited for this career.


To a large degree you will be responsible for making sure everything is well prepared for doctors and other health care professionals that you work with. This also requires attention to detail as the doctor will assume that everything that is needed is in order and will not check himself or herself as he or she will expect you to have handled all of the required preparation. You will be required to:

  • Prepare patients during physician-led exams and treatments.
  • Assist the doctor during physician-led exams and treatments.
  • Prepare rooms.
  • Sterilize instruments.
  • Ensure supplies remain stocked.

Once again, mistakes here can be devastating and could significantly delay a procedure or treatment for quite a while. Make sure that you pay very close attention when preparing the above.

Managing Time, Yourself, People And Things

You will have to engage in a high degree of time management as well as self management as an RN. Self Management includes checking up on how well you are learning or doing something, as well as an ability to go back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information without becoming confused. Time management involves managing your own time as well as the time of the other nurses and aides who you will supervise. These skills can be taught to a certain degree in a comprehensive program, but it will help a great deal if you are a person who is naturally inclined towards carefully managing your time as well as your own actions. Leadership skills will also be necessary here because you will have t manage others as well.

Ability To Adapt In Stressful Situations

You will be under a lot of pressure and stress as an RN because this is what the job requires. You may often find yourself in an emergency medical situation that you will have to cope with. In many cases there will be a great deal of pressure on you as the life of a patient may lie in your ability to perform the right actions at the right times, often in a very stressful situation where split second decisions have to be made. Consequently a very important RN skill is an ability to adapt in stressful situations. You need to have the strength of character and the ability to handle a situation that is high in its quotient of stress without losing your head or doing something that is not medically advisable.

Reason And Problem Solving

According to www.illinoisworknet.com you will need the following skills to be an RN:

  • “Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
  • Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
  • Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
  • Make sense of information by studying it.
  • Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
  • Identify problems and review information. Develop, review, and apply solutions.
  • Judge the costs and benefits of a possible action.
  • Think of new ideas or original and creative ways to solve problems.”

In many cases the various thought processes mentioned here will have to be undertaken in high stress, severe and rushed situations.

Education Required

There is a great deal of knowledge that you will need t have behind you if you are to be a successful RN. This knowledge requires comprehensive training programs and practical experience to gain. The education requirements for being an RN include having a degree of some kind. He bare minimum requirement is an associate’ degree, but there are also more advanced degrees that you could work for., the more advanced your degree the more sought after you will be in the nursing industry. You will have to pass the NCLEX-RN examination and apply for licensure for your state board of nursing before you will be able to practice as a registered nurse.

Educating Others

Many prospective RNs do not realize that they will be actively engaged in educating a wide variety of people, including patients, the families of patients, and the general public. Depending on your exact role in your job you will, at some point or another, be required to educate an individual or a group on one or more of the following topics:

  • Health education
  • Disease prevention
  • Childbirth
  • The development of public health programs

In addition you may also be required to educate patients and families about how to handle the recovery of the patient, especially if he or she is being sent home to complete their recovery in a more familiar and comforting setting. Not everyone is a natural educator, but the tasks will mostly be quite basic in this regard. If you have an affinity for his you will be singled out for more advanced teaching.


As an RN you will be required to supervise:

  • Nursing aides
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Orderlies
  • Attendants

This means that leadership skills are an important part of the job. You also need to be aware of your boundaries in this regard. For example you cannot ask an LPN to do something that is outside of her scope of practice as this will be in violation of nursing laws and codes. You should not abuse the power that you have and you should be an approachable and reasonable person to work with. You will basically supervise anyone that is less skilled than you are. At the same time you will have to accept supervision and direction from those more skilled than you, such as doctors.

Excellent Communication Skills

Communication skills are very much a necessity in nursing as you will need to communicate with a variety of different people about a variety of different topics on a daily basis. These people include:

  • Patients
  • Patients’ families
  • Colleagues
  • Superiors
  • Health care team

Good communications skills include the ability to express ideas clearly when speaking or writing, listen to others, understand them, and ask questions if you feel it is necessary to facilitate your understanding, and read and understand written information provided by other people. The most important function of excellent communication skills is to ensure that the correct information is provided and communicated regarding the patient in order to be certain that he or she is receiving the best level of care that is possible for them to receive.

In conclusion you can clearly see that there are a large number of skills that you will need to learn as an RN. Some of these skills cannot be taught in a classroom, and you will be required to have a natural ability for them. Many of the personality-related RN skills fit this description. If you feel that you either do not possess the skills required, or that you will be unable to learn some of these skills, perhaps simply because they do not interest you, you should definitely consider looking into alternative lines of work other than nursing in which to pursue a career. The RN skills mentioned above are intrinsic to the profession and capability in each of them is unavoidable if you are to become a registered nurse at some point in the future.

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