The most sought-after nurse competencies

16 Feb 2021 Anne Marie Fogarty

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Knowledge, skill and competence to carry out your role as a nurse are fundamental necessities. However, have you ever wondered what the most sought-after nurse competencies are?

We looked at the research and concluded the following ten competencies that are essential ingredients in the recipe for a caring nurse.


  • Communication – Vital for safe, quality patient care. Also, as important for good teamwork-nursing alone cannot provide the holistic care approach a person requires, it must be a team-based model, so communication within that team is paramount.
  • Ethics – doing the right moral thing is something a nurse simply must possess. During your career, there will be many times when dilemmas arise – always work in the best interests of the patient – always do right.
  • Decision Making and Critical Thinking – Both the ability to think on your feet and think fast will be an everyday occurrence as a nurse.
  • Attention to detail – It is always good to be aware of the big picture but as a caring professional the ‘devil is in the detail’- for example administering 0.5mg of medicine four times a day and administering 0.05 mg of that medicine four times a day might be a life-threatening difference. Not just that, listening to the patient to pick up cues is relevant, you might hear a patient hint at vital issues in their lives, for example, if you listen well enough to the detail you might notice they are unhappy, even considering suicide, they are being abused, they are lonely- issues that they may not volunteer to admit easily but might hint towards.
  • Compassion – If you do not care or have compassion, then nursing is not for you. While you must always be professional and maintain a distance emotionally, your role as a nurse will encompass compassion for your patients. Without it, you are a robotic treatment giver.
  • Adaptability – So it is 8 am, surgeons are barking for theatre patients to be brought over rapidly in the operating room; night nurses did not complete the checklists; there is an admission waiting; the woman in bed five is suffering from low blood pressure and faint-like; the team leader is asking you for a report, and the medications are late going out- all in a mornings work!! Which to do first, where to start, you will feel dizzy at the pace and scale of duties. Wait, deep breath and remember the golden rule-‘treat the most serious case first’, so prioritise the patient’s safety first, plan the workload, ask for help and adapt to the rapid change as it happens remembering serious cases first.
  • Time management – Plan out your shift as best you can.
  • Empathy – do not confuse this for sympathy; it can be patronising. Imagine being in the patient’s position-ask yourself, what you would want from a nurse caring for you.
  • Patience and listening – Your patience will be tested frequently, but patience is a skill you can master. Listening is a necessary attribute and listen with the intent to fully understand what is being said.
  • Observation – look out for physical and emotional changes in the patient, signs to lead you to better understand the patient.

Some of the above attributes can be learned, and some need to be embedded in the person even before nurse training. Nursing is a career that allows you to exercise your personal and professional capabilities. It will test your personality to the limits. It will demand the best from you, and it will often drain you. Still, it is a career that will make you a better person and change your life every day.

Why not register with us if you would like a flexible working approach to a dynamic career as a nurse.

There are many variants of roles as a nurse, read about some of the less well-known nursing specialties here.


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