Essential Soft Skills for Nurses

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program teaches nurses how to perform medical tasks, incorporate evidence-based research and operate technical equipment. However, there is more to nursing than just clinical expertise. For nurses to have good interactions with patients, their families, coworkers and other healthcare professionals, they need to exhibit a broad range of soft skills.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are personal traits that high-performing nurses use in the workplace. Here are some examples:

Soft Skill Description
Adaptability Nurses are agreeable to learning and implementing new techniques, policies and procedures.
Flexibility Nurses are willing to change work hours, cover extra shifts or stay later than intended.
Initiative A nurse with initiative shows a willingness to act without being told what to do.
Patience Nurses remain calm and maintain a positive attitude when faced with difficult situations.
Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Nurses are able to assess and evaluate a situation to determine a course of action or solution.
Professionalism Nurses are hardworking, conscientious and respectful. As healthcare professionals, they follow workplace rules.

What Types of Soft Skills Are Beneficial to Patient Care?

Patients rely on nurses not only for medical attention, but also for information, advice and consolation. Nurses need soft skills to effectively communicate with patients so they can deliver safe, quality care. A multitude of soft skills exist. Some fit certain jobs better than others.

A 2015 study conducted by the Research and Statistics Office involved sending out a survey to four in-demand industries in Hawaii. The industries included construction, healthcare, hospitality and information technology. Healthcare employers chose the following soft skills as the top four:

  • Communication
  • Empathy for patients
  • Listening
  • Strong work ethic

How Do Soft Skills Help Fellow Nurses?

Soft skills are important to productive collaboration. Nurses can create a cooperative environment and promote teamwork by using the following communication skills:

  • Attentive listening
  • Appropriate body language
  • Clear speaking
  • Concise writing

How Do Nurses Learn Soft Skills?

Nurses can learn soft skills in nursing school, but it takes repeated application in a healthcare setting to refine them. Nurses often look to their nurse leader for guidance.

Nurse leaders can become role models and mentors when they expose inexperienced nurses to the use of soft skills throughout their shift. In addition, nurse leaders can offer training programs to teach soft skills that the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and the Department of Labor deem valuable to ensuring a healthy work environment.

Patients want compassionate, competent care. Nurses should apply any kind of soft skill that promotes an honest, considerate and effective relationship with their patients. When nurses show confidence and reliability, patients might be inclined to discuss their concerns and become proactive in their treatment and recovery. Furthermore, a supportive and sympathetic nurse who provides expert care can affect a patient’s satisfaction and increase the possibility of a successful outcome.

Learn more about Northeastern State University’s online RN to BSN program.


Scrubs: 6 Soft Skills Necessary for Hardworking Nurses

The Balance: List of Soft Skills

EducationCareerArticles: Essential Soft Skills of Nursing

Advance Healthcare Network: Important ‘Soft Skills’ for a Job in Healthcare Interpersonal Skills Needed for Nurses

State of Hawaii: Soft Skills Soft Skills to Pay the Bills

Minority Nurse: The Soft Skills of Nursing

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Is Your Work Environment Healthy?

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