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The Importance of Skills Development in Nursing




As primary carers for people who often require vital medical treatment, nurses belong to what is surely one of the most important professions in the world. It follows that anyone who becomes a nurse must always endeavor to perform their responsibilities to the greatest possible standard. After all, mistakes can be costly, and nurses who are able to provide a high level of daily care can make a truly significant difference in the lives of their patients.

Of course, just like with any other profession, anyone training to become a nurse must, above all, focus on developing the core competencies needed to perform their future roles at the highest level. So, what are the most important skills and abilities that prospective nurses need to acquire, and how do they help when performing daily nursing tasks?

In this article, we examine the main competencies involved in nursing, why they matter, and how they are put into practice. In addition, we also look at the importance of education in helping to develop these competencies, the underlying theoretical knowledge, why emotional intelligence is such a crucial skill in this profession, and what other qualities are crucial to success. Finally, we see how experience at work and a firm commitment to lifelong learning are also vital to career development in nursing and can help set nurses on the path to a successful future.

A multifaceted role

As indicated above, nursing is an incredibly important profession, but it is also extremely demanding. After all, nurses are responsible for caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable — when their health is at stake. In these cases, nurses are required to provide a high level of care, stay calm and always strive to do their best for the patient, even in the face of severe strain.

Nurses will take on a huge variety of different tasks over the course of their careers, but also often in a single day or week. In the treatment room, for example, they might be responsible for taking blood tests, performing physical examinations, measuring heart rate or blood pressure, or offering immediate care for patients suffering from acute issues.

Nurses typically also have a number of responsibilities beyond providing immediate medical treatment, including communicating with patients and their families, performing administrative tasks such as updating medical records, making appointments and ordering supplies, and also helping to ensure that all of the medical equipment is both sterile and properly stored.

Of course, nurses will also face patients with many different issues, each of which requires specific and often individually tailored treatment. Nurses also typically operate in a range of different contexts throughout their career, potentially working in several types of medical institutions, from hospitals and medical clinics to psychiatric facilities, drug treatment centers or homes for the elderly.

Nurses are also likely to come into contact with a huge array of different patients, who will differ in every way imaginable in terms of age, culture, race or socioeconomic background. Given the overall complexity of their job, nurses naturally need to develop a wide range of skills and competencies that can help them negotiate the many challenging aspects of the profession. So, what are the main competencies, and why are they so important?

Clinical skills to the fore

First and foremost, both in their university training and beyond, nurses must develop both the clinical skills and related theoretical knowledge of medicine that will enable them to carry out the fundamental medical procedures required to provide immediate care for patients — whether independently or in cooperation with physicians or other health professionals.

If, for example, an accident victim is admitted to the accident and emergency room, the nurse might find they have to carry out several procedures, such as applying tourniquets and bandages, treating wounds, or giving injections. All of this, of course, must be performed in a short period of time and under severe pressure. In this kind of emergency scenario, it is essential that nurses are extremely familiar with not only how these procedures work and when they should be applied but also that they are aware of the scientific reasoning behind the steps taken. In many cases, they will also need to consider a range of other areas that are integral to the health of the patient, including possible medication, further interventions, their general condition of health, and the need for aftercare.

Naturally, nurses also need to have excellent critical thinking and reasoning skills to operate effectively in such high-stress environments. After all, very often, decisions need to be made under significant time pressure — often with limited information — with the knowledge that the decision taken could significantly impact the health of the patient in both the short and long term. Even seemingly relatively innocuous situations can have notable consequences, such as extracting and then properly storing blood or correctly monitoring someone’s blood pressure.

Other health issues, such as chronic illnesses like diabetes, severe back pain or heart disease, also require not only good decision-making from healthcare professionals in the short term but also a significant amount of prolonged vigilance and care and, in very many cases, a high level of cooperation between different members of the medical team — particularly when someone receives treatment over a number of years and often across several different institutions.

Integral to the team

Indeed, the importance of the ability to work effectively in a team cannot be overstated. Arguably more than any other healthcare professionals, nurses are responsible for knitting medical teams together and often help provide a link between physicians and patients, helping to facilitate and manage treatment and respond to the questions and concerns of both the patient and their loved ones. In many cases, nurses are also responsible for additional tasks such as logging and communicating medical records and other health data, not to mention ensuring that the medical team has everything on hand to carry out their work.


For this reason, in addition to having the requisite practical and clinical knowledge for the job, the best nurses are also expert communicators, capable of discussing delicate health matters with consummate skill and able to convey the most complicated health issues in a way that is understandable for patients who do not have the same level of medical knowledge.

Nurses are also capable of negotiating with physicians, other nurses and medical professionals, and the administrative and other staff at their facilities to achieve the necessary outcome. Naturally, the ability to communicate well requires not only a large degree of training, patience, and intelligence but also — above all — a significant amount of empathy and human understanding.

Emotional intelligence is a major factor

In fact, the importance of communication in healthcare is perhaps only now being truly understood, and today, a high level of emotional intelligence is seen as an exceptionally vital aspect of the nursing profession. In nursing, emotional intelligence — which can be defined as the ability to manage both one’s own emotions and understand the emotions of other people — is particularly crucial. There are five key elements to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Although there are many aspects to nursing, of course, there is no question that the ability to understand and empathize with patients is one of the most vital.

Indeed, caring is one of the most important facets of a nurse’s job and a central part of a patient-centered approach. In nursing, caring can be described as ensuring empathetic and humane interactions, where the nurse and other members of the medical team work hard to ensure that their patients receive both physical and emotional comfort. It is also important to respect the dignity of the patient and, whenever possible, to help them achieve autonomy and to provide tailor-made care that considers the unique wishes and needs of the patient concerned.

While caring has always been integral to nursing, in recent years, there have been several studies that have demonstrated that a more caring attitude positively impacts health outcomes for patients. As a result, most forward-looking medical institutions in the US have gradually developed a more patient-centered approach to providing care and will almost always seek out healthcare professionals who share the same values.


One final area of nursing that is arguably underrated but extremely important relates to the topic of accountability. Accountability can be defined as taking responsibility for ensuring ethical and responsible conduct, both as an individual and as part of the medical team. In general, being accountable in nursing means acting in a dependable and reliable manner, ensuring that best medical practices are always followed, and also acting as an advocate for patients to help achieve the best possible health outcomes.

In addition, nurses are expected to practice ethical accountability, which includes always acting in the best interest of the patient, as well as treating patients, their families and medical staff with respect, fairness, and honesty. Nurses should also be aware of legal accountability, which refers to making sure that all legal procedures are followed correctly, including those related to medical insurance, legal medical guidelines and safety standards, and employment accountability, which means acting properly and with respect for their employer.

In addition to all the above, nurses can also be expected to take on a wide range of other tasks, such as booking and managing appointments, ordering and organizing medical supplies, and coordinating shifts. So, given the complexity and sheer variety of these tasks, how can prospective nurses ensure that they are prepared for all eventualities before they embark on their professional careers?

Preparing to succeed

You might ask the question, is nursing right for you? And if so, what steps must you take to prepare for a long and successful nursing career? Often, there are fast-track options for people who come to nursing as a second career. With an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), for example, prospective nurses who already have a bachelor’s in any subject can complete the qualification in as little as 14 months. With this kind of program, students can complete 100% of the coursework online while enjoying an in-person residency and support with clinical placement. Students examine the fundamental concepts in nursing care, including assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating selected nursing interventions and technologies and enjoy practical training in a nursing laboratory.

In addition, graduates also emerge with a detailed understanding of medical and surgical nursing, working with older patients, and providing nursing care for children. There is also a special module that focuses on the process of transitioning to a professional role through a review of integrated nursing concepts and an examination of how to operate in a medical setting. As well as being more affordable than most on-campus degrees, an online course also offers a far greater degree of flexibility, making it the perfect choice for people with significant family commitments or who would like to maintain a part or full-time working position during their studies.

The learning never stops

Of course, even upon graduation, all new nurses will instinctively sense that they still have much to learn to truly master their profession. Indeed, the first few months of professional nursing can often be overwhelming as the nurses adjust to the huge challenge of caring for and treating patients consistently and effectively on a daily basis.

The good news is that many medical institutions today operate professional mentoring schemes, where more senior nurses can offer their junior colleagues the support and guidance they need in the early years. In addition, many new nurses also rely on more informal assistance from more experienced nurses during workplace discussions, while peer-to-peer communication can also be an important source of reassurance and advice.

Even early in their career, most nurses will also experience work in a variety of different contexts, which means that they need to be fast learners and highly adaptable. In fact, lifelong learning is one of the most important aspects of a successful nursing career. In order to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and also expand their knowledge base, many nurses regularly attend further training courses or conferences in their chosen field of expertise.


In addition, they may also devote some of their free time to reading up on new research and medical theories or watching instructional videos, while many will also return to formal education at some point in their career. In each case, the main principle is the same: to maintain a curiosity and open-mindedness that enables them to keep learning and developing throughout the course of their career.

A great responsibility and the greatest challenge

There is no question that nursing is not only one of the most rewarding professions on the planet but also one of the most challenging. Caring for patients who, in many cases, are suffering from serious or potentially life-threatening problems brings with it a huge level of responsibility. It is no surprise, then, that nursing also requires a significant amount of preparation: the process of acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge for nursing begins in early education and stretches through university and beyond. But, it is only with this level of preparation that nurses can perform their job confidently and effectively to help ensure the best possible health outcomes for their patients. In nursing, dedication and the desire to help others is simply part of the job description.

For this reason, it is important that those wanting to become nurses are aware that it will require many years of dedication and study — without a firm commitment to the profession, it is unlikely to be a successful career choice. Yet if one does believe that nursing is right for them, they can rest assured that they will be entering a highly respected and much-in-demand profession that encompasses an almost infinite range of potential responsibilities and roles. In fact, if somebody can set the goal of becoming a nurse and then dedicate themselves to gaining the theoretical knowledge, skills, and experience required, then they can look forward to a long, successful, and richly rewarding career.

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