4 Qualities You Really Need in a NurseOf course nurses need to be caring, kind, and compassionate. A nurse also needs to be a good listener, problem solver, and educator. Yet so often when we hear the term ‘nurse’, we think of a middle-aged woman, working in a hospital, in some type of scrub uniform.

Well, the nursing profession is changing, my friend. In fact, take a look at these stats:

  • According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there was a 12.5% increase in proportion of males in the nursing profession (The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education).
  • Additionally, according to the same document, the age of an RN is also shifting. The HRSA reports that there are actually fewer RNs aged 36 to 45 working now, compared with nine years ago, with growth in the number of nurses aged 35 and younger.
  • The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported a decrease in the number of hospital-employed nurses, stating: “More health care moved to sites beyond the hospital and nurses increased their ranks in a wide range of other settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, outpatient surgicenters, nursing-school-operated nursing centers, insurance and managed care companies, schools, mental health agencies, hospices, the military, industry, nursing education, and health care research.”

This is great news for any nurse. Why? It means that these days’ nurses do not have to be pigeon-holed into a role that does not fit them.

So often I receive emails, social media comments, and phone calls of nurses from across the country who have lost interest in their nursing career. They feel stifled and lost, with the common misconception that nursing can only happen in a hospital.

Yet when these nurses reach out to me- I share the fact that there is hope. A nursing career does not stop in the hospital. You do not need to only work on a medical-surgical unit to gain experience as a nurse. In addition to being a caring, compassionate, and skilled professional- there are other qualities that successful nurses embody.

  1. 4 Qualities You Really Need in a NurseYou need to be curious. Recently, on social media, I posed an interesting question. I asked, “What was your path not taken?” A couple of nurses responded with comments relating to interests in journalism, writing, and media. In fact, before nursing, I actually wanted to become a detective ‘when I grew up’. The point here is: a nurse has to be inquisitive. Any successful nurse knows that there is often a story beneath the story that the patient/client is telling us. They may present for one reason (e.g. chest pain), yet after all medical tests are done and any physical issue is ruled out… only then does the patient quietly admit that a close neighbor recently passed away. Nurses need to ask questions and remain curious.
  2. You need to be adventurous. Another fantastic response to the question asked above was one nurse on LinkedIn who stated that she had wished she became a scuba instructor. When I heard that, I thought to myself… “Wow, how adventurous!” And then I realized- nursing is often an adventurous career. Many nurses know that no one day in nursing is exactly like another. You often show up to work, thinking that your day will go one way, and have it completely shift into something different right before your eyes. You can never know what to expect! And so nursing can be all about staying on your toes. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to remain flexible.
  3. You need to be intuitive. Now some people do not agree with the word ‘intuitive’. And that is just fine. But let me ask you this… if you are a nurse, have you ever just felt something was off with your patient? Even if all of the monitors and lab values showed that things were just fine… did you ever just know? This is that nursing instinct. Or intuition. Or the fact that you were simply trusting your gut. A good nurse needs to be able to listen to those inner thoughts/feelings/knowings and act accordingly. A successful nurse is able to see beyond the numbers and take in the whole patient.
  4. You need to be balanced. Just a second… do not stop reading! I am not talking about work-life balance or self-care here. No, what I am referring to is well-rounded. Being able to listen just as much as you are able to teach a patient something new. Being able to ask questions as well as provide evidence-based answers. Being able to do things in a professional way according to the evidence just as much as you go out and look for new knowledge via research. Being able to work on your own just as much as you ask for help from your team. A nurse that is going to have any success in this profession better be able to stay flexible, look for innovative solutions, and offer patient care in a well-rounded way.

So let’s hear from you! What other qualities do you need in order to enjoy a successful nursing career? Or, an even more fun question to hear about may be: “What was your career path not chosen?” And… how can you see qualities of this other career in what you do now as a nurse? Share below!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.


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Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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