A Skill Every Nurse Should Have… And WhyNursing students are taught certain skills during clinical rotations. New graduate nurses, upon entering orientation, enter nurse residency programs and preceptorships that teach them even more nursing skills. As nurses, we get a ton- I would dare to say- an overwhelming amount of information thrown at us in our education and professional development programs.

But what would you say if I asked you: “What is the one skill that every nurse should have?” How would you answer that question? Do you have an idea of THE skill that would help a nurse succeed in the nursing profession?

As a holistic nurse, who is a member of the American Holistic Nurses Association and has taken a lot of time to learn about and practice various methods of self-care, I do have one skill in mind.

Now, you may think that I am going to share a modality with you. Like practicing Yoga or using essential oils. Or, if we do not go the holistic route, you may think that communication, delegation, or leadership are skills that take first place.

I do believe that all of the above are very important. However, I will argue that there is one skill that every nurse should have. One skill above all of the rest. One skill- that if practiced, lived and done well- will influence all of the previously mentioned nursing skillsets.

What is this crucial thing?


Presence reflects a quality of being with rather than doing to (The American Holistic Nursing Association, Scope and Standards). We can learn to be present through practicing mindfulness. In fact, when I give a presentation to a group of nurses, I often speak about this.

I lead the group though a short example, showing them that practicing mindfulness does not have to be done for hours at a time in some far away land. I teach them about the benefits of practicing mindfulness which include: increased attention, decreased stress, and a greater connection with patients.

And I share the example of the busy medication room.

A Skill Every Nurse Should Have… And WhySo- picture yourself at work. If you have a medication room, imagine that you are in it. It is the start of your day and you are pulling medications for each of your patients, getting yourself organized. Now, what tends to happen?

Maybe you get a phone call. Or the charge nurse calls you out to the nurses’ station, to look at the schedule for the rest of the day. Maybe your pager goes off and the physician of patient Jones is asking you to call her. Maybe your nursing colleagues comes up to you and starts talking about the concert he attended over the weekend.

Lots of things are happening and it is hard for you to focus. In that moment- it is hard to be present.

If you have been routinely engaging in a mindfulness practice outside of the workplace, it will be a little bit easier for you to stay focused in all of this busyness at work.

The practice of mindfulness is done in quiet so that when you get into the noisy chaos you find it easier to be present.

This is why it is so important for every nurse to practice the skill of presence. This is why it is crucial for every nurse to engage in a routine mindfulness practice. So that you can concentrate when distractions arise.

Other reasons for practicing presence include:

  • Increased patient satisfaction. When you are focused on your patient and they feel that you are paying attention to only them, then they are much more likely to feel satisfied with the care that you are providing them.
  • Decreased errors. Just as we described in the example above, healthcare is a busy and noisy place. With the constant interruptions, the probability of making a mistake goes up. A nurse who is able to be present and focus will experience less chance for error.
  • Increased staff satisfaction. Most nurses went into nursing to help patients. This means having the time and ability to teach the patient. To sit down and go over educational materials. To help patients figure out and navigate their health and the healthcare system. Well, a nurse who can stay in the present moment -even in the face of the fast-paced world of healthcare- will find much more meaning and value in their work.

What’s your take on this? What is the ONE skill that you think nurses need? And why? Let’s have some dialogue below. Thanks for reading.

p1050390About 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 host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. 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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