If you've ever had a great experience at a doctor's office or hospital, chances are, you can thank a nurse. Often, nurses are the medical professionals who are in the most direct contact with patients throughout their treatment, so a good nurse can leave a lasting impression.

If you're thinking about going into nursing, then you may be wondering if you have what it takes to provide that same experience to your future patients. Several personality traits are good to have in the nursing field; some of them are natural traits, but many of them can be learned and acquired through the right education and training.

Qualities of Successful Nurses – Personality Traits

Great nurses embody a number of personality traits that make all the difference in their everyday dealings with patients.


Perhaps the most important personality trait for a nurse to have is empathy. Empathy refers to a person's ability to see and understand things from another person's point of view. Being empathetic and having compassion as a nurse means being able to put yourself in your patients' shoes to provide the best and most personalized care possible.

Sense of Humor

Nursing can be a difficult job, and laughter is truly the best medicine. Being able to keep things light-hearted and having a great sense of humor with both patients and fellow nurses (when appropriate) is a great way to keep things upbeat and positive.


Nurses often work long shifts, where they spend hours upon hours on their feet without much of a break. As a result, successful nurses need to have a lot of physical and mental stamina to avoid burnout. This is especially true for nurses working in hospital settings, where it's common to work 12-15 hours at a stretch.


Strong leadership qualities are also important in a nurse, as these medical professionals must often make split-second decisions for a patient's health and wellness. Some nurses may even go on to supervise other nurses (such as an RN supervising an LPN or CNA group), so leadership skills are a must.


Working as a nurse can be extremely demanding, and nurses can experience a wide range of emotions during any given shift. As a result, the most successful nurses must be calm and even-tempered, even under pressure and in times of elevated emotions, so that they can best perform their jobs.

Great Work Ethic

Incredible nurses also tend to have a strong work ethic, meaning that they're self-motivated and always looking for something to do. Even during slower times, a nurse with a strong work ethic will go out of their way to help other nurses make things run more smoothly.


If you're a naturally curious person, then a career in the nursing profession may be a great choice for you. There's always something new to learn in this dynamic field, and you'll rarely see the same thing twice. Having a lot of curiosity and a desire to learn will take you far as a nurse.

Qualities of Successful Nurses - Hard Skills

In addition to "natural" personality traits, there are a variety of hard skills that successful nurses should have. These can be learned in a quality nursing program.

Commitment to Patient Advocacy

Some patients are able to advocate for themselves, but the reality is that many cannot. This is especially true of children, seniors, and other sick or injured patients who may be unable to vocalize their needs. As a result, it is a nurse's job to advocate for their patients in order to provide the best level of care possible.

CPR and BLS Skills

Nurses should also have a solid knowledge of the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS) skills. These are taught in nursing school, but refresher training and hands-on practice are needed on a regular basis to keep these skills sharp.

Patient Assessment

The ability to assess a patient in detail is also crucial for a nurse. This may include taking vital signs, inquiring about symptoms, and reviewing a patient's medical history so that this important information can be relayed to other treatment teams (such as doctors, specialists, or surgeons).

Medication Management

Nurses are often responsible for dosing and administering medication to patients in their care, so being able to do so properly is essential. Even a small error in administering medication can be dangerous (or even fatal), so this is not a skill to be taken lightly.

IV Placement

Nurses must also know how to place an IV, which involves inserting a plastic conduit across the skin and into a patient's vein. This is often done to administer fluids or medication to a patient. IV placement is a skill that requires a lot of practice, but knowing how to do it well can ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for patients.

EMR Charting and Reporting

Electronic medical records (EMR) are a huge part of a nurse's daily job. Great nurses should be experienced and confident in using both digital and paper methods of charting patient data. Proper record-keeping ensures that patient data is up-to-date and accurate so that proper care can be provided.

Qualities of Successful Nurses - Soft Skills

Aside from some key personality traits and hard skills, there are a number of soft skills that can be useful in a nursing career.

Attention to Detail

When caring for a patient, a nurse cannot afford to miss any details. A strong attention to detail is essential to properly assessing and treating a patient while also avoiding the potential for error. Missing even the seemingly smallest of details when caring for a patient could be a matter of life or death, so being laser-focused as a nurse will serve you - and your patients - well.

Critical Thinking

The ability to think critically and implement problem-solving strategies will also come in handy when working as a nurse. After all, no two patients will present in exactly the same way; successful nurses will need to think critically to adapt their training and formal education to each real-world case. This trait will be especially important in high-stress situations, where nurses may need to make split-second decisions under a great deal of pressure.

Time Management

Nurses often have multiple patients to care for at any given time, so excellent time management skills are a must to ensure that each patient receives the care they need. This also includes the ability to prioritize tasks when caring for multiple patients, as it is impossible to be in two (or more) places at once.

Effective Communication

Great communication skills can go a long way in a nursing career. This includes both verbal and written communication skills, which will come in handy when dealing with patients directly and when sharing vital information about a patient with a doctor or other medical professional.

Nurses must often communicate not just with patients but with other nurses, doctors, and even patients' families. With this in mind, being able to do so effectively is one of the most important aspects of a nurse's job.


Some things can only be learned through actual experience in the nursing field. For example, you can (and should) study basic CPR as part of your formal nursing education. You might even practice it on a test dummy. However, until you have administered CPR on a real patient, you simply don't have the full experience under your belt.

Analytical Strength

Strong analytical skills are also a must when working as a nurse. Oftentimes, nurses are presented with a large amount of data and information about a patient that they must then analyze and interpret to determine the best course of treatment. Nurses who have strong analytical skills will be able to make the right decisions when they matter most.

How to Learn Nursing Skills

As you can see, there are many different personality traits and hard and soft skills that go into making a great nurse. If you're looking for a nursing program that can help you develop and nurture these traits to become the best nurse possible, University of the Cumberlands is here for you. With both Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) and Master of Nursing (MSN) programs available, you can embark on the career path that's right for you.