Tips to be a top-notch nurse and advance your career

Nursing is a rewarding career, but as most nurses will tell you, it is challenging. These professionals spend all day on their feet, often have to deal with difficult patients, and sometimes work double shifts. In the face of all this, how can you be a better nurse and rise through the ranks?

Whether you do a basic nursing course or an advanced degree in nursing, you need to bring your best qualities to work every day. It doesn’t matter whether you are having a hard day, have personal problems, or haven’t had a good night’s sleep.

Your patients need you to be at the top of your game at all times. You also want to do the best job you can each day because even a small mistake on your part can have dire consequences.

Your colleagues expect you to be available to help when needed, and you should cooperate, communicate clearly and be pleasant.

These aren’t easy demands to meet, and this is what makes nursing such a challenging profession. You need both hard and soft skills to succeed.

Hard skills are those that you can list on your resume. They include your degree and other courses you may have completed, your experience, and your skills.

If you enroll in a BSN to MSN-FNP Program, for example, you gain the skills to become a family nurse practitioner. The course teaches you about population-specific care, how to care for and treat underserved populations, how to provide family-focused care, and you even learn leadership.

Soft skills are different. They are not tangible, but they are observable. They are just as critical as hard skills, and without them, you will not succeed in your nursing career.

Becoming a good nurse requires a careful honing of soft skills. Some people are born with them, but most of us develop and perfect them as we go through life.

Do not be discouraged if, for example, you are not a great communicator. With a little training and practice, you can learn to be clear, concise, and articulate with patients and colleagues.

What skills do you need to be a great nurse?

  • You need to be organized

Hospitals are busy and chaotic. There are new admissions all the time, some patients are critical, and some are crashing and need immediate saving. In such an environment, it becomes necessary to be extremely organized.

The most organized nurses have an easy time adapting to new work environments. They can prioritize and make decisions on the fly. Their colleagues enjoy working with them because they bring efficiency to everything they do.

Some of us are naturally organized. If you are not, you can learn simple organization tips and tricks. Remember, it is a state of mind, so you need to organize your life, not just your career.

  • A good nurse is a good communicator

This is usually a challenge, especially for newly-graduated nurses. They are intimidated by doctors, specialists, and older nurses, and they have a hard time communicating properly. A good nurse learns how to be an excellent communicator because it can be the difference between life and death.

You need to articulate your thoughts and intentions clearly so that all around you can understand. Your colleagues will appreciate this because it makes working with you easy.

Your patients also need good communication. They need you to listen to them and patiently explain their prognosis, the next steps in treatment, and what they can expect in the future.

  • A good nurse knows how to work within a team

Treating patients requires good teamwork. You should be able to work with doctors, other nurses, and specialists. You should also be good at taking instructions and advice. Emulate mentors because it helps you learn the job faster.

Teamwork doesn’t come naturally to some personalities. Introverts, for example, may find it easier to work alone. This will not help you advance your nursing career.

  • You should be compassionate

A good nurse is an excellent listener and empathetic toward their patients.

The way healthcare is delivered has changed. In the past, it was enough to dispense medication and send patients on their way.

Today, medical practitioners aim to provide more holistic solutions. To do that, they must be willing to listen to patients.

Nurses must learn as much as they can about where a person lives and works, whether or not they are stressed, and even about those around them and how they could be contributing to their illness.

They should also be empathetic; by understanding their patients’ problems, they can deliver better solutions.

  • A good nurse has a positive attitude at all times

It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life. You have to be positive, especially when you are dealing with patients.

Positivity is influenced by how well you take care of yourself. If you are tired, for example, it is hard to feel positive. You must take breaks, get enough sleep and relax whenever you can.

  • Good nurses practice safety in the workplace

Hospitals are hazardous environments, and you must practice self-care before you can care for others. Always use protective equipment, and don’t expose yourself to infection or injury.

  • The best nurses are lifelong learners

Nursing, like many other professions, is constantly changing. What was best practice a couple of years ago may not be so now. To stay at the top of the nursing profession requires that you learn all the time.

Sign up for seminars and workshops and keep up with the relevant medical journals.

  • Be a critical thinker and a quick decision maker

What would you do if a patient was coding and you were the only one in the room? How do you react when your ER is suddenly full of accident victims who are all in need of immediate care?

To be a good nurse, you need to be quick on your feet and make good decisions. This is a soft skill that is mostly learned by observation. Work with older, more experienced nurses and observe how they react to different challenging situations. Do not be afraid to ask for advice.

How can you advance your nursing career?

While all the above skills make for a great nurse, they are not enough to help you advance the career ladder. For that, you need to add to your hard skills by taking additional courses.

If you already have a bachelor’s in nursing, for example, think about a post-graduate course that allows you to handle more responsibility. An advanced degree in nursing, like a master’s in nursing (MSN), can help you become a nurse administrator or educator.

If you would like to get into management, an MBA is one way to do it. You will qualify for a wide variety of jobs in a clinical setting because you have managerial skills.

RealHealthTipz has a good guide to different degrees available to nurses who would like to further their careers.

What is the best way for nursing professionals to earn a degree?

It can be challenging for professional nurses to earn post-graduate degrees that will help them get better jobs with more pay. They are extremely busy, and going back to school on a full-time basis is often not a viable option.

To deal with this problem, many universities in the United States have introduced online degrees for nurses. Most classes (and sometimes all) are taken online, and you can study from anywhere at any time.

Apart from introducing flexibility to learning, online degrees come with additional advantages:

  • They are designed to take a shorter time than in-person degrees. Many will take two or three years instead of the standard four. Working professionals have the added advantage of credits. If you have work experience, you can skip certain modules making your course even shorter.
  • Online courses are often cheaper. They require less money for tuition, and you don’t have to pay for accommodation, commute, and meals.
  • These courses have all the material you need to complete your course. It is uploaded online, and you can also access your course instructors for clarification and discussion.

These courses are not without their challenges. Online courses have a high dropout rate because many students underestimate how much work is required. To succeed, you need to set aside study time despite your busy nursing schedule.

Find out whether your employer has special facilities for those who enroll in higher education. You may find that you can take paid leave or have a few hours off every week to study.

As you choose a post-graduate nursing course, check whether the university is accredited. A degree from an accredited institution will help you secure a job faster. It is also taken more seriously by employers; they know that you have high-quality training and can be trusted to carry out your job with competence and confidence.


Nursing, despite its challenges, is a rewarding career. The right combination of hard and soft skills makes your job easier. An advanced degree in nursing is a great way to climb the career ladder. Although you may have less contact with patients, you will get a less demanding managerial role with higher pay and better benefits.

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