Recently I’ve been thinking about the following question: “What makes a nurse great?” There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of qualities you could list that would make a nurse really good. You might say that a nurse should be passionate, punctual, maybe certified, intelligent, or something like that. Those are all important traits.
But as I’ve pondered this question, I’ve thought about the great nurses throughout history. I’ve narrowed it down to two main traits that a nurse must possess if he or she desires to be great.
Now, if you have just one of these traits, I think you can be a really good nurse. However, if you have them both, I think you will be remembered by your friends, colleagues, and patients as a GREAT nurse.
What are the two traits?
Trait Number One is Competency
What is a competent nurse? Competency is the ability to do something successfully or efficient. In other words, you know how to do your job. This is perhaps the most important trait of being a great nurse.
You need to know how to take a blood pressure, administer medications, insert Foley catheters, and so forth. You need to be able to recognize problems that may be developing in your patient and then implement a plan of care to solve those problems.
What does competency look like on the job? Florence Nightingale is a great example of a competent nurse. During the Crimean war, soldiers were dying from the filthy conditions. Florence recognized this, and she worked to sanitize things, which was well before her time. Her changes improved sanitation, and as a result, saved lives.
Competency is something you learn, something you practice. Sometimes nursing students are so nervous when it comes time to do their clinicals or testing out of skills exams, and that’s completely normal.
I still remember my wife many years ago saying, “It’s my first day of clinicals, and I’m so nervous. I hope I don’t kill anyone. Please pray for me.” I would say, “Yes, I’ll pray for you. You’re going to do great.”
And she did great. She not only became a competent nurse, she’s even saved lives.
Now, the funny thing about competency is that patients don’t offer a lot of “thank you’s” for being a competent nurse. It’s expected that you’re going to know how to do your job. And a patient may never know that you’ve saved his or her life.
So, the first trait to become a great nurse is competency, but what’s the second trait?
Trait Number Two is Caring
What is a caring nurse? A caring nurse looks at a patient—not as a chart to be completed, a medication to be administered, or a disease to be treated. No, a caring nurse looks at a patient as if he or she is a human being—a person with hopes, fears, dreams, and loved ones.
Caring can be a difficult thing to do, especially every day. You may have 6, 10, even 20 or 30 patients, depending on where you work. You may be overworked, understaffed, and extra stressed. But if you desire to become a great nurse, you’ll have to learn to be caring.
So what does a caring nurse look like on the job? Watch the video below to hear a story of a young nursing student who did an act of kindness for a young boy. He never forgot it!