Few careers are as personally rewarding as nursing. Professional respect, flexible job opportunities, advancement potential and the chance to make a difference in people’s lives are just some of what it offers. It’s important for students to recognize that like any field, healthcare has its share of challenges. The work is exceptionally gratifying, but it can also be demanding. To be both successful and happy in nursing, it helps to have certain personal characteristics and attributes. Here’s a closer look at the qualities that make a good nurse.
Quality #1: Empathy
Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is experiencing from their point of view. For nurses, it means putting themselves in their patients’ shoes and trying to understand how they perceive what’s going on around them. A patient who rings for assistance, and then watches helplessly from their hospital bed as nurses repeatedly walk by the door doesn’t see the dozens of others the nurse is trying to assist. They only see people who don’t seem to care about their needs.
But if a nurse stops momentarily to assure the patient help is on the way, it changes their entire healthcare experience and builds invaluable trust. Nurses work with vulnerable people from diverse backgrounds. If nurses are going to predict their patient’s needs accurately and understand their emotional responses to care, a strong sense of empathy is critical.
Not everyone is born with a robust capacity to be empathetic toward others, but most people lack empathy only because they don’t know the full range of circumstances others may have experienced in life and how it affected them. It’s something nurse educators have understood since the days of Florence Nightingale, and with the knowledge and training a nursing program provides, it’s a learnable skill.