5 Principles All Great Nurses Follow

Nursing is one of those professions that requires a certain something from the people who join it. It’s not enough to have the knowledge or be able to perform certain procedures. Of course, these are all necessary parts of becoming a good nurse, but what about becoming a great nurse? What does that entail?

Below are the 5 traits that elevate a good nurse to become a great nurse.

  1. Empathy

A person who is empathetic can put themselves in the shoes of another person and are willing to share in their feelings. Many people think that to be empathetic, you have to agree with the other person. This isn’t true. It is more accurate to say that empathy is understanding where the other person is coming from. For example, if a young woman has made the decision to have an abortion, you may not agree with that decision. But what you can do is try to understand what the girl is going through. Maybe you’ve never been in the same exact situation, but chances are you’ve felt the same exact emotions: fear, desperation, anxiety. If you can identify the pure emotions a patient is feeling, you can reach inside and get in touch with your own experiences with that specific emotion and offer a listening ear.

To practice empathy, work on being willing to hear others out. Practice keeping judgments out of your mind when you listen to others and be inclined to offer advice where needed.

  1. Compassion

Like empathy, compassion is a skill that can be practiced and fine-tuned. Essentially, compassion is a sense of concern for others. While empathy means putting yourself in their shoes, compassion relates more to giving emotional support.

As a nurse, you know that most of the patients you will come into contact with are frightened, worried, and in pain or discomfort. You also know that these things can cause them to lash out or act aggressively towards people. However, the compassionate nurse will remember that these actions aren’t indicative of the person in normal circumstances and not to take things too personally. They will also help calm the patient’s fears and take the time to explain everything that is going on.

  1. Self-Awareness

Being self-aware is an absolutely critical characteristic of a great nurse. It means that you are aware of your strengths, weaknesses, and ways of dealing with difficult experiences. It also means that you know when to say yes and when to say no.

It can be tempting as a nurse to be a “yes man.” While there’s nothing wrong with being eager to put your skills to use, it can become a problem if you are overexerting yourself or not giving yourself enough space to clear your head and take account of your emotions. Being self-aware means that you have an understanding of how you process events and emotions and know what your values are. The more you understand yourself as a complicated and intricate human being with unique experiences, the better you will be at your job of helping others.

On a more physical level, nurses who are self-aware take better care of themselves physically. This may not seem important but allowing yourself to become weak due to lack of nutrition or hydration means that you will be less effective as a nurse. It is incredibly important to take time for yourself and your own physical needs. As we are reminded anytime we fly, we need to put our own oxygen masks on before we can help anyone else. If we allow ourselves to become depleted physically, just showing up to work will become a chore, let alone doing the actual job.

  1. Selflessness

Selflessness is pretty much a requirement for being a nurse. Nurses often put their own needs on the back burner, as we saw above. However, selflessness and being self-aware are not mutually exclusive. Instead, selflessness should be approached with mindfulness so that it doesn’t begin to impact your emotional, mental, or spiritual stability.

For example, consistently skipping lunch and breaks to get a bit more paperwork done is not true selflessness but rather self-destruction. But giving your snack to a homeless patient that is being discharged is selfless. The difference is that selflessness is expressed in individual moments where you make a conscious decision to help another person, even by sacrificing something of your own. It does not mean ignoring your own physical or emotional needs to tend to those of others.

  1. Desire to Learn

Since nursing, and healthcare in general, is a field that is constantly growing, a great nurse makes the choice to grow with it. Good nurses are knowledgeable and skilled and competent in their practice. However, they may begin to stagnate if they don’t continually seek out information in the ever-changing world of nursing. A great nurse, on the other hand, will push herself to read and research. She may attend lectures and conferences or read nursing journals. Whatever she does, the great nurse will push herself to learn and expand her knowledge base. She’ll keep up to date with policies and procedures, medications and diseases. And as her knowledge grows, her care for patients will result in constantly improving outcomes.