smiling young nurse with scrubs and stethoscope
Profiles and Features January 12, 2021

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

10 Characteristics of Nurses Who Are Most Successful

Success is not achieved by accident—in any field. People must work for it. Successful nurses may use natural talents and affinities that they already have, but they’re always looking for ways to improve. They’re also willing to learn from others—and learn from their mistakes.

A commitment to excellence underlies all of the characteristics of nurses who have proven to be most successful. 

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“Nurses are tenacious, creative and innovative advocates and problem solvers who are undeterred from doing everything they can to meet the needs of a patient and family, or improve the workplace or organization they lead,” said Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN, former president of the American Nurses Association.

Nurse leaders point to the following characteristics of nurses that are most telling for current and future success.

10 Characteristics Of Nurses Who Are Most Successful

1. A caring attitude. Caring is the heart of the nursing profession. It underlies everything that you do—even when your shift gets hectic. 

2. Integrity. Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, CEO of the National League for Nursing, noted that integrity is one of the NLN’s core values, standing for “respecting the dignity and moral wholeness of every person without conditions or limitation.”

3. Authenticity. Know yourself and know your purpose as a nurse. Instead of just showing up to work, endeavor to develop deeper connections and establish more meaningful connections with others, including patients and colleagues.

4. Humility. This means recognizing that you don’t know everything and that you make mistakes—and it’s okay to acknowledge that. “I may run into areas where I really falter, and I get up and move to the next, and I understand that it’s a process,” said Malone. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.” 

5. Good listening skills. Everyone wants to be heard. Give them that opportunity. “A successful nurse, in addition to having sound clinical skills, is compassionate, and has the ability to listen to their clients and peers,” said Cynthia Stadler, MSN, APRN, CHPNA, community liaison for BAYADA Hospice in Vermont. 

6. Persistence. Sometimes it will take a while to achieve a goal, but successful nurses don’t give up. “You’re willing to hang in there. That’s the falling down and the getting up,” said Malone.

7. The ability to capitalize on strengths. “I find nurses who are successful to be flexible, forward-thinkers who are honest about their own strengths and look for a work environment that supports those ideas,” said Lisa Holloway, MSN, RN, WHNP-BC, founder of Sweet Pea Childbirth Preparation in Washington D.C.

8. Willingness to follow. Successful nurses are often great leaders, and great leaders know when to lead and when to follow. 

9. A desire to keep learning. “I believe a good nurse knows what she doesn’t know, and therefore regularly updates skills and knowledge in both formal and informal ways,” said Keri Keenan, RN, a retired nurse in Calgary, Alberta, who also served as the first female officer of the Western Australia Parliament.

10. Creativity. Be open to trying new things and coming up with creative solutions to problems. Traveling nurses have unique opportunities to learn best practices with each new assignment, and in turn can often provide a fresh perspective to an existing problem.

Can someone work on developing these characteristics of successful nurses? Indeed, yes!

And it’s definitely worth investing in yourself and your career. Many experts strongly recommend finding a mentor. A nurse mentor can help you chart a path forward that allows you to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. 

After all, people are depending on you, said Dawn Schwartz, MSN, IBCLC, ARNP, NNP-BC, director of nursing for ChildServe, which helps children with special healthcare needs in Des Moines, Iowa.

“What we do is sacred work, and it is our responsibility to come to work mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically prepared for a day of challenges, triumphs and defeats,” she said.

NURSECHOICE, an AMN Healthcare company, specializes in short-term, critical nurse staffing. APPLY TODAY to get started with one of our friendly recruiters and launch a successful traveling nurse career.

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