10 Common Nursing Skills: Definitions and Examples

Updated 11 April 2023

Working as a nurse in a hospital or a private clinic can be a fast-paced and fulfilling job. There are many different skill sets that nurses employ daily which may differ depending on the patient and situation. Learning about the different types of nursing skills could help you decide if pursuing a career in nursing is the right career for you. In this article, we define nursing skills, explain the differences between hard and soft skills for nurses and share some common skills you may develop and use in a nursing career.

Related: What You Need to Know About Nursing Careers in Singapore

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What are nursing skills?

Nursing skills are skills that professional nurses use in the course of their careers. Professional nurses often complete professional training courses to gain the requisite medical knowledge. These skills may be general or specialised depending on the individual's preference. Some universities also offer graduate degrees to help you develop these skills.


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What are the different types of nursing?

The skills of a nurse in the emergency department may differ from those of a nurse working in the neurology department. Here are some of the different specialisations a nurse may have:

  • Community health

  • Critical care

  • Ear, nose and throat

  • Emergency

  • Medical surgery

  • Mental health

  • Neurology

  • Oncology

  • Ophthalmology

  • Palliative care

  • Urology


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Hard vs. soft skills for nurses

A hard skill is usually a technical skill that an individual acquires through a professional certification course or an undergraduate degree. Some hard skills for nurses include medical knowledge about the different types of medicine, warning signs to look out for in patients and what to do in an emergency. On the other hand, soft skills are usually skills that relate to personality traits you learn while observing others. You typically develop soft skills through personal and professional experiences.

The biggest difference between a hard skill and a soft skill is how you acquire these skills and use them in your lives. It's good to include a combination of both hard and soft skills for nurses in your resume to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are a well-rounded and highly qualified candidate.

Related: Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

5 hard nursing skill examples

When reviewing candidates for a nursing job, interviewers or hiring managers may pay attention to the hard skills listed on the resume. This helps them to determine if the candidate has the requisite qualifications for the job position. It's crucial that you indicate your hard skills to show your capabilities in performing the essential duties of a nurse in whatever specialisation you are applying for. Here are five of the most important hard skills for nurses to have:

1. Urgent care and emergency care

Urgent care and emergency care skills involve the ability to respond promptly to medical issues a patient is experiencing. One example of urgent care and emergency care skills is the ability to properly care for and dress a wound. Even nurses who don't work in the emergency room (ER) may find themselves in situations in which they apply basic urgent care and emergency care skills, making it a vital skill for all nursing professionals.

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2. Vital signs checks

One of the basic responsibilities of every nurse is to know how to check and monitor their patients' vital signs. Nurses know how to check and monitor a patient's heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and temperature. Vital signs provide nurses with important information to determine which treatment protocols to follow, track how treatments are working and provide critical information to make life-saving decisions.

3. Patient and family education

Proper patient and family education, inform the patient and their family about their condition and how they should care for themselves upon discharge to prevent a return to the hospital. Patient and family education also allows patients to make informed decisions relating to their care. Nurses play a critical role in educating their patients and the patient's families on important safety precautions, diagnosis and course of treatments.

4. Patient safety

Patient safety involves properly educating patients and their families, creating safe environments that minimise the risk of falls, preventing errors and learning from errors when they occur. Nurses play a vital role in keeping patients safe during their visits. Patient safety helps minimise the risk of patient harm, maximise recoveries and protect medical facilities and staff from liability issues.

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5. Technology skills

Technology skills involve the ability to use a wide range of technology to be successful in your work environment. It's very important for nurses to have a wide range of technology skills. Nurses may use technology to share patient and family education information, monitor vital signs and maintain patient records. Many hospitals are switching to electronic medical record systems. Electronic medical record systems are digital versions of a patient's medical chart. This means nurses know how to use these electronic medical record systems to record their notes and the information they gather from the patient.

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5 soft nursing skill examples

Soft skills are equally important for a nurse, who deals with patients daily. Here are some of the most important soft skills for nurses to have:

1. Communication

Communication skills involve observing, active listening and empathising. Nurses communicate with many parties daily, such as patients, their families, doctors and also fellow nurses. It's important for a nurse to have good communication skills so that it reduces the chances of miscommunication and confusion. There may be highly emotional situations in a hospital or private clinic and learning how to diffuse the tension through articulate and clear explanations is a valuable skill that a nurse may wish to acquire. These skills could be in the form of verbal communication, non-verbal communication and written communication.

To illustrate your good communication skills to an interviewer, you may wish to prepare an anecdote or example of an instance where you displayed strong excellent communication skills and strong emotional intelligence. For example, this could be sharing a difficult piece of news with a patient's family or helping a doctor deal with an uncooperative patient.

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2. Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills involve the ability to handle complex situations in the workplace and calmly develop creative solutions. Nurses work in dynamic environments with many variables. Being able to think quickly, weigh pros and cons and make informed decisions with their patient's life on the line is critical for nurses. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also necessary for many parts of a nurse's role, such as making a conclusion about a patient's condition and determining when emergency medical care is necessary.

Related: 9 Essential Critical Thinking Skills and How to Develop Them

3. Time management and stamina

Nurses are usually busy individuals with many tasks to complete in a limited amount of time. Managing time well may help a nurse get through work promptly. The ability to organise your day and prioritise tasks is vital to completing all of your job responsibilities each day.

Nurses also use stamina. Stamina is the ability to work long hours in high-pressure situations while maintaining your composure. Since caring for others can be time-consuming or stressful, nurses often have higher endurance levels to work late-night shifts or extended shifts in their workplace.

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4. Teamwork and dependability

Nurses often work in a team, together with other nurses and doctors. Having good teamwork skills ensures a healthy workplace and helps to improve professional relationships between co-workers. Since nurses have the task of taking care of the patients' needs when the doctors are not around, a nurse is typically also dependable and patients' families count on them to do their best for the patients. Teamwork and dependability are interpersonal skills that nurses often possess to create the best and most positive environment for patients.

Related: What Is Teamwork? (Plus Skills and Examples of Teamwork)

5. Ethics and confidentiality

Another set of soft skills that nurses may have is ethicality and confidentiality. Ethics are a set of moral principles to guide an individual's behaviour and decision-making. Nurses have a strict code of ethics they must follow. This could vary from workplace to workplace depending on the internal policies of the hospital or clinic. Being ethical in their daily work is crucial since the decisions and actions nurses take can help save a patient's life. Nurses must also uphold strict patient confidentiality standards to ensure they don't release sensitive and personal medical information without a patient's permission.

Related: Code of Conduct in the Workplace: Importance and Examples

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