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The Importance of Developing Soft Skills in Nursing

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
Nurses walking together and laughing in a medical facility.

The Importance of Developing Soft Skills in Nursing

Nurses are called to assume many tasks and wear many hats in the performance of their duties. From administering medication to documenting care, nursing professionals are expected to learn and apply many different skills. A study by the journal BMC Health Services Research on nursing tasks showed the mean number of tasks performed by a nurse in a single hour was more than 68. Of those many tasks, the most frequent was professional communication.

Communication and other soft skills in nursing are essential to clinical success. While nurses need technical expertise in health care-related areas, research in the Journal of Patient Safety has shown 70% of adverse events in a health care setting have been caused by communication errors. Communication is just one soft skill that’s in high demand for nurses. As a result, prospective nurses would do well to review the most beneficial soft skills in nursing and why they’re important for a successful career. These skills can also be gained and developed through nursing education, such as a BSN program

What Are Soft Skills in Nursing?

Soft skills are any non-technical skills that can help nurses improve their performance in personal, professional, and educational settings. For nurses, soft skills help support patients and allow nurses to adapt to a specific setting for quality care. Along with evidence-based practice in nursing, soft skill development can help prepare nurses to take the next step in their career journeys. Explore the following soft skills to see how they relate to nursing.

Communication

Professional communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, was found to be the most common task performed by nurses, according to the aforementioned study by BMC Health Services Research. This can include informing colleagues about patient conditions, asking patients questions, sharing thoughts, offering care options, and many other duties.

Communication is an essential part of the role of nursing, but without professional communication skills, dangerous issues can occur, including misdiagnoses. A nurse communicating with other nurses and with physicians, for example, needs to accurately describe patient symptoms and requests to provide effective treatment. Clear communication helps avoid mistakes, displays empathy, and improves accuracy in the collection of information.

Problem Solving

While some nursing duties have a straightforward, obvious nature, many require nuanced problem-solving abilities. Assessing a patient, considering care options to recommend, and knowing how to allocate resources are all part of problem solving. Knowing how to quickly review the available options and solve problems are all essential soft skills in nursing.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to show concern and understanding of a difficult, emotional situation that another person finds themselves in. Communicating with empathy is a critical skill for nurses, whether communicating with coworkers, patients, or patients’ families.

Collaboration

There are many situations where nurses are working together with a larger medical team to assess and treat patients. Collaborating with doctors, nursing assistants, administrative staff, and patients can promote a positive work environment. Nurses should have excellent collaboration and teamwork skills to avoid frustration and negative attitudes in the workplace.

Conflict Resolution

Nurses often face stressful situations. This stress can come from a lack of communication, misunderstandings, or many other factors. Conflict resolution, as one of the key soft skills in nursing, helps reduce frustration and makes it easier to find solutions for workplace disagreements. Using active listening and other conflict resolution techniques can be helpful for decision-makers and anyone else involved in the care process.

Confidence

A lack of confidence can be normal when starting a new position. Building confidence, however, is a key to helping patients feel at ease and to be more assertive in collaborative situations. Strategies that promote self-care for nurses, including following a healthy diet and exercise schedule, can help increase confidence and reduce stress in the workplace.

Networking

While many soft skills in nursing help with performing daily tasks, networking can help nurses succeed in a broader sense. Understanding how to build and maintain professional networks in the health care field can help nurses find new employment opportunities, learn about training options, and better prepare for the next step in their careers.

Strategies for Developing Soft Skills

Nurse education and nurse mentoring are key factors in developing a well-rounded nursing skill set. By learning from educators and mentors, nurses can develop soft skills that are essential in the classroom and the workplace.

Developing Soft Skills Through Nurse Education

Through degree programs, educators can model soft skills and offer opportunities to practice them in a classroom setting. An online classroom offers a flexible learning environment where nurse leaders model soft skills and teach new concepts that help promote soft skill development. Nurse education programs can not only help individuals qualify to become nurses, but also help them advance in their careers through both soft skill and technical skill development.

Developing Soft Skills Through Nurse Mentoring

Nurse mentors model effective soft skills that are applied in the workplace and through daily interactions with patients and coworkers. Seeing soft skills in action can be a powerful learning technique. Mentors can also work with nurses on an individual basis to point out growth opportunities as they develop these crucial skills.

Explore More Ways to Develop Soft Skills

If you’re ready to build soft skills in nursing, a sound strategy would be to explore the educational opportunities available to help you advance your career. Request more information about the online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at The University of Tulsa today. See if you qualify to earn a BSN in as little as 12 months.

Recommended Readings:

The Most Important Leadership Skills for Nurses

The Benefits of Making a Career Change to Nursing

How to Become a Research Nurse

Source List:

BMC Health Services, “How Much Time Do Nurses Have for Patients? A Longitudinal Study of Hospital Nurses’ Patterns of Task Time Distribution and Interactions with Other Health Professionals ”

Indeed, “What Are Soft Skills for Nurses? (With 12 Examples)”

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Importance of Soft Skills in Health Sciences Students and Their Repercussion After the COVID-19 Epidemic: Scoping Review”

Journal of Patient Safety, “Dissecting Communication Barriers in Healthcare: A Path to Enhancing Communication Resiliency, Reliability, and Patient Safety”

Journal of Professional Nursing, “Strategies Used to Teach Soft Skills in Undergraduate Nursing Education: A Scoping Review”

LinkedIn, “Importance of Soft Skills for Nursing Professionals”

Lippincott Nursing Center, “Top 10 Soft Skills for Nurses”

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