Skills needed for new nurses to excel in diverse healthcare settings 

Passing a nursing degree and licensing exam is the culmination of a lot of hard work, determination, and an accomplishment for aspiring nurses to be proud of. It also marks the moment they can take their first step into employment as a nurse. 

Nursing is a skilled profession, and as nurses start their working lives, they will need to demonstrate several clinical and soft skills to excel in their careers. Their trajectory may begin in a hospital, but nurses work in many diverse settings, including clinics, nursing homes and outpatient settings. Wherever they work, they will need to demonstrate an array of skills, and highlighting the ones they have mastered on a resume can give them an edge when applying for that all-important first job.

Clinical skills

When asked what skills are needed to be a good nurse, many people tend to name clinical skills. This does not mean they are more important than soft skills, but they are the skills most associated with the nursing profession. Many clinical skills newly qualified nurses need. Here is a look at some of the most important ones.

Patient assessment

Nurses often provide the most excellent continuity of care for inpatients, and one of the critical skills they will need is the ability to assess a patient’s condition when they are first admitted and throughout their stay to ascertain the effectiveness of their treatment. 

The clinical skills involved in patient assessment include taking a medical history, checking and monitoring vital signs, assessing the severity of the illness or injury, and prioritizing the most imminent concerns for treatment. In addition to conducting a physical assessment, the newly qualified nurse may also need to perform a psychosocial evaluation to obtain all relevant information.

Basic life support

A nurse is often the first caregiver in an emergency, such as a patient coding or experiencing an abnormal heart reading. Newly qualified nurses should have essential life support (BLS) skills. In these situations, a nurse must maintain a level head and alert the emergency response team. 

They will also need to use clinical skills such as checking the patient’s pulse and airways. If the patient’s heart has stopped beating, the nurse will need to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the event of cardiac arrest, prompt CPR can often make a big difference to the patient’s survival, making this one of the essential clinical skills for nurses in an emergency.

Managing medication

Administering medication to patients is one of the primary responsibilities of nurses, and newly qualified nurses need to be clear about what it involves. In addition to assisting the medicine, medication management involves charting the medication so any medical professional involved in the patient’s care can see what medication was administered at a particular time and at what dosage.

Patient safety

Medical facilities should be places where patients get better, not worse. Therefore, a thorough understanding of patient safety is an essential clinical skill for newly qualified nurses. This can cover many skills, from fall risk protocols to infection control. They should also thoroughly understand the ethical and legal standards designed to ensure the best possible care.

IV line placement

Intravenous, or IV, lines are a standard method of delivering medication in hospitals. Newly qualified nurses should be confident in their ability to place an IV line and start and manage infusions.

Electronic medical records

Newly qualified nurses should be confident using electronic medical records (EMRs), which allow information about patients to be more easily shared with all relevant professionals to ensure a better continuity of care. EMRs can provide vital medical information that nurses should use to develop care plans. They also need to make sure any care they provide is accurately recorded on the patient’s EMR to help inform their ongoing medical care.

Specialized skills

Because nurses work in many different settings, they may need some additional clinical skills in specific settings. For example, a nurse who is working in a maternity ward will need experience in neonatology, while a nurse who seeks employment in an elderly care home will stand out if they have experience in gerontology on their resume.

Acquiring clinical skills

Becoming a nurse might seem a momentous task due to the required clinical skills. However, these skills are mastered through training and become second nature for qualified nurses. Nursing programs equip students with the necessary skills through classroom instruction and clinical placements that bridge the gap between theory and practice.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a traditional path to a nursing career. For those seeking a faster route, an online accelerated BSN program (ABSN) like Wilkes University’s ABSN gives an opportunity for students with a bachelor’s in a different discipline to graduate in approximately 15 months. The curriculum comprises 100% online coursework and clinical rotations throughout the program for practical skill development, preparing the graduates to hit the ground running upon completion of the program. 

Soft skills

Alongside clinical skills, newly qualified nurses also need to display their competency in an array of soft skills. If nursing is a career that interests you, you likely already have some expertise in these soft skills through your previous education and professional life. During your training and as you start working as an RN, you will further hone these skills as you develop professionally as a nurse.


Good communication skills are essential for nurses. They will need to communicate with their colleagues, conveying information clearly so it is understood even in a fast-paced environment or an emergency. In addition to good oral communication, they also need to be able to communicate in writing so that any written records are just as easy to understand.

In addition to communicating with colleagues, nurses must also communicate well with patients. Medical jargon is often difficult for patients to understand, so nurses will need to be able to explain all aspects of conditions and treatments in a way that they can easily comprehend. This can include instructing patients on how to manage their condition upon discharge.

Listening is a key part of communication. Nurses need to be able to listen and fully understand the implications of communication with their colleagues, in addition to listening to what their patients are saying to get the best possible insights into their condition.

Team work

Depending on the condition of the patient, it may be many different professionals involved in their care. These can include other nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, radiographers, and dieticians. Good patient care depends on the medical team working together with smooth communication and cooperation to create a positive working environment where conflicts are rare and easily resolved.


Compassion is one of the key soft skills for a nurse. Most nurses enter the profession out of a desire to help others, and compassion is a skill many newly qualified nurses possess in abundance. Being unwell or injured enough to require a hospital stay or medical treatment is often a frightening time for patients. Being approached with compassion enables them to feel safer at a time of great vulnerability. Compassion also helps nurses when dealing with difficult patients and their families. Emotions such as anger and frustration are not unusual, and compassion allows a nurse to deal with this more effectively.

Critical thinking

Nurses, even newly qualified ones, have to make decisions in what is often a high-pressure atmosphere that can have serious consequences, including meaning the difference between life and death. As a result, nursing tends to attract people who are excellent problem solvers. Nurses will need to be able to analyze the information they have collected about the patient from a variety of sources, including their own observations, and approach the problem with logic and clarity.

Resilience and stress management

Medical facilities such as hospitals are often fast-paced environments, and nurses will need to learn how to navigate the stresses of the job. This includes making sure they eat a proper diet, sleep well, and know how to leave work behind when they leave so it does not intrude on their personal life.

Those in medical careers understand that not everything can go well. Patients’ conditions can have lifelong impacts, and not every patient can be saved. Nurses need to build resilience to allow them to cope with the emotions surrounding this, taking comfort in their ability to be able to help a patient manage a lifelong condition, keep a patient comfortable as they die, and provide a source of compassion to those in need. This is particularly important for those who work in hospices, nursing homes and other settings where end-of-life care is provided. For all patients, whether they can be fully healed or not, nurses can make a major difference – but nurses must also remember to take care of themselves.

Love of learning

The medical word never stands still. There are always new treatments in development and new theories about the best ways to deliver patient care. This means that nurses must remain eager to learn throughout their career. Newly qualified nurses will have the benefits of the latest training, but still, they will need to be ready to learn more from day one.

This love of learning will also help nurses in their professional development. A newly qualified RN may enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing their nursing degree and passing their licensing exam, but this is just a step on their career path. Many will return to formal study in the future. Nursing is a career full of opportunities, and it is never too soon to start thinking about where you want your career to head.

A skilled profession

If nursing is a career that interests you, consider which soft skills you already possess and take some time to develop them. You should also investigate your training opportunities, whether you are choosing to study in person at a university or take a high-quality online course. Your soft skills will continue to develop in those courses as you acquire the clinical skills you need. 

Although the list of skills needed may seem daunting, course providers are adept at delivering instructions in a way that allows skills that seem difficult at first to quickly become second nature, particularly once you put them into practice on clinical placements. A newly qualified nurse may be taking the first steps of their career, but with an array of clinical and soft skills at their fingertips to help them excel, they are already skilled professionals.