Nurses play an important role in the U.S. employment pool: They form the largest contingent of all healthcare workers, outnumbering physicians at a rate of four to one. In fact, the nursing profession is one of the highest paid segments of the workforce according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The scope of services provided by nurses has expanded over the years, covering most aspects of preventive, wellness and acute care as well as extended services for those with advanced credentials. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the nursing profession topped all other occupations when it comes to job growth, averaging 19 percent in the last decade. The demand for nurses is projected to increase even further as the population ages.
Clearly, nursing is a solid career in terms of compensation, career growth and stability. However, this demanding career requires commitment on top of the following essential skills needed to perform in the fast-paced and high-pressure healthcare environment.
1. High-level communication skills
Nurses are typically at the front lines when it comes to patient care. They not only have to have good communication skills, they should also have listening skills to help build trust between patients and providers. Oral and written communication skills are equally important because nurses serve as the link between patients and physicians or specialists. Documentation of the procedures and services provided ensures a productive encounter while providing a clear record for future encounters. Furthermore, the ability to speak more than one language is highly valued in the healthcare setting.
2. Organizational skills
Nursing is not for the faint-hearted. The work environment is a hub of activity at all times, and nurses are expected to manage and direct the chaos. Nurses must be multi-taskers because much is expected of them, including juggling between patients to provide the care and attention needed.
3. Critical thinking and quick decision making
Nurses should have the ability to think on their feet. Rapid reaction to potentially life-threatening situations saves lives, and nurses must be prepared to take charge of situations, and initiate the appropriate procedures to provide necessary care.
4. Physical endurance and mental agility
Nursing is physically demanding whether the work environment is a large hospital, a specialty clinic or community-based setting. The job requires a lot of moving around and standing for long hours. Nurses are expected to be responsive in emergency situations even when working extended hours.
Nurses have to prepare themselves for mental toughness. The healthcare setting can be traumatic and stressful, and yet, nurses are cautioned against becoming emotionally attached to any patient. Nurses are often called to deal with different events and different patients.
5. Attention to detail
There is a lot of noise, literally and metaphorically, when it comes to working in healthcare. Distractions abound, and these distractions could lead to unintentional errors that could be dangerous for patients. Nurses must be detail-oriented and meticulous. Missing small details such as incorrect dosage of medications or subtle changes in the patient’s condition could be hazardous to the patient’s health.
Prospects for Future Nurses
With the right skills and credentials, registered nurses will always be employable whether it is in the healthcare sector or in other sectors such as education or business. However, the healthcare industry is changing quickly as provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented.
It is in the student’s best interest to explore the potential of nursing as a lifetime career. It is a career path with many options as one gains experience and new credentials.