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While your first nursing education track (like a BSN or ASN program) will teach you most of the clinical nursing skills you’ll need to provide quality care to patients, highly effective nurses almost always show proficiency in additional “soft skills.” 

Soft skills—traits that define how you interact with and support your team, leaders, and healthcare organization—are essential in healthcare.1 Since your nursing education program will cover countless “hard skills” (like administering medication and handling a code), in this guide, we’ll break down six soft critical skills for all types of nurses entering today’s clinical settings. 

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Essential Nursing Skills

As a nursing student, your nursing competency checklist may be crucial but so is your ability to demonstrate these competencies in the real-world healthcare environment. A hiring manager seeks not only a healthcare professional with technical prowess but also someone who exhibits strong emotional and social capacity. The hiring manager evaluating your application will be keen on identifying candidates who not only possess the requisite technical knowledge but also showcase adaptability, critical thinking, and a commitment to continuous learning. A successful nurse has already developed the ability to work under supervision and pressure while being prepared to take on more responsibilities that come with the nursing profession. So while the NCLEX will test your technical skills and knowledge, successful nurses should also try to cultivate the following soft skills. 

#1 Adaptability

Because it’s an evidence-based practice, nursing (including its procedure and standards) is liable to change. One example was the increased prevalence of putting patients on ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic—a practice that, while supported by evidence for some time, wasn’t widely adopted until the last few years.2

Nurses must be adaptable when standards, procedures, and best practices change. While they’re encouraged to think critically about how updates will impact their patients, nurses must be willing to consider new evidence and adjust their care accordingly. 

#2 Eager to Learn New Technologies

Like procedures and standards, nursing technologies can also rapidly change. Hospitals and healthcare innovators are constantly working on tools that can improve patient care—some examples include:3

  • Smart beds and electronic lifts
  • Automatic IV pumps
  • Point-of-care technologies like handheld tablets and digital charting software

As exciting new tech appears at the bedside, nurses must be willing to embrace (and learn how to use) these tools. On-the-job training and continuing education courses can help nurses gain proficiency. 

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#3 Advocacy for What’s Right

As a registered nurse, advocacy may become part of your professional nursing career. During your time in hospitals and other clinical settings, you’ll likely encounter scenarios where you’ll have to advocate for:

  • Your patients – If a patient is too incapacitated to make decisions about their health, you and the care team may have to present treatment options and recommendations to their next of kin to ensure they receive the highest level of care. 
  • Your team – If you work in a managerial nursing role, you’ll want to ensure your team has the tools, support, and guidance they need to thrive. 
  • Yourself – Throughout your healthcare career, you’ll have to become your best advocate to receive the support you need, too.

#4 Communication

While communication is a key soft skill in any industry, healthcare communications are unique. They’re:

  • Systematic – Nearly every clinical setting has established communication protocols and hierarchies.
  • Efficient – In a high-intensity scenario (like a code), sharing information quickly and accurately is critical. 
  • Documented – Most patient-related conversations or verbal alerts will be charted, so your messages should be clear and professional. 

Luckily, communication skills are relatively easy to improve. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructors, internship coordinator, or charge nurse for feedback and tips. 

#5 Empathy

Caring for patients and interacting with their families demands a unique level of empathy—the ability to sense others’ emotions and put yourself in their shoes. Nurses who struggle with any of the following may want to consider how compassion could help them overcome these challenges:

  • Delivering bad news – If you have to deliver bad news to a patient or their family, consider how you would want to hear the message.
  • Connecting with patients – If you struggle to connect with your patients or provide a soothing bedside manner, imagine the roles reversed—if you were a patient, what kinds of conversations would make you feel at ease in a clinical setting?
  • Managing difficult patients – If you’re having trouble being patient with someone who resists treatment, defies instructions, or is constantly in a bad mood, put yourself in their shoes to try to find (and soothe) the root of their defiance or low morale. 

#6 Resilience

All levels of nursing are demanding, fast-paced, and challenging. Whether you craft a helpful mantra for dealing with challenges or seek emotional support from peers, you must find a way to confront difficulties head-on, address hardships as they come, and regroup after setbacks. 

How Do I Grow My Nursing Skills?

While we previously mentioned asking your instructors, supervisors, or peers for advice in the workplace, nurses can also grow their clinical skills via continuing education. Some continuing education opportunities for nurses that help with the nurse competency checklist and clinical skills may include:

  • Workplace seminars and webinars 
  • Training courses for specific equipment, software, or processes
  • Soft skills workshops and training sessions
  • Advanced degree programs 

All of the options above can help you learn more about the nursing profession, become more proficient in everyday tasks, and gain soft skills—all of which can help you provide quality care. 

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Learn Nursing Skills at Alliant International University

If you want to advance your nursing skills, consider investing in flexible nursing education—like the bachelor’s of science in nursing program (BSN) or the master’s of science in nursing direct entry program (MSN-direct entry) at Alliant International University

Our nursing school's BSN program is ideal for nursing students looking for valuable time with nurse educators to learn from. On the other hand, our MSN-direct entry program allows nursing students who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field to dive headfirst into the field of nursing. Plus, with numerous campuses and online learning opportunities, Alliant International University is making career advancement through quality education more accessible than ever before. 

Request information about our nursing programs today to get started. 


  1. Kenton, Will. “What Are Soft Skills? Definition, Importance, and Examples.” Investopedia. July 2, 2022. Accessed February 14, 2023.
  2. “Proning During COVID-19.” Penn Medicine. March 10, 2021.…. Accessed February 14, 2023. 
  3. “10 Best Nursing Technologies for Improving Patient Care.” Gale Healthcare Solutions. February 24, 2022.…. Accessed February 14, 2023. 

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