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Becoming a good (or successful) nurse requires much more than academic qualifications, as important as they are. The qualifications lay the necessary fundamentals and knowledge, however, your characteristics will determine how well you can apply such knowledge in demanding situations. Below is a compiled list of 10 characteristics typically found amongst highly regarded nurses by institutions and patients alike.

 characteristics of a good nurse

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What are the characteristics of a good nurse?



Being diligent is one the foremost important qualities that’s found amongst nurses. To be a good nurse, you need to be attentive to every detail. That can be having a careful eye over patient notes or simply being thorough in an examination when a patient has expressed concern.





An obvious characteristic is compassion and is often the main driving force which encourages people to become nurses in the first place. Being compassionate to patients and to your colleagues, is highly valued. Whether it’s from taking time out of your schedule, to spend 5 minutes to offer a listening ear, or to get a patient a cup of water - it’s appreciated. 



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Composure is often something closely tied to doctors, but is also a required characteristic for nurses. It’s important to be calm in emergency or difficult situations. Nurses require extremely high levels of composure, not only due to the nature of the duties, but also because they spend more of their time patient-facing than doctors are.


Composure isn’t just needed within A&E, it’s required in most duties that a nurse has to carry out. Whether it’s reassuring or answering disgruntled relatives in a professional manner or ensuring all of the correct surgical equipment is prepared ready for an operation.




One of the most undervalued characteristics that make a good nurse is listening. With many patients being admitted for the first time, it’s not surprising that they can often feel isolated, alienated or in fear of their uncommon surroundings. What separates a great nurse from a good one, is offering patients the reassurance they have someone to confide in should they need it.


With hectic schedules and the volume of patients, it doesn’t require you to sit with every patient to display this as that would be unrealistic. All it takes is a simple, “if there’s anything you need, please let me know” that can make all the difference.



Time Management

You’ll often find yourself struggling for time even with the long shifts you will have to work. Whether it’s getting a complete reshuffle of your daily tasks, being required to urgently respond to a leaking IV or assist on an emergency - it’s the nature of the job.


Whilst it may seem obvious, a good nurse will always prioritise what needs attending to first. Putting the best interests of others is a core quality that any nurse should adopt or have, whether it’s getting a patient briefing to the assigned doctor or dropping all tasks to deal with unprecedented situations.


Tasks will always be completed, how well they’ll be completed is largely dependant on your time management.  




A large part of being a nurse is putting the best interests of others before your own. You’ll often have to speak on behalf of a patient regarding their feelings or wishes to a colleague, such as, a doctor or consultant.


Some patients don’t like speaking against doctors’ opinions even if they prefer another solution. A good nurse knows when a patient needs support and will speak to a doctor on their behalf.




A characteristic of a good nurse is a heavy sense of humility and not being too fazed by the certain duties or outcomes they have to cope with. A good nurse accepts this is their duty - to look out for the wellbeing of others.


Always remain humble, the most meaningful praise to a good nurse comes from other people’s recognition, not your own.



Responsibility / Accountability

Arguably the toughest characteristic to adopt. And it certainly has the steepest learning curve.


What’s important to remember is that nurses are human. We all make mistakes and often to differing levels of severity. What separates the good nurses from the others, is the ability to take accountability for their actions and learn from them, as not only does it display a willingness to put things right but also instils trust. And further emphasises that this isn’t something that regularly happens.



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Willingness to Learn

You may have spent 4 years in university, then a further few studying for external field-related exams, but the learning doesn’t stop there if you want to be the best nurse you can possibly be.


This can be as simple as recognising where you went wrong with something, allowing you to learn from your actions and any consequences that may have be associated. It will allow you to avoid replicating these actions and will place you in a better and more experienced position should the situation ever arise again.  



Sense of Humour

Whilst the majority of characteristics are quite serious, it’s important that all good nurses realise that the job isn’t all doom and gloom. Whilst there will be low points in your working life, it’s important to be able to smile or laugh through it. A smile can often be more reassuring and comforting, and even feel as good as any prescription of medication a patient can receive.


Being a nurse can be stressful, here are some techniques for relieving stress and tips on how to improve your own health



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