contract nurse with a stethoscope infront of an open book
Contract Nursing November 12, 2019

By Brook Jillings

7 Nursing Skills Needed to Advance Your Nursing Career

Do you want to learn new nursing skills to help advance your career? It’s a good idea to begin by focusing on the nursing skills needed to provide the best care for your patients and improve your professional prospects.

Although various strengths can help round out your career, make sure you spend some time honing these seven skills to develop a strong foundation for future efforts.

7 Skills Needed to Fast Track Your Nursing Career

1. Strong Communication

One of the most important nursing skills needed for all levels of nursing is strong communication skills that include conveying messages and actively listening. 

Nurses generally have the most interaction with patients. They must extract important medical details so the hospital team can come up with the most likely diagnosis and avoid unnecessary tests and treatments.

Nurses are also charged with educating patients, serving as a go-between doctors and their patients, and sometimes conveying messages between medical professionals. 

"To progress upward within the nursing profession," says Shanna Shafer BSN of, "you must be able to listen and absorb information, disseminate information to a variety of stakeholders, and serve as a liaison between different parties within a multidisciplinary healthcare atmosphere."

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2. Love of Learning

Receiving your degree isn't enough to propel your career to the top of the ladder. Regular efforts to increase your knowledge through continuing education are essential to arming you with all the nursing skills needed to provide superior patient care. 

"Advancing your nursing career is highly dependent upon your willingness to expand your education," stresses Shafer, "whether through formal schooling, continuing education or self-directed endeavors." 

Taking the time to increase your knowledge base can open new opportunities as you learn skills that qualify you for more complex responsibilities.

3. Professional Networking

Just like any profession, advancing your career sometimes comes down to who you know. Developing a strong personal network of medical professionals can provide a collective knowledge resource for challenging medical situations and improve your connection to desirable open positions.

"Engage with others, including all disciplines of healthcare, community resources, patient advocates, and the media," suggests Shafer. "Getting your name out into the diverse world of healthcare and nursing will be a key aspect to advancing." 

The more your name is associated with quality patient care and professional knowledge, the more doors will open up to you. The goal is to be the first person who comes to mind when others think about nurses.

4. Know Your Industry

With all the complexities involved in nursing, the continuously evolving standards, and the high stakes involved when a mistake is made, staying current on research and policy, whether locally or at the national level, is important to protect your nursing career and patients and establish yourself as an expert.

"Keep yourself up to date on the most current evidence-based practice, healthcare industry standards, local and federal policy, and statistics regarding your focus area," Shaffer says. "If you can cite facts and understand the landscape of the healthcare industry and current research, you will naturally be a resource for others."

5. Leadership Qualities

One of the often-overlooked nursing skills needed for career advancement is leadership abilities. Leadership qualities are beneficial to your ability to direct patients and establish professional authority. They are often required once your career reaches a management level, and you're faced with directing a team of nurses.

"Be willing to lead by example, with grace and strength, honesty and integrity," says Shaffer. "Take some time to explore the history of the leaders you admire and learn which qualities you most want to emulate in your own professional life. Self-development is a non-stop process for effective leaders and, to advance your career, you must learn to lead."

6. Good Presentation

Nurses are often so focused on patient care, they forget to consider how they are presenting themselves to the world. 

Patient care should always be the priority, but your personal presentation is a factor you need to consider if you're interested in advancing your nursing career. 

As you move up in the ranks of your organization, you may find yourself representing that medical facility to outside parties.

"You must present yourself in a well-kept, professional, and competent manner if you plan to rise through the ranks of healthcare and the nursing world," Shaffer suggests. 

"As your career advances, you will find yourself in many situations where you are the face of your organization, so be sure you are presenting yourself well." 

Also, remember that you represent your medical facility to your patients, and their opinions can also influence your career trajectory.

7. Patient Care Abilities

Finally, perhaps the most essential nursing skills needed to further your career are your abilities regarding patient care. 

No matter how ambitious you are, you aren't likely to get very far if you demonstrate incompetence when performing your regular work tasks.

"You must be a skilled clinician if you are to lead other nurses," begins Shaffer. "Refine your nursing skills as you progress through your career, and always take the time to ensure you are still capable of providing safe, effective, compassionate patient care. 

"As you advance your nursing career, don't forget where you started: with your patients. Take care to maintain clinical competency every step of the way so that you can stay in touch with the roots of the nursing profession."

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