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Why soft skills in nursing are important

by Melissa Bell
8 minutes read

Every industry requires professionals to have certain skills. When it comes to nursing, clinical skills have always been emphasized. When it comes to working with patients and their family members, however, soft skills are the most observable. Patients are unable to assess the clinical skills of nurses. The way that they rate their experience will depend on the healthcare provider’s soft skills. Nurses need to work on developing soft skills as well as clinical skills to perform better at work and deliver exceptional healthcare experiences to their patients.

nurse old person

Understanding hard skills in healthcare

Hard skills refer to specific skills that can be measured and assessed. They refer to the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill certain tasks at work. In healthcare, the education programs and certifications are geared toward teaching nurses these hard skills through clinical training and assignments. Hospitals require their nurses to know certain skills, such as administrating medications, pathophysiology and starting IVs, to work competently. Hard skills in healthcare may include tasks such as reading reports, patient preparation, scheduling, and administrating injections. In each healthcare profession, there are different measurable and well-defined hard skills that applicants should be proficient in when applying for a job.

Understanding soft skills in healthcare

Soft skills may be hard to measure, but they are just as important as hard skills. For patients, these soft skills are more important to make their experience in the healthcare system satisfactory. Some of the most important soft skills in healthcare include:

  • Time management;
  • Honesty;
  • Strong communication skills;
  • Compassion;
  • Being ethical and proactive;
  • Emotional stability;
  • Adaptability and flexibility.

There are many other soft skills for nurses that are just as important. Advanced nursing degree programs such as the ones offered by Walsh University include thorough training on these important soft skills. For nurses, effective communication is one of the most important skills to learn. Nurses need to learn how to listen to patients, understand their problems, and explain treatment options to them clearly. This enhances their ability to provide individualized, high-quality care to their patients. Nurses also need strong communication skills when dealing with other team members and colleagues.

Why soft skills are important in nursing

Soft skills affect everyone in the healthcare industry. Patients usually rate their healthcare experience based on the soft skills they observe. The way that patients are treated and cared for during their journey through the healthcare system affects their overall experience. For patients, it is important to be treated with dignity and respect. They want procedures explained to them clearly, and they want to feel comfortable. Employees often evaluate the performance of nurses based on soft skills as well as hard skills. Nurses who can demonstrate the proper use of soft skills are well-regarded at work. Many hospitals also have set standards for the use of soft skills in their teams. They encourage their team members to support each other and work as true team players. Nurses often have to work in a high-pressure environment, so it is important for them to be able to handle tough situations with emotional stability.

Managers in healthcare organizations reinforce a supportive environment in the workplace so that clear communications are experienced by employees. Through training in soft skills, teams can perform together as a cohesive unit when they provide care to patients. Staff members in healthcare organizations must work collaboratively and communicate effectively to prevent errors, improve the quality of care, and enhance clinical outcomes for their patients. Developing soft skills supports the overall goals of healthcare organizations.

Top soft skills needed in nursing 

While it is important for nurses to be able to display clinical skills during their day-to-day work, they also have to interact with patients and their families on a daily basis. They need to be compassionate and caring. Developing certain important soft skills will allow nursing professionals to grow in the stressful, fast-paced work environment. Below are the most important soft skills that nurses should focus on developing.


Nurses need strong communication skills to be able to discuss recovery and treatment plans effectively with their patients. They must know how to listen to their patients, ask questions, and obtain the right information from them. The information and health data that nurses obtain from patients are crucial for other healthcare professionals. With strong communication skills, nurses can be sincere, kind and empathetic to their patients.

Critical thinking

The ability to analyze data, evaluate outcomes, and interpret information is important for nurses. Nurses need to make important decisions that can impact patient outcomes. They need to approach problems with precision and clarity. They need to think without personal bias or assumptions to be able to make accurate decisions for their patients.


Hospitals can be emotionally stressful and the environment can be scary and overwhelming for patients. Patients may be worried about their health, frustrated about their recovery, or anxious about their diagnosis. It is important for nurses to treat patients compassionately. When treated with sympathy, patients feel happier and safer. This also makes it easier for nurses and other healthcare staff members to administer care.


Nurses work in a professional environment, and they need to foster professionalism so that patients and other staff members can be confident in their abilities. When dealing with patients, it is important for nurses to be professional so that they do not experience emotional burnout or get too involved with patients. Nurses can upgrade their skills through professional development and education opportunities.


Nurses have to work with other nurses, doctors and interdisciplinary teams on a daily basis. Their ability to work with other team members professionally can affect patient safety and quality of care. Nurses must be able to communicate with others effectively, resolve conflicts, support other team members, and respect workplace culture. When working in a team that respects and supports all members, everyone feels satisfied with their jobs. This helps them avoid burnout and work effectively.


Anyone who works in the healthcare industry must be accountable for their actions. Professionals in the industry know that regardless of the outcome, they must be able to accept responsibility. This is especially true for leaders. Accountability also means being able to identify areas of improvement and coming up with a plan for improvement wherever possible.

Stress management

Working in the healthcare industry can be very stressful. The environment is fast-paced, and healthcare workers can often feel overwhelmed, anxious, irritable and exhausted. Nurses must be able to maintain their focus and handle their stress effectively so that they do not make critical mistakes or endanger patient safety. Stress management is an important skill to learn. Nurses should learn to disconnect from work once they are at home and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness so that they can de-stress and be ready to tackle work the next day. Nurses should also be able to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed.


Nurses should be curious and strive for continuous professional development through education and training opportunities. They can pursue advanced specializations or degrees to develop professionally and learn new skills. This can help them provide better care to patients and seek rewarding roles in leadership positions. There are several online courses available today, so they can learn while being employed.

Critical observation 

With critical observation skills, nurses will be able to discover overlooked details and mistakes. This can be very important for nurses as it can affect patient treatment and outcomes. Nurses should be able to analyze complex information and make decisions quickly to provide solutions.


Resilience is a crucial skill that all nurses must develop. In healthcare, there can be many challenging situations and setbacks that can affect patient care. Nurses who are resilient are able to cope with these setbacks easily. They must also be able to adapt to changing work environments.

How nurses can develop soft skills 

The first step in developing soft skills is to honestly assess your current skill level. Identify areas of improvement so that you can seek training and education programs accordingly. Determine your strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide which skills to focus on. This will allow you to create a concrete plan of action. Understanding the importance of soft skills and knowing what each skill entails will help you create a plan for improvement.

Once you know the areas that you would like to focus on, the next step is practice. Practicing consistently will help you form habits. Certain skills will require regular practice, while other skills will require you to seek professional training. Mastering soft skills takes time and a lot of patience. It is a lifelong learning process that you must continue to work on throughout your career. Learn which skills should be used in which situations. Be open to learning from others and always keep an open mind. Soft skills will play an important part in the trajectory of your career and are worth the investment. With the right skillset, you will be able to advance in your career and take advantage of new opportunities.

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