Nursing Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 June 2021

Nurses rely on a range of skills, including specialised nursing skills and transferable skills like critical thinking and emotional intelligence. In a nursing career, it's important to demonstrate your ability to apply your skills successfully. Likewise, continuous development of your nursing skills can help you advance in your career. In this article, we discuss what nursing skills are, how to improve them, how to demonstrate them at work and how to highlight them on your CV, in a cover letter and during a job interview.

What are nursing skills?

Nursing skills encompass a range of technical, medical and transferable soft skills that nurses depend on to succeed in their careers. Depending on the field of nursing you enter, you can expect to develop specialised skills in patient care techniques, treatment approaches, technology applications and soft skills like interpersonal skills and communication. In addition to the required knowledge nurses have, they must also possess strong attention to detail and effective problem-solving skills. No matter the facility where you work, it's important to develop your skills and abilities to be successful in your role.

Related: What Are Hard Skills and How Do They Differ From Soft Skills?

Examples of nursing skills

The following skills include both hard skills and soft skills that are necessary to perform effectively as a nurse:

Specialised medical skills

As nurses complete their education and training and gain clinical experience, they learn and apply medical skills specific to their field of nursing. Several medical skills nurses must develop include patient care best practices, treatment planning, advanced cardiac life support, CPR, telemetry, case management, paediatric care techniques and application of medical terminology. Several areas you can also build experience in include critical care nursing, maternity nursing and emergency care techniques.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills encompass several traits that successful nurses demonstrate on the job. To provide the best care to patients, it's important to be compassionate and show empathy, build relationships with patients and families and establish open communication with staff and patients. Active listening is also crucial for evaluating and treating patients and for developing personalised treatment plans that lead to the healthiest outcomes.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Attention to detail

Nurses' attention to detail and ability to approach situations with logical thinking are two key skills necessary for performing effectively. Since nurses are responsible for checking patient files, updating treatment charts, noting changes in symptoms and recording patient evaluations, they must have strong attention to detail to ensure accuracy and compliance in record-keeping and patient care practices.

Time management skills

Time management and organisational skills are essential for managing daily tasks, prioritising patient care and maintaining efficiency in your practices. Nurses often manage long schedules and must allocate their time to each patient equally and prioritise emergencies as they arise. Additionally, the ability to help nursing teams and staff in developing effective time management techniques can also support career success.

Leadership skills

Many nurses direct nursing teams or different nursing stations within a clinical or hospital setting. These roles require strong leadership skills to support the success of entire nursing teams. Strong leadership skills give nurses the ability to influence their teammates, motivate others and guide staff to success. Effective leadership skills for nurses can also encompass your leadership style and the managerial skills you apply to delegate tasks and help nursing teams improve.


Nurses can encounter diverse situations from day to day, which requires a high level of adaptability. Whether you're treating life-threatening cases or helping other nursing staff calm upset patients, it's important to remain flexible and open to new and challenging situations. Improving your adaptability can also help you develop strategies that prepare you for diverse situations in your career.

Related: 11 Top Job Skills: Transferable Skills for Any Industry

How to improve nursing skills

Consider the following steps to improving your nursing skills:

1. Develop your critical thinking skills

Improve your ability to think critically when making decisions and analysing situations. Consider others' perspectives and input when assisting physicians in developing patient treatment plans. You can also improve your critical thinking skills by using various techniques like deductive reasoning, logical reasoning and decision-making techniques. As you advance your critical thinking abilities, you can help solve more complex issues in the workplace.

2. Build mentoring relationships

Foster relationships with nursing teams, physicians and other clinical staff and provide support to new team members. Acting as a mentor can help you develop your leadership skills and help new employees integrate into the workplace. It's also important to establish mentoring relationships that can support your career development and further help you improve your nursing skills.

3. Continue education and training

Continue learning about your nursing field so you can learn new skills or approaches to nursing. Consider pursuing additional education or certifications that can help you learn more and increase your effectiveness. Advancing your career with additional qualifications like degrees and professional certifications can demonstrate your passion for your career and your ability to improve in your role.

4. Stay updated on industry topics

Keep yourself up-to-date on current trends, innovations and recent developments in nursing, healthcare and medicine. Participate in workshops that introduce new theories, approaches and methodologies in nursing to learn new ways of interacting with and treating patients. You can also attend seminars, lectures and conferences that serve as introductions to new advancements and products in the healthcare field. Taking part in activities like these can not only help you stay updated in your career field, it can also help you showcase your desire to keep improving in your career.

5. Practice effective communication

Improve your active listening skills and ability to communicate clearly with staff and patients. Consider practising active listening techniques that help you gain insight into your nursing performance. Ask staff open-ended questions that give you insight into your patient care techniques and ability to perform your job effectively. You can also seek patient feedback to understand how you can further improve and continue to provide exceptional patient care.

Read more: How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Nursing skills in the workplace

Consider the following approaches to showcase your nursing skills in the workplace:

  • Demonstrate your ability to apply technology. Developing your proficiency with technical applications like patient intake databases and insurance and billing applications highlights your flexibility with learning new systems to complete your job duties effectively.

  • Show compassion and empathy. Improving your approach to caring for patients and educating caregivers and families to show your ability to treat all patients equally and compassionately shows your motivation to succeed as a nurse.

  • Highlight your flexibility in challenging situations. Affirm your ability to collaborate and compromise with others, resolve conflicts and implement solutions that support patient health and wellbeing to highlight your teamwork and communication skills during challenging situations.

  • Assist new nurses on the job. Consider serving as a mentor to orientate and support new nurses who join your team to emphasise your engagement and passion for helping other medical professionals succeed.

  • Participate in research or workshops. Show your enthusiasm for the medical field and advancements in healthcare by contributing to research studies or attending nursing workshops to showcase your dedication to your career and your passion for improving your practices.

  • Improve your leadership skills. Take initiative on your team and contribute in a leadership capacity by helping others organise and delegate tasks, directing team meetings and supporting nurses and medical assistants in improving patient care.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set for Career Success

How to highlight nursing skills

When applying to nursing positions, it's important to highlight your unique skills and qualifications effectively. Consider the following ways in which you can highlight your nursing skills in CVs and cover letters and during job interviews:

1. Highlight nursing skills on your CV

On a nursing CV, it's important to showcase your skills and qualifications where employers can see these credentials right away. Consider highlighting the skills you have that match the job description so recruiters can see how your talents may be an asset to their facilities. It's also essential to highlight any accomplishments that your skills contributed to in your past roles. Include your strongest skills and qualifications in a CV summary and highlight additional skills and traits in a section of your CV where employers can continue learning about your nursing experience.

2. Highlight nursing skills in your cover letter

When sending a cover letter, be sure to reiterate how your skills and qualifications can help you succeed in your role as a nurse. Consider describing an accomplishment or successful outcome you achieved when you applied your nursing and medical knowledge, technical aptitude and patient care skills in past jobs. It's also crucial to highlight how your skills can benefit the organisation to which you are applying. These steps can help you showcase your most relevant qualifications so employers can assess your expertise and ability to achieve success on the job.

Related: How To Write a Skills Based CV: Template and Examples

3. Highlight nursing skills during a job interview

In a job interview, you can expect recruiters to ask about your hard skills in addition to your transferable skills. Prepare ahead of time by practising answers to questions about your specific nursing expertise, attention to detail, time management skills and your ability to prioritise your workflow effectively. Additionally, prepare to answer questions that showcase your ability to handle challenging situations and help your nursing team solve problems. By highlighting your skills in teamwork, communication and patient care techniques, interviewers can evaluate how well your qualifications match the job requirements.