What makes a Good Nurse an Exceptional Nurse

Over the last 10 months in my capacity as a Nursing Teacher I’ve travelled around Queensland and have had the opportunity to talk to many Nursing Students, Enrolled Nurses, Registered Nurses and various levels of management.  A topic which I like to raise, sometimes indirectly, is what do people see are the attributes of a good Nurse and by Nurse I mean either a Registered or Enrolled one.

A fairly standard reply will include phrases like, they are good at what they do, they are knowledgeable (and the very good one’s share that knowledge – more about that later), have good time management skills, they have the patients best interests at heart and they have a caring nature.  I certainly can’t argue about any of those points but I would caution that you consider the last point about caring. If you would like to read my thought on Caring and Nursing have a look at my post “You don’t need to care to be a Nurse”

exceptional nurseWho then knows what it takes for a Nurse to go from being good to being exceptional? That’s a bit like saying “I know why my Mother is the best in the world, and you don’t.”  Everyone has their own ideas and opinion and in their eye they have the right one.  So, for what it’s worth and for free, here’s mine …

A good Nurse must start with a sound clinical basis.  By default, having a Degree or a Diploma creates the base for that basis.  From there the good nurse builds upon that foundation, though experience and time spent on the job and most importantly, by opening the ears more often and keeping the mouth closed.  The exceptional Nurse takes that basis and adds to it a good serving of critical thinking.  They ask the question of why and just as importantly why not and seek out solutions to problems that best fit the needs of the patient and the clinical evidence being presented to them.  The exceptional Nurse is the one the Doctors consult with as a professional peer rather than just delegate to like a worker bee.

older nurseGood Nurses share their knowledge with others. They are not afraid to let other people they work with know about the patients history. They never hoard knowledge to create a power base for themselves and they are comfortable that with their level of  knowledge they can make good and accurate clinical decisions all the time.  The exceptional Nurse looks to take the knowledge they have accumulated and with it educate others so that they also can improve their understanding of the Nursing profession.  And if needed the exceptional Nurse will seek out others to fill in any of their own knowledge gaps so that the Nursing care they provide is, well, exceptional.

The good nurse will look to provide quality nursing care at all times, often anticipating the needs of their patient.  They will follow the nursing process and compile / follow care plans so that the patient receives optimal care.  They will be careful when using resources and look to minimise waste and be environmentally responsible.  The exceptional Nurse can often be confused for a lazy Nurse. They will do no more for the patient than has to be done as they will be encouraging rehabilitation and independence at every opportunity. They empower the patient throughout their health journey regardless of the outcome. Although on the surface it may appear that the exceptional Nurse doesn’t do a lot what they do, will be the best they can possibly do every time.

nurse injectionThe good Nurse will be technically efficient.  They will be able to safely give injections and take a blood pressure reading accurately without the use of an electronic sphygmomanometer.  With the knowledge of the patients medical and medication history they will understanding how the blood pressure has gotten to where it is and recognise if it isn’t where it should be. Most importantly, they will be confident that their knowledge and experience has led them to this assessment.  The exceptional Nurse will be all of this and they will add to it Intuition.  They are attuned to something and I’m not sure what it is.  They will look at information gathered, and even though all the technical data says “patient stable” their sixth sense tells them something is not right.  More often than not they are right. Intuition cannot be taught or learnt, the exceptional Nurse is born with this talent.  I don’t have it which is why no matter how hard I wish I could be, I will never be an exceptional Nurse. That’s OK, its pretty cool being a good nurse.

What attributes do you think it takes to be an exceptional Nurse.  Leave me a comment, I’d love you to share with me your thoughts.


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