Why soft skills are essential for nurses: Here are our top 5

As a nurse, you are often looking after people at their most vulnerable. The way you perform technical medical skills is, of course, very important. How you communicate and engage with patients, also known as ‘soft skills’, can be just as vital for their care. Soft skills usually stem from your personality and values, but can also be learned.

Developing these skills can help your patients to feel truly cared for, improve your relationship with patients, their families, other nurses and team members − and increase your own sense of professional and personal satisfaction.

So, what are the essential soft skills for Fresenius Kidney Care nurses? Here are our top 5 and some hints on how you can develop them.

1. Communicate clearly

Listening, understanding and providing clear instructions are essential in nursing. Actively listening to a patient’s concerns and questions, and providing them with the information they need, will make your job easier and help them feel understood and safe.

Communicating clearly with a patient’s family and with other clinical staff will also help to make the care process as smooth as possible.

Non-verbal communication is important too: remember to use open body language, like making eye contact and not crossing your arms.

2. Practice empathy

Empathy is the practice of understanding what another person is feeling and going through, and reminding them they are not alone. This short video explains empathy really well.

Whilst you are managing a patient’s dialysis care, ask them questions to understand how they are feeling and what they are going through. It is helpful to acknowledge the way they are feeling, using statements such as “I understand that you are feeling scared. Is there anything I could do to help you feel better?” or “From what I’m hearing, you are feeling upset. Is that right?”.

Try to take their concerns seriously without passing judgement, however small they may seem. Practicing empathy isn’t easy, especially when you are busy. But taking the time to connect and show that you care can make a big difference to how patients feel and even how they respond to treatment.

3. Inspire confidence

Having confidence in your own skills and the care you are providing will help you build trust with patients, resulting in better outcomes for everyone. Carrying yourself with confidence − which includes good posture, maintaining a positive attitude and having a firm and friendly tone of voice − are essential soft skills to practice. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help if you need it, but you should do so discretely and not in front of the patient or their family.

4. Be adaptable

Being able to adapt in a constantly changing environment is an important soft skill to practice for all nurses. Both a patient’s condition, and the duties you are required to perform, can sometimes change quickly. Having an attitude of ‘expecting the unexpected’ can help you take changes in your stride, reprioritize demands quickly, and make the best decisions for patient care.

5. Apply creative problem solving

Problem solving is what nurses do best. When challenges do arise, thinking creatively about potential solutions is a soft skill that you can practice. Try approaching all situations with a commitment to solve problems, rather than being overwhelmed or frustrated by them. This might include managing patient requests that are difficult to meet, or finding ways you can provide care when there are many demands on your time. Staying focused and handling high pressure situations with a problem-solving mindset will enable you excel at your job.

Just like clinical skills, soft skills can be practiced and improved with conscious effort. You might want to select one or two skills to focus on over the next month or so, and see how developing these impacts how you feel at work, and the care experience of your patients.

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