Special Offer 

Jumpstart your hiring with a $75 credit to sponsor your first job.*

Sponsored jobs are 4.5X more likely to result in a hire.**
  • Invite top candidates to apply with Instant Match
  • Get more visibility in search results
  • Appear to more candidates longer

Skills Nurses Need: Key Roles, Responsibilities and Duties

Quick Navigation:

Nurses use a wide variety of skills that are highly dependent on their area of expertise. Many of those skills are exclusive to individual medical specializations and often require advanced training beyond college. When seeking new talent for your team of nurses, look out for particular skills regardless of specialization.


Post a Job

Nursing skills overview

Nursing is a broad field that allows for specialization in unique categories. Depending on the category, specific skills vary drastically, but the core components remain the same.


What do nurses do?

Nurses are care providers that offer support for patients during their hospital or doctor visits. During a hospital stay, for example, a nurse might be a patient’s full-time care provider while a doctor only visits occasionally to check on their health status. Nurses are also the first to see the results of any tests, notifying the doctor if they identify potential issues.


The many roles nurses play are broad. In most cases, a nurse’s role includes patient care, advocacy, care planning, education and support. Their role as an advocate is one of the most important. Regardless of a patient’s ethnic origin or general background, an effective nurse provides the highest standards of care.



There are many different types of nurses, however, some of the general responsibilities for all nurses include:


  • Assess and plan patient care requirements
  • Monitor and record patient behavior
  • Perform physical examinations
  • Perform diagnostic tests
  • Monitor and administer medication
  • Take and record patient pulse, blood pressure and temperature
  • Provide emotional support to patients and relatives
  • Write and maintain records
  • Administer medications and other treatments
  • Consult with senior staff and physicians on best courses of action
  • Conduct research to improve patient care and outcomes
  • Interpret patient information, such as health records, to determine best actions
  • Educate patients on their illness and potential treatment options

Specialized nurses often have additional duties involving the care of particular age groups or illnesses.



Nurses use a great number of skills in their work such as these:


  • Attention to detail, avoiding mistakes and identifying problems in test results
  • Critical thinking for finding solutions to complex symptoms in emergency situations
  • Time management for prioritizing work and staying organized
  • Verbal and written communication skills for communicating sensitive information to patients, their relatives or their doctors
  • Professionalism shown through personal appearance and general standards throughout the work shift
  • Empathy for understanding a patient’s health and financial situation
  • Attitude management, maintaining positivity under high-stress conditions
  • Adaptability for constantly changing environment, conditions and people
  • Conflict resolution among staff members, patients and families
  • Problem-solving for addressing intricate issues as they arrive

Related: How to Read a Resume


Best practices for hiring managers

The following list outlines some of the best practices for hiring managers to consider in nursing roles:


Look for soft skills 

Soft skills such as compassion, leadership and emotional intelligence are vital to success in this role. Look for those candidates who show this within the interview process in their demeanor and tone. You want an individual who shows warmth and understanding to patients during difficult times. 


Consider those with proven experience in responsibility and general competence

The most important function of a nurse is saving lives. Look for those with proven experience in continued education and varied responsibilities. Even those with little professional experience could have these valued traits through college or other programs. 


Introduce higher standards for communication skills

A large portion of the role of a nurse involves speaking with patients, families and other caregivers. They often explain complicated information or introduce a loss. Delivering such news is far from easy and requires a high competency for both verbal and written communication. 


Look for particular personalities

While considering all candidates has its importance, some personalities stand out among others. Those who show either in the interview or in their experience a high level of compassion, respectfulness and calmness as general personality traits make excellent nursing professionals.


Related: 10 Recruiting Strategies for Hiring Great Employees


Nursing skills FAQ

The following list outlines and answers some of the most frequently asked questions regarding nursing skills: 


How can I improve the skills of my current nurses?

If you’re knowledgeable and licensed in the subject area, work closely with your staff. Offer tips and advice on how to improve specific skills on a daily basis. If your budget can accommodate it, sign up staff members for educational seminars. It’s important that your nurses stay up-to-date on current practices and procedures and these seminars provide that.


Which skills should I specifically look for on a resume?

Nurses require a vast array of skills and they can’t always list them all on a single resume. However, many choose to list the most important to the role. When reading through a resume, look for mentions of communication, empathy, problem-solving and physical endurance. These are some of the most critical skills needed for the role.


How important are technical skills for nurses?

As medical technology advances, nurses need working knowledge of various machines, devices and computer applications. These technologies appear in most nursing subject areas such as cardiology, neurology, phlebotomy, orthopedics, urology, oncology, psychiatry and more. Technical skills also include highly specialized skills in specific areas. For example, labor and delivery nurses use sonograms and fetal dopplers to monitor the progress of labor and pregnancy.


Should I place high value on psychomotor skills?

Psychomotor skills are physical skills nurses use such as injecting medication through intravenous drip or directly into a vein, taking vital signs and operating general hospital equipment. Although some nurses might not perform these tasks on a daily basis, it’s often a general requirement for all nurses. In some situations, you may not have the amount of staff necessary, causing other nurses to aid in areas they don’t normally work in. They’ll need psychomotor skills to handle many of these situations.


Post a Job

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.