What Skills and Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Nurse? (Guide)

What Skills and Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Nurse? (Guide)

Right now, lots of people around the world want to become nurses.

However, this is easier said than done, as you need to develop your skills and get your qualifications first.

But this raises an important question: what specific skills and qualifications do you need to be a nurse?

Fortunately, this guide is here to give you a detailed run down of everything you need to know.

So, when you’re ready, let’s take an in-depth look.

Find a university course to get qualifications

In order to get practical experience, you will more often than not need to start a university course and study a BA in nursing.

When it comes to modern-day university study, you have several options:

Most trainee nurses study full-time so that they can get the most out of their university experience.

However, some study part-time, which is common for those who have careers and other commitments.

Additionally, some trainee nurses choose remote learning, which involves no learning on campus. Instead, they study online from home with the help of virtual tutors. Typically, remote learning is ideal for mature adults who have work and family lives to juggle at the same time.

After successfully completing their university courses, students will then take the next step on their paths, Typically, this will be one of the following:

  • Go directly into full-time nursing. For example, many nurses join the hospital or doctor’s practice that they did their work experience with.
  • Further your education. Some students, in order to improve their nursing prospects, will opt to further their education. This might involve studying for a Masters in Nursing, or earning certificates from other organizations.

Of course, you can also go directly into full-time nursing and then (further down the line) return to education to get better qualifications. Essentially, the choice is entirely yours.

What skills do you need to be a nurse?

To be a truly successful nurse, you will need a variety of real-world skills. Remember, it isn’t just about getting your qualifications – it’s also about developing your existing skills whilst acquiring new ones, too. Failure to do this will lead to you being at a disadvantage as a nurse, as you won’t be able to provide the quality of care that patients deserve.

Here is a list of the skills you need:


Excellent communication ability

As a nurse, there’s never a quiet moment on the job!

From hour-to-hour, you will be communicating with:

  • Fellow nurses
  • Doctors
  • Patients
  • Family members and friends
  • Reception staff

With this in mind, your communication ability needs to be very high – otherwise, you’re going to struggle.

You should be able to communicate instructions clearly, whilst always painting a clear picture for patients. Patients don’t like the feeling of not knowing what’s going on, and you will often be the voice that dictates this. Through clear and concise communication, patients will be much happier and content.

At the same time, doctors will be relying on you to help them and make life easier. When you have an issue or problem that you want to raise with them – e.g., you think a particular patient needs extra care – you must be able to communicate this with them in an excellent manner.

Of course, you’re also going to be speaking with the family and friends of patients. Often, these conversations will be emotionally charged, which is why you must be capable of handling any questions and queries that they have without becoming overwhelmed. More often than not, nurses are the main communicator between patients and their families, which is why communication skills are so important.

You need practical experience

On your journey to becoming a nurse, you will need to gain practical, real-world experience. The reason for this is to ensure that you’re ready and prepared when the time arrives for you to enter the world of nursing.

You can gain practical experience in various different ways. Generally, most nurses gain experience through their university courses.

What happens is this: students are assigned to different hospitals and healthcare practices where they can then get practical experience whilst studying at the same time.

For example, a student might do 1 or 2 days a week at a local hospital in-between their classes. During this time, they will engage in nursing clinicals, which are part of the nursing education experience where you apply your nursing skills to real people. Notably, nursing rotations will be a big part of your work experience.


Arguably, professionalism is top of the list when it comes to the skills that nurses require.

Although being a nurse is incredibly rewarding and often fun, it can also be very demanding. For example, some patients can be awkward and rude – and will even verbally abuse nursing staff.

When events like this occur, professionalism is key. If a nurse cannot control their emotions, it will lead to them arguing with (and upsetting) patients, which can then snowball into all kinds of problems, from job dismissal to formal complaints.

A strong work ethic

During the day, nurses are on their feet more than the average hairdresser. It’s because of this reason why a strong work ethic is so important.

Back in 2020, many nurses were put under immense pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them had to work extra-long hours with minimal resources, whilst others had to change their shift patterns entirely to cope with patient demand. It wasn’t pretty, but nurses all around the world did an amazing job – and it was all thanks to their strong work ethic.


When healthcare organizations are hiring nurses one of the main traits that they look for is empathy.

A good nurse must be capable of empathy. It’s absolutely crucial.

Empathy helps nurses to build a healthy relationship with patients by understanding things from their point of view. For example, a patient might be complaining about something that a nurse doesn’t agree with – however, the nurse must make every effort possible to empathize with them. After all, they don’t know what it’s like to be in the shoes of the patient!

When patients can see that nurses are making a genuine attempt to form a connection with them and understand their perspective, it makes them feel more cared for, which then ultimately benefits both parties.


To be a successful nurse, you need to be well organized.

Usually, you’ll be managing multiple patients at the same time – especially if you’re working in a big hospital. Therefore, you’ll be completing a variety of different tasks, from medication checks to audits. It’s a lot to keep control of, which is why you must always be organized!

Remember, you will often be dealing with sensitive patients. One minor slip up on your behalf can lead to tons of problems, so you need to make sure you’re on top of everything.

Also, when you’re more organized, there is significantly less chance of you feeling stressed or anxious whilst on your shifts.


Doctors, paramedics, and nurses all play a part in saving the lives of patients – and this is only possible thanks to their amazing teamwork.

So, if your teamwork skills are currently low, you will need to focus on developing them as you start your nursing education.

When you become a full-time nurse, there will be moments every year when you must work closely with trauma teams who are handling patients that are very close to dying. During times like this, teamwork and thorough communication is key to a patient’s survival.

Computer literacy

Back in the old days, nurses would rarely interact with any technology. Instead, they would provide service to patients in-person whilst listening following instructions from their doctors and supervisors.

Now, though, the world of nursing has changed dramatically. In order to be a successful nurse, you must have some form of computer literacy, as you’re going to be dealing with patient logs, files, and various other digital information – which is a lot of responsibility!

Specifically, you will need to be knowledgeable about electronic medical record (EMR) systems, as well as the specific prescription programs that your healthcare practice uses. This way, you will be able to keep track of patient medications and treatment plans without feeling overwhelmed and constantly having to ask your colleagues for help.


Networking is important in every profession – especially nursing.

The reason for this is because (further down the line) you might want to switch to a different nursing role or setting. One of the best ways you can do is through using contacts that you’ve built up during your education and career.

For example, you might want to leave public healthcare and work for a private practice, instead. During your time as a nurse, you might have formed a close relationship with a doctor who can offer you a nursing role at their private practice, which will then save you the effort of having to tirelessly apply for different nursing vacancies.