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What things do you feel set apart the great nurses from the good ones?

Specializes in Oncology.

For me:

1. Taking extra tie to just chat with patients

2. Consistently using facial expressions to show genuine happiness/sadness/concern, etc

And many more things, but I'm having a hard time coming up with them at the moment.

Virgo_RN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, ED.

Too many things to list, but the ability to connect with people is up there.


Specializes in psych. rehab nursing, float pool.

I agree the ability to connect with her patient is up there. I would also add the ability to be proactive with their patients and the symptoms they are observing. The ability to multitask . I rank up there,that intuitive nurse. That is the part that I have seen time and time again. That little thing in the back of their mind which tells them to go check on so and so at just the right time which heads off a calamity. That is the thing which I feel can not be taught. I have seen it in the greatest nurses. However not all nurses have it.

MadisonsMomRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Addictions, Corrections, QA/Education.

I agree with all of the above... just wanted to add this.

I really like it when nurses follow up. It really makes a difference. :) You get more trust that when you do this!

hope3456, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, Psych, M/S.

I am not claiming to be a great nurse......but i work with one. She is an awesome patient advocate. We have been having problems with our IV pumps and nobody can seem to figure out what is wrong with them, other than that they are really old and probably need to be replaced. We work for a 'for profit' institution that is not going to spend that type of money. While all of us other nurses just put up with them, she took the initiative to write incident reports when they malfunction, talk to the CEO, she has informed the MD's that their prescribed IV meds aren't being administered properly b/c of the malfunctioning pumps, ect. Nothing has been done yet.....but i admire her for doing this

classicdame, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

For me, the best nurse is the one who takes personal responsibility for his/her actions. Second, I appreciate someone who is willing to learn. In my experience, the life-long learner turns out to be someone who can teach me a lot and I find that valuable to my own growth.

what others say plus a reasonable patient load; many nurses are excellent nurses who are reduced to good or even adeuate because they are having to share their compassion, expertise, etc. with 7+ patients; something has to give when you are spread too thin

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I think like others have said that having empathy and really caring about your patients is one of the first things on my list. Being competent is important also. The other thing for me is a nurse that is willing to do whatever needs to be done whether it be picking up trash on the floor or volunteering to help a fellow nurse when needed. I'm very fortunate to be able to work with several I would call great nurses. :)

Wow. What an eye-opener thread this is! This is something I've been thinking about lately.... am I a good nurse? How can I be a better nurse? I'm a spiritual person and I always pray for a good shift/guidance before I clock in....

I reflect on my capabilitles. I look up stuff/reveiw what I don't know. I ALWAYS try to connect with my patients on a personal level.

At my basic nursing level, I practice safe nursing care... and truly give a crap about my patients. There are good nurses and great nurses. If I could judge for myself whether I'm good or great, I'd like to say I'm great because I get good press gaineys.

In actuality, I get zilch good press gaineys. I work night shift and between the confusion/pain, the patients don't remember me when they fill out the evals. When they see me as I turn them/change their briefs/give them pain meds/restart their IVs..... they think I'm I'm a great nurse. Then they praise the PCT who washed their hair on day shift.


PS, no I don't really need PGs to know if I'm a good nurse or not.... I know I'm a good nurse with lots to learn yet.... I also know being a good nurse isn't JUST about being a good/competent nurse for the patient, it's also about being a good COWORKER.

diane227, LPN, RN

Specializes in Management, Emergency, Psych, Med Surg.

Nurses who can communicate effectively with almost everyone, knows how to troubleshoot almost any problem, can be a strong resource for co workers, willing to help others, provide safe care, educate staff,md's, pts or family members when needed. Fun to work with and have a great sense of humor.

Aneroo, LPN

Specializes in Cath Lab, OR, CPHN/SN, ER.

Critical thinking

Many good answers on here and also I'd like to say being the patients advocate. This means putting in place measures necessary to make sure the physician listens to you - sometimes the patient is too sick, tired, awestruck to make their needs known to the physician. Same goes for overbearing families.

Flightline, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

If you've done all you can do, then do this: wiggle your patients big toe when you walk out of the room and tell them to just hit their call button if they need anything at all.

It works for me, anyway.

TakeTwoAspirin, MSN, RN, APRN

Specializes in Peri-op/Sub-Acute ANP.

Some of the best nurses I have observed have had an ability to make every patient feel like they are special, even the ones I know the nurses couldn't stand.


Specializes in Psych, ER, OB, M/S, teaching, FNP.

Some very important things to be a great nurse:

  • Be able to prioritize......see what needs your attention now and what can wait.
  • Make a decision, if you don't know the answer, use your brain, you made it through school and know how to find an answer......don't let a bump become a brick wall.
  • Be a team player......if nurses stood behind each other like docs do we would be so much better off.
  • Don't take things that go south as personal all the time....its not always about you.
  • Remind your patients that if they did not need help you would not have a job....even the ones you don't like.
  • Never act like you know something you don't..... You don't have to let a patient know it is the first time you did X but ask a co-worker or look things up if you don't know.
  • Always be learning....when you know everything you better quit nursing and go be a Wal Mart Greeter.
  • Leave it at the door....your problems at home, school, your other job, etc. are no more valid or important or horrendous than anyone else's. When you are at work, be at work.

You have nailed it on the head!


Specializes in Med surg, Critical Care, LTC.

Nurses who are staunch patient advocates, who understand pathophysiology and how diagnosis relates to labs, xrays, assessments, CT scans, etc... The nurse should have excellent assessment skills, be great at prioritizing and re-prioritizing throughout the shift. The nurse should have good instincts and not be afraid to question authority on behalf of their patient. This nurse trusts in his/her knowledge and not afraid to stand his/her ground when necessary.

He/she is also aware of their limitations, and is not afraid to ask for help or to admit not knowing an answer - providing he/she knows where to look to find the answer.

Good bedside manner, and good communication skills. Advanced assessment or credentialing a plus.

Many good answers on here and also I'd like to say being the patients advocate. This means putting in place measures necessary to make sure the physician listens to you - sometimes the patient is too sick, tired, awestruck to make their needs known to the physician. Same goes for overbearing families.

My only connection to the medical field is I am a patient. I have COPD and I take full responsibility for putting myself in the position I now find myself. I find myself hospitalized three (3) or four (4) times a year with COPD exacerbations despite going to my physician as often as she requests, taking my medication as directed by my physician, exercising to the best of my ability and trying to eat as healthy as possible.

I write this to thank all the wonderful nurses who literally have saved my live, who have taken care of me over the years in the ER and on the floor. I want to thank the nurses who are advocates for their patients and who go head to head with whomever when necessary. In particular, it was an ER nurse the week before last that did just that.

I am on oxygen at home 2 liters, 24 hours a day. I woke up out of a sound sleep gasping for air, I immediately did a neb treatment using an oxygen tank at 8 liters using a mask, called 911 and was transported to the ER 45 minutes away. On the way to the ER, the EMT put me on a BIPAP, continued with Albuterol and a dose of Salmeterol through an IV. By the time we reached the ER, my sats had gone up from 74% to 100%. The doctor that saw me said we will keep you for a couple of hours and you can go home. At this point, my sats were 93, which are okay, but I was still short of breath, so short of breath it was difficult to even speak. The ER doc reluctantly ordered an X-ray and X-Ray came back okay and lungs were clear but very diminished. The RN who was taking care of me came in and told me about the X-Ray being okay but was really concerned about my shortness of breath and said she was going to speak to the ER doc about not sending me home within the next couple of hours, she said she felt I need to be admitted if for nothing else but observation. The suggestion from my nurse to the ER doc did not go over so well. He said he did not understand my not wanting to go home because my sats were good. While that part was true, I was still having a very difficult time breathing. Again my nurse came to my rescue, she explained to my doctor that I lived quite a ways from the hospital --- 45 minutes, and in all probability if he send me home, I would just be returning via ambulance again and I was home by myself. I do not understand what part of I was having difficulty breathing and short of breath he was not getting, what my nurse was getting the doctor was not. Maybe he was having a bad day, maybe he had a distain for people with COPD, who knows but he was not happy about admitting me, but did so, but I can tell you it would not have happened with my nurse going to bat for me. As things turned out, I did have an upper respiratory infection and was hospitalized for eight (8) days. I do not know what shows up on X-rays and what does not and if the infection should have shown up and did not, I do not know those things. I just know that my nurse knew I was sick, I was short of breath and I the last thing I needed was to be sent home, God love her.

I thank all of you nurses out there from the bottom of my heart, you are worth your weight in gold, over worked and underpaid and I know there is a special place for you.

Some of the best nurses I have observed have had an ability to make every patient feel like they are special, even the ones I know the nurses couldn't stand.

i particularly like this answer.

whether we're caring for the pt who hoards twinkies under her very ample breasts, to the pt who's on the call light every minute, to the lol who is disimpacting herself, an excellent nurse can make that pt feel as if they get it, that their (pt's) behavior is perfectly reasonable and will go the extra mile to ensure the pt is (rightly) heard.

esp to those pts we all avoid.

those type nurses are my heroes.



Specializes in Med-Surg/Tele, ER.

Lots of great answers in this thread.

For me, the great nurses are the ones who can do many of that which was mentioned above, and they can remain positive while they do so. Pleasant and positive, even in the face of the challenges modern medicine hurls at us.

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