How to Be an Effective Nurse

September 07, 2017

Getting your nursing degree and buying the fanciest stethoscope on the market doesn’t automatically make you an effective nurse. Becoming great at your job takes time, and there’s no substitution for the practical experience you’ll gain in a clinical setting. That being said, the following five tips will help guide new nurses in the right direction.

5 Ways to Boost Your Efficiency

1. Offer compassion.

Showing your patients that you care about them is the most critical component of building strong patient-nurse relationships. Between going over medical procedures and making your daily rounds, it’s easy to view each patient as an item on your to-do list. Avoid falling into this trap by showing them that they’re heard and understood.

When you demonstrate empathy, you help calm your patients and ease their feelings of anxiety or fear. Not only does this lead to better patient outcomes, but it also makes your job easier as a result. In other words, it’s a total win-win.

Keep your patients’ dignity at the forefront of every encounter to help them feel in control of their treatment plans, and acknowledge any of their frustrations and feelings when they choose to confide in you. Empathy and compassion go a long way when it comes to building rapport, and they enhance your overall efficiency.

Real-Life Tips:

  • Hold a patient’s hand.
  • Listen to a patient’s concerns without interrupting.
  • Avoid saying that you know how someone feels.
  • Acknowledge a patient’s concerns and emotions.
  • Sit down at a patient’s bedside.
  • Give patients your undivided attention.

2. Master Communication

Nothing can make or break your interactions with patients more than communication. Nurses have to educate their patients on complicated medical issues, relay why they’re performing certain tests and explain specific procedures without leaving a patient confused in the process — and they have to do all of the above while staying on schedule and meeting the same needs of other patients.

Double-check that you’re not using medical jargon when speaking with patients, and make an effort to slow down, allowing them time to process the information and ask follow-up questions as needed.

It’s also a good idea to get in the habit of paraphrasing your patients’ concerns, as this can ward off misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Even better, your patients will feel more understoodas a result.

Real-Life Tips:

  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Never assume that you know what’s going on with a patient.
  • Ask patients open-ended questions.
  • Paraphrase patient responses back to them for confirmation.
  • Pause regularly in conversations to encourage patient disclosure.
  • Admit when you don’t know something, and then go find the answer.
  • Stay accessible, and follow through on every request.

3. Keep Your Cool


Nurses face tough situations daily, and you’ll be expected to always keep your cool and show grace under fire. Learning how to manage anxiety, emotions and stress will serve you well throughout your nursing career, and it’s a skill that typically takes some time to develop.

As a general guideline, remind yourself that you aren’t required to have all the answers all the time — and don’t take criticism too personally. Patients and their families (and even other nurses) are under a great deal of daily stress, and they may take their frustrations out on you when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Stay logical during these situations by figuring out the root of the issue and working to alleviate the underlying problem without getting emotional. This can be hard, especially for new nurses. But you’ll get better and better at handling conflict as you rack up on-the-job experience and gain confidence in your abilities.

Real-Life Tips:

  • Practice self-care.
  • Take regular breaks to manage stress.
  • Make time for work-life balance.
  • Vent to a close friend or coworker, or consider journaling.
  • Do what intimidates you to gain experience and confidence.

4. Get organized.


Any nurse will tell you that healthcare professionals stay busy — very busy — and those hectic shifts can cause you to get disorganized fast. Don’t let yourself get so overwhelmed that you lose focus and forget important tasks. This will only cause you undue stress, and it’s not fair to you or your patients.

Stay on top of your day-to-day routine by making it easy to stay organized. Find a system that works for you, like jotting down notes in a notepad, color-coding your to-do list based on priorities or taking an hourly inventory of what needs to be accomplished.

The single best way to stay organized is mastering the art of time management and giving yourself regular breaks to re-focus and re-energize. Know when to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to tell someone that you need a hand. Be sure to take snack breaks, refill your coffee cup and share a laugh with your co-workers. Without these mini breaks throughout the day, you’ll over-exert yourself and end up on the road to burnout.

By keeping your energy levels high and your stress levels low, you’ll be able to better serve your patients — and you’ll instantly increase your efficiency.

Real-Life Tips:

  • Stay observant in order to anticipate potential problems.
  • Learn to prioritize your to-do list.
  • Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Ask coworkers for help when you need it.
  • Be direct.
  • Take regular breaks.

5. Keep Learning

No matter how well you handled your clinicals or how many nursing classes you aced in school, there’s always something new to learn. The medical field is always expanding, and nurses are tasked with keeping themselves up-to-date on the latest trends and advancements.

Make it a point to continue your studies. Whether it’s by setting a Google Alert to receive news about your specialty, attending work-related trainings and seminars or doing weekly research into medical developments, these steps help keep you on your A game.

Plus, the more you know, the more you can share with your patients and their families. Other nurses will respect your insight, and you’ll feel confident that you’re keeping yourself aware of the latest medical developments. Knowledge is power — and it makes for more effective nursing all-around.

Real-Life Tips:

  • Stay up-to-date on new developments in your field.
  • Attend workshops, trainings and seminars.
  • Find a work mentor.
  • Ask seasoned nurses for their expertise and opinions.
  • Learn from your mistakes.

What tips do you have for becoming a more effective nurse? Keep the conversation going in the comments!

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