6 Characteristics of Fantastic Nurses

What does it take to be a fantastic nurse? Many wonder if they have what it takes to excel in the nursing profession. There are some key differences between an average nurse and a fantastic nurse. If you’re smart enough and dedicated enough, nearly anyone can become an average nurse. But it takes a certain something to elevate yourself to a fantastic level.

Passing your classes, meeting your clinical requirements, and ultimately passing the Nclex may be done by anyone with enough commitment and adequate ability to learn. However, being a fantastic nurse takes skills and characteristics that can’t be acquired in nursing school. The following will help to define some of the characteristics that help to make a fantastic nurse.


imageWithout a doubt, being caring is the most important characteristic nurses need to have. The ability to care and to be caring is what allows a nurse to perform tasks that he or she might not otherwise be comfortable or capable of performing. I’m often asked how I am able to perform tasks like cleaning defecation of patients, and the answer can most simply be surmised with the act of  “caring.” If I know a person cannot do something for themselves, it is only decent that I assist them to meet their ADLs (activities of daily living). If you can care for a stranger like you do your own children, then you would make a fantastic nurse.


When practicing nursing there are a lot of “hurry up and wait” moments. If you don’t have a fair amount of patience you will find yourself very stressed and have difficulty coping with your responsibilities as a nurse. If you can appreciate fishing, and the need to wait extended periods of time to wrestle a fish with all your might for a few minutes at a time, then you have what it takes to be a great nurse.

3.Honesty and Integrity

Being honest is paramount in the field of nursing. It is not to anyone’s benefit to fabricate falsehoods when taking care of patients. Honesty and integrity are required in the documentation, in reporting to other nurses and physicians, and in communicating directly with patients. A little white lie could seriously alter the care a patient receives and is in no way acceptable. If the thought of telling lies makes your soul hurt, then you might make a great nurse.

4.A Sense of Humor

There are many moments in nursing that are terribly sad and upsetting. There are also many moments that are incredibly funny. It is important to be able to find moments of humor even in sad experiences in order not to lose your sanity. If you can’t laugh you’ll cry, and likely be burnt out of nursing much sooner than if you had tried to find humor in them instead.


There are many moments in nursing when you have to be flexible. You have to operate on a patient’s schedule and not your own. Sometimes you may be called and told to stay home because your shift doesn’t have enough patients for all the nurses scheduled. Other times you may be called in on a shift that you wouldn’t normally work because there are more patients than there are nurses. You may even have to work on Christmas Day. You need to be flexible in order to deliver good patient care and to ensure you get a steady paycheck. You also have to be flexible when you are at work. You can’t schedule things exactly, because a patient may be asleep when it’s time for their meds. Being flexible can help decrease your stress level as a nurse.


Nursing takes dedication. It’s not a career you can pick lightly because you have to be on when you are responsible for taking care of others. If you aren’t dedicated to nursing then you are going to hate it. And if you hate nursing you aren’t going to deliver excellent patient care. Please save other nurses and patients who need care for the grief it would cause them if you become a nurse. If you aren’t dedicated to nursing, don’t go to nursing school.

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10 thoughts on “6 Characteristics of Fantastic Nurses”

  1. I heard that the hospital in our area is hiring nurses at the moment to better cater the needs of their patients. And it appears that they will be looking for services of a staffing company to help them hire people faster. I found it interesting when you said that nurses should also have a sense of humor since it can help relieve loneliness and gain the patient’s sanity back. Thanks!

  2. I am going to take the time to be a bit self-serving in my comment…All of those things…Dedication,Sense of Humor,Honesty,Flexibility,Patience,and Caring…are all very true,and kind of given…..if your not a meteorologist you have no business predicting the weather…If you do not have Patience,A Sense of Humor,Honesty,Flexibility and caring…you have no business being a nurse…However,what CAN stop you from being a fantastic nurse,is your chain of command,your flow,if you will……Your flow is your higher up’s,and if they are not in on the game,than it is almost impossible,for you to carry on with the game…but your topic was “what makes a fantastic nurse” I am going to say…. EMPATHY…not sympathy,not compassion,but EMPATHY…it’s hard for some people/nurses/heck,anyone,to really try,I am talking from their soul,really try and feel what it is like to be in another person’s shoes…Maybe it’s a gift,Maybe it’s something that humans acquire after difficult situations in their own life’s..EMPATHY,if you really have it, is almost paranormal(and I am not a person that fully believes in all that,well,maybe a little)…and if you have true,blue,honest to god EMPATHY,You are a good nurse. Period.

      1. I agree with the importance of empathy. Sadly in health care today we’re currently discussing this personal characteristic like it’s some strange evolutionary trait that is now just being discovered for the first time. I agree with Julie Brush that empathy is the most important trait for anyone including nurses to possess. Having the ability to meet a person at their time of need, and fully grasp their challenge creates a bond and trust that transcends a care giving relationship.

        Julie also mentioned leadership. As a nursing leader I’m continually saddened by the lack of desire of staff nurses to move into positions of leadership. Through the years I’ve had the honor of leading numerous amazing nurses who are often frustrated by the systems that have employed us both, but continue to shy away from moving up where they may be able to affect change. What we need at this time in health care are both confident and courageous nurses who will utilize their understanding of care and empathy to lead us to a better future.

        Once again Brittney you have written a thought-provoking post. I always enjoy reading your perspective on nursing and health care. Have an amazing week. Take care.


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    Love this. I’ve definitely had my share of good nurses and well… Not as much. But these are definitely true!

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