What if you were excellent at inserting IVs and the nurse your colleagues came to when they had a patient with “impossible veins,” but you could not effectively communicate important details about your patient’s care at change of shift hand-off? What if you knew your patient was exhibiting the classic signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure, but you did not have enough self-confidence to alert the nurse practitioner of the ominous change in your patient’s clinical condition, due to the fear of being incorrect in your clinical assessment? Finally, what if you frequently left tasks undone for the next shift and arrived late for work, and then you applied for a charge nurse position on your unit and didn’t get the job? All of these situations could be remedied with soft skill enhancement.
Soft skills are personal attributes that are necessary to succeed in any work environment, including nursing. Hard skills of nursing are clinical competencies essential to performing tasks, such as IV insertion, medication administration, and wound care. But there is much more to nursing than clinical expertise, and in fact, soft skills can be just as important as strong clinical skills to achieve success.
The current healthcare setting is noted for having sicker patients, shorter lengths of stay, and multiple transfers among units, which speaks to the need for effective communication among all care providers (Ray and Overman, 2014). Undeveloped soft skills can lead to medical errors, unhealthy/unproductive work environments, job dissatisfaction, and unfavorable patient survey results, which can adversely affect hospital reimbursement.
Nursing curriculums and nurse leaders are called to teach, role model, and guide current and future nurses in the development of soft skills that will lead to development of emotional intelligence. Presented below is a list of the top ten soft skills nurses need:
- Attitude and confidence
- Critical thinking and creative problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Initiative and strong work ethic
A successful nursing career is not just defined by educational degree, certifications, and hard clinical skills, but also in the ability to use soft skills to foster excellent patient outcomes and make a positive difference in the healthcare organization’s future.