Skilled nurses work hard to earn and keep their license. With a shortage of nurses in the U.S., demand for skilled nurses is at an all-time high, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. While some nursing skills are learned, some come naturally. For instance, showing compassion and empathy is not a trait learned by reading a textbook. On the other hand, some skills must be learned and practiced over and over, like administering medication. A skills checklist helps nurses meet the high expectations.
During an assessment, a nurse uses basic skills. For instance, she takes a patient’s vital signs, which include blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, respirations and pain level. Nurses have skills necessary to perform a "finger stick" blood sugar and assess a patient’s eyes, ears, lungs, heart and skin. Other basic skills include assisting with range of motion exercises and activities of daily living, such as bathing a patient. The nurse must be able to compute the patient’s fluid intake and output for a specific period of time, if so ordered.
Communication and Observation
Nurses need to possess excellent communication skills. Often, they use therapeutic communication techniques, like active listening and facilitation, to obtain a patient history and discover the current problems. They listen to the patients and use open-ended questions to complete their patient assessment. Nurses use observation skills to verify subjective information -- things a patient says. Once the statement is verified, it becomes objective, or observed, information. For instance, the patient may state that he has shortness of breath and the nurse observes his breathing pattern to validate it.
Medication errors injure more than 1million people a year in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic. Therefore, a nurse must have substantial knowledge when administering non-parental or parental medications. Non-parental medications include tablets and capsules. Parental medications, on the other hand, require piercing or injecting medication through the skin. A nurse must be able to perform dosage calculations, prepare medications and administer them per the physician’s orders. This includes knowing the landmarks for injections and which medications cannot be mixed. She uses her skill and provides patient education regarding the administration, purpose and possible side effects or drug interactions, including over-the-counter medication.
In addition to basic skills, nurses often have specialized skills learned from additional training. For instance, nurses may be trained in open-wound care. A common specialized skill is indwelling catheter insertion and care. This includes using aseptic sterile technique to insert the catheter and performing perennial care. Nurses may also have specialized training in areas like maternity, pediatrics, cardiac and dialysis.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Shortage
- American Nurses Credentialing Center: Nursing Skills Competency Program
- Mayo Clinic: Medication Errors: Cut Your Risks with these Tips
- Austin Community College: Non-Parental and Parental Medications
- Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society: Indwelling Urinary Catheters: Best Practice Document for Clinicians
- NHS Careers: Nursing Skills Required
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