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The medical field relies upon teams of highly skilled workers. From clinical competency to medical administration, everyone who is a part of a patient’s care has to be well trained and able to carry out their particular role to a high standard. However, nurses in particular also need an array of soft skills to achieve their maximum potential in the medical field.

Soft skills are those skills that don’t necessarily require formal training and can be used in an array of situations. They are “core” skills and act like glue to help everything else work smoothly. In fact, 91% of organizations want more soft skills, cited as one of the four major trends transforming workplaces.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most important soft skills for nurses.


Nurses hear a lot about “empathy” and its importance. Simply put, being empathetic means that you can understand the feelings or emotions of other people and change your behavior to accommodate them. In health care, this ensures that every patient feels valued and heard.

For example, if you work in medical coding and billing, you must have the ability to empathize with the patient to reduce their stress around the financial strain that may be caused by chronic illnesses or expensive fees. You could do this by simply having an understanding conversation with the patient or could even rearrange their fees and payments to match the circumstances of that patient.

Most nurses understand the importance of showing empathy towards patients. However, sometimes we forget to empathize with our peers. This is an issue, as the medical field has faced a burnout problem for several years. While wider change is needed to combat burnout effectively, nurses can ease the burden on one another by actively empathizing with colleagues who are struggling or going through burnout.

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Effective communication is vital in all health care settings — but unfortunately, only 5.9% of organizations communicate their goals on a daily basis. Medical practices are often fast-paced, high-pressure environments that require everyone to be on the same page. However, breakdowns in communication still occur and can have damaging effects on patients, physicians, nurses, and medical practices as a whole.

To overcome these issues, nurses can seek further training and should aim for a professional-but-friendly tone at all times. This shows the folks at your practice that they are valued, while you still ensure that important information is still communicated.

Strong communication skills also help nurses make a positive first impression. This is important, as patients find it difficult to trust medical professionals who they haven’t met before. But, by smiling, actively listening, and paying attention to non-verbal cues, nurses can ensure that they connect with a new patient within a matter of minutes. This will save time, money, and effort in the long run, as patients are far more likely to follow the advice of a medical professional that they trust.


Health care settings are filled with multi-talented professionals from an array of backgrounds and specialties. However, this melting pot of skills, experience, and specialisms can only work cohesively if everyone is invested in teamwork.

However, not everyone is a born “team player.” Left unchecked, this can cause disarray in a patient’s experience and serious friction in the hospital, clinic, or office. To overcome this, management must emphasize the importance of teamwork and can point towards research that shows that teamwork improves the quality of care that patients receive.

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While team-building activities sound fun, you may not have the time or resources to engage in traditional bonding exercises like team Q and As or days out. Instead, you can forge strong bonds between your team members by teaching them about the other roles that surround them. This means that folks will understand the skills of those around them better, and will be more likely to work efficiently and in unison.

Time Management

Effective time management is the product of organization, forward-thinking, and clear communication. It’s a tough skill to develop but without it, patients are left waiting, and medical professionals can end up logging hours of avoidable overtime every week.

Developing effective time management requires a holistic approach to your work. You have to assess where you’re losing time and may need to suggest operational changes that are knocking you off course during your day. Alternatively, you might just need to organize your day a little more thoroughly or build in more slack time when possible.

The easiest way to further develop time management skills is to set pen to paper before and after each shift. Before your shift starts, you can plan out your day to see how long you have to complete each task or activity. Then, at the end of the day, return to the plan to see where you lost time or underestimated the difficulty of a task or activity. This will ensure you don’t overcommit your time and gives you a plan to follow throughout the day.


We all have “soft” skills that we picked up from our lives before working in the medical field, but few of us actively develop these skills when we land a job. However, paying attention to soft skills will pay dividends in the long run, as your improved ability to communicate, work with teams, empathize with patients, and manage your time will improve your “hard” skills and allow you to move through your day with greater efficiency.

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Adrian Johansen
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