How to Be a Successful Nurse

Updated on February 9, 2019
aDayInMyLife1 profile image

Amanda is a Registered Nurse with over 10 years of experience in Obstetrics. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2003.

Choosing a career in nursing is a decision not to be taken lightly. Nursing education is not the easiest curriculum and the work can be very demanding both physically and emotionally. To be a successful nurse, your heart must be in it. You really must love what you do. This Hub will provide you with: information about nursing, how to become a nurse, and most importantly; how to be a successful nurse.

What is a Nurse

A nurse can be a male or female who is formally trained to work in healthcare. Nurses work in a variety of settings to care for individuals or families any time that they encounter healthcare: from birth to death; in times of illness or maintaining health. Today, Nurses work with insurance companies, malpractice attorneys, in schools, on cruise ships, airports, for major companies like Google etc... The opportunities for nurses are endless. Nurses act as patient advocates. In this role the nurse acts as a liaison between the doctor and patient:

  • Explaining medical terms and procedures to patients at their level of understanding
  • Ensuring that the patients questions, needs, and concerns are communicated to the doctor
  • Making sure that medications, tests, and procedures are appropriate and carried out correctly

Times have changed and the role of nursing has taken on more responsibility. The days where doctors were viewed as Gods and their orders were carried out blindly have ended. Nurses are held accountable for their actions and need to take action when something seems inappropriate. Nurses need to question things that seem out of the ordinary and catch mistakes before they happen. No one is perfect and the treatment of patients involves many people, from an admitting clerk or receptionist that you encounter first, to the nurse that gathers information before you see the doctor, then the doctor, and the phlebotomists or radiology personnel who obtain bloodwork or perform tests. This increases the possibility of human error. For this reason, nursing education is an endless process. Once out of college, the learning does not end there. Research will always take place, and the results impact nursing practice. The government will issue medical reforms that change the way we practice. Nurses work in ever changing environments.

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Should I become a Patient Care Nurse?

Before making the decision to become a nurse, give it some serious thought. Speak with other nurses, volunteer in a setting where nurses are employed, and ask yourself some key questions to figure out if nursing is right for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are you a people person?

A major part of nursing is to help people. If you enjoy helping people, teaching people, and interacting physically and emotionally with people nursing may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you are more of an introvert, do not like interacting with others, are not good at teaching or explaining things... Traditional nursing may not be for you. If you are enamored with the healthcare industry, maybe consider nursing research, or working with health insurance companies, or management.

Do blood and body fluids bother you?

Nurses come in contact with people, more often than not, when they are hurt or ill. Bodily fluids come with the territory. If you faint at the thought of blood or needles, a career in traditional nursing may be more than you can handle. If you can think you can make it through the nursing training program, where you will be exposed to open wounds, vomit, urine, feces, blood and much more. Upon graduating, consider working as a school nurse, a nurse educator or a legal nurse, where exposure to body fluids will be minimal.

Are you organized and adaptable?

Nurses need to be able to think fast, anticipate needs, prioritize and be adaptable. In order to function you must be very organized. The smallest mistakes could cause medical errors potentially costing someone their lives. Consider this point seriously. If you are a person that "wouldn't be able to find their head if it weren't attached to their body", or freezes under pressure, you may want to consider another profession. If change, or stressful situations put you into a panic... nursing may be difficult. Nurses learn CPR and are in the front lines of bringing people back to life. Is this something you can handle?

Do you want a career where you work hard?

Nursing is draining both physically and mentally. Nurses must push heavy equipment like beds and stretchers with patients on them, ultrasound and x-ray machines. Nurses often work long 12 hour shifts, night shifts, weekends, holidays. Nurses deal with emotionally straining situations like death, being exposed to infectious diseases, and ethical dilemmas. Does this appeal to you, or are you more suited to sit at a desk, work during the day, and spend the holidays with your family?

As you can see there is a lot to be considered. If some of your answers point you in the direction of nursing, but others deter you this does not mean that you should not become a nurse. The beauty of nursing is that there are so many potential work settings. Nurses work with lawyers and hospitals to help prevent malpractice, with insurance companies reviewing claims, within the community providing early intervention and other social services. Nurses work in labs and do research, or in colleges to educate other nurses. There are Forensic Nurses, and Nursing Informatics. The possibilities are endless. But all nursing students need to have a basic understanding of the most common practice settings of: Maternity, Pediatrics, Medical/Surgical, Psychology, Geriatrics, and Community. Both classes and clinicals need to be completed in all of these areas for the nursing student to be able to sit for and pass their board examination.

How do I become a Registered Nurse?

There are two paths to becoming a Registered Nurse. Nursing students can either decide to enter into an Associates (2 year) or Bachelors Degree (4 year) program. After completing the required class and clinical work for either program, the nursing student then sits for the state board examination, and must pass this computerized examination to become licensed. Associate Degree Nurses and Bachelor Degree Nurses sit for the same exam and get the same license. Some things to take into consideration when choosing which path to take include the following:

  • Associates degree will be quicker, meaning you will be able to start working and earning an income sooner.
  • A Bachelors degree is required if you are now or will ever consider advancing your career and becoming a Midwife, Nurse Practitioner, or Nurse Anesthetist.
  • Bachelor prepared nurses have more job opportunities, since many hospitals are requiring this degree for Nurse Manager positions. Bachelor preparation is a growing requirement for nurses working for insurance companies, or research settings as well.

How do I become a Successful Nurse?

If you are already a nurse, don't just fly below the radar and maintain the status quo. Strive to become a successful nurse. Here are some things you can do to be the best you can be:

  • Attend educational sessions and conferences to expand your knowledge base and keep your practice up to date.
  • Subscribe to nursing journals in your field in order to remain knowledgeable about new developments and research in your practice setting.
  • Maintain your professionalism. Leave the baggage of your life at home and do not subject your co-workers or patients to your negative attitudes or behaviors. If you are unhappy in your job make the move to another area of nursing. With all of the available settings for nurses to work in, there is no excuse for a grumpy, mean nurse.
  • Be an involved staff member. Participate in meetings and join committees. Pitch in and help others on the unit. Report any potentially dangerous situations before an accident happens. Make suggestion to you manager on how things could be improved on the unit.
  • Be safe. Know when to ask for help or go up the chain of command.
  • Excel at documentation. Be aware of hospital policies and be sure that you are at least documenting what is minimally required of you. Of course I suggest documenting more. Make the patients chart personalized. If you just click boxes how would you be able to tell one patient from another if called to court 5 years later.
  • Embrace new nurses. These are the next generation of nurses that are going to be replacing us when we are ready to cut back our hours or retire. New nurses are not here to annoy us or make our lives more difficult. Pass down your knowledge to them. This will make them safer workers thus making our shifts go smoother. So often, new nurses are made to feel like outsiders unaccepted by the group. Lets not act like bullies or high school students. We are nurses and are supposed to be nurturing. Keep in mind that you will more than likely become a patient one day. Prepare these nurses to the level where you would be comfortable with them caring for you or your family member.

Good Nurse vs Bad Nurse

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Amanda S


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      • profile image


        12 months ago

        i'm from egypt and this is my first year in faculty of nursing at helwan university could you tell me what i should do to travel abroad and work in european countries after graduation

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        3 years ago from CA

        Thank you carozy and Healthexplorer for the comment.

      • profile image

        Sergio Freddson 

        4 years ago

        This is a fantastic summary! I like how you listed out some specific qualities to develop. My fiancee is studying to become a nurse and I'm sure she would love to read this article. She wants to be a stay-at-home nurse. Do you know if there are many jobs in that field these days? Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        I find this article is useful not only for a nurse but also other medical professions. Many personality and attitudes apply for my occupation, sonographer. Thanks for sharing!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Medical profession is one of the most prestigious professions which provide a better career growth option; therefore in most of the cases we have found that instead of being a doctor and medical expert people used to prefer nurse and pharmacist. In the above hub we have found certain instructions that deliver how to be a successful nurse.

      • carozy profile image


        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Great hub. I am interested in becoming a nurse and I found this article helpful. Thank you.

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        7 years ago from CA

        @Kathleen Cochran from my experience working in many different hospitals in various states, all facilities require this sort of safety assessment upon admission.

      • Kathleen Cochran profile image

        Kathleen Cochran 

        7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

        My daughter lives in Virginia and every time she goes to see a medical professional they ask if anyone is hurting her or making her have sex. I think, considering how many girls and women are victims of abuse, this is fabulous. Do they train you to do this as a nurse or is it just something VA has decided to do?

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        7 years ago from CA

        @Jagged81 Thank you so much for your comment. So true about the first year. It definitely shapes you as a nurse as well as your opinion of nursing.

      • jagged81 profile image


        7 years ago from New Mexico

        So true, being a nurse is not something to be taken lightly and your first year can really make or break you. Great Hub

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        7 years ago from CA

        My thoughts exactly!

      • Nordy profile image


        7 years ago from Canada

        I hear ya. I remember a few of those nurses when I was training. And all I could think was - If you don't like your job, there are certainly easier ways to make money!

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        7 years ago from CA

        Your welcome Nordy. Nursing is quite challanging but so rewarding. So glad it worked out for you. Sadly some nurses feel stuck after investing time and money into a nursing program, and their patients suffer the consequence.

      • Nordy profile image


        7 years ago from Canada

        Fabulous hub aDayInMyLife1, when I enroled in nursing I had no idea what I was getting into. I actually fainted the first time I saw a catheter. Literally - I hit the ground and got a concussion. For me, I am glad I didn't know what I was getting into as I might never have chosen it, and never would have ended up where I am. Thanks for the hub, well-written and informative!

      • aDayInMyLife1 profile imageAUTHOR

        Amanda S 

        7 years ago from CA

        Your welcome! Hub pages offers so much great information from the perspective of real individuals as opposed to the neutral narrative position of books. I am just glad to be able to contribute.

      • myihna profile image


        7 years ago from Australia

        Thanks for sharing this valuable piece of information


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