Practical Areas of Improvement for Nurses

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse checking chart with patient

We all know that one nurse who made us feel special and cared for in our darkest moment. Great nurses know their stuff and know how to comfort you. There’s a reason you feel extra safe in their care: You trust them.

It’s only natural to want to aspire to become a great nurse. Constantly learning and seeking out information is one of the most crucial areas of improvement for nurses. We will dive into other tangible, practical ways to improve your nursing practice.

What Skills Do Nurses Need?

Nurses need a combination of hard and soft skills. They need intellectual knowledge of the body, diseases, and treatment modalities, as well as interpersonal skills to care for individuals. They need to be able to provide hands-on care, such as wound care, as well as the ability to ask open-ended questions and listen actively.

Identify Your Own Strengths

Before you can embark on the journey of improving yourself as a nurse, you need to recognize your strengths and weaknesses in terms of soft skills. As a nurse, you already know the importance of assessing before implementing — it’s no different here.

Common nursing soft skills include:

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Organization
  • Effective communication
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail

Be honest: Which of these skills do you feel you need to improve upon? If you’re uncertain, you can rely on this tried and true way of identifying areas of improvement for nurses: Ask a trusted colleague for their opinion.

How to Become a Better Nurse: 10 Areas Of Improvement for Nurses

Now that you’ve identified your personal strengths and weaknesses, you know where you need to focus your efforts and set goals for improving your nursing practice. Let’s dive into how to become a better nurse.

1. Never Stop Learning

Your nursing education does not end with nursing school. Research is never-ending. New equipment is constantly emerging. Medications are being invented. All of this requires you to be learning so you can stay well-informed and on top of the best practices. There are nursing scholarships out there to help you foot the bill. Wondering how you can stay up to date? Try these suggestions:

2. Check, and Then Check Again

People make mistakes. Slowing down and checking your work can reduce these mistakes. In fact, research shows that double-checking can detect 95% of errors.

Even when your workday is busy, remember that it will take longer to correct a mistake than it will to take a few extra seconds or minutes to double-check your work.

When you are giving a medication, remember the five rights of medication administration:

  • Right patient
  • Right dose
  • Right route
  • Right drug
  • Right time

Review your shift change report and charting for the day. Other people rely on your notes — make sure you’ve documented all of your encounters.

3. Ask Questions

This may be one of the best, and simplest, areas of improvement for nurses: asking questions.

Not sure if apple juice is allowed on a clear liquid diet? Ask a fellow nurse. Not sure if two medications are compatible? Ask the pharmacist. Not sure if your patient understands how to take their medication at home? Ask for a return demonstration.

Asking questions may take a few extra moments to complete a task, but it can save you time in the long run by ensuring things are done correctly and properly.

4. Do Not Assume

Similar to asking questions, never assume. Nurses know that situations and presentations are not always what they seem. Assumptions can lead to improper diagnosis, prejudice, missing information, and improper treatment.

For example, imagine you have a patient admitted to your unit and they have a dressing in place from a recent surgery. You know the dressing is dry and intact on the outside, but you cannot visualize the wound underneath. Not assuming means you visualize the wound and skin integrity directly. You check and assess it. If you assume all is well, you could miss catching signs of an infection.

5. Stay Patient-Centered

Patient-centered care means you consider your patient in every aspect of your care. You consider their preferences, their desires, their fears, their barriers and limitations.

Here are some tips:

  • Set expectations — tell your patient when you will be back in their room.
  • Show culturally appropriate signs of respect.
  • Ask patients what their goals are.

This may also require some problem-solving, critical thinking, and empathy. For example, you may have forms for your patient to sign, but your patient does not know how to read or write. How will you advocate for them and follow your hospital policy? Discuss this with your charge nurse and/or supervisor to troubleshoot.

Advocating for your patients is one of your most important jobs. You are a liaison between your patient and the physician and facility. Be a voice for your patient when care plans exclude their preferences and goals.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Nursing is a physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing job. You need to eat, drink water, use the bathroom. Those are necessities at work.

Outside of work, make time to nurture the other parts of you. Spend time with your friends and family. Connect with nature. Prioritize rest and sleep. Find an exercise routine you enjoy. Learn how to set boundaries and advocate for yourself.

7. Befriend Technology

There are many helpful nursing tools and gadgets out there. Some are even available at your fingertips, like medication interaction apps. Don’t shy away from equipment, especially when it can make your job better. Whether it’s an electric patient lift or IV finder — use the tools available to you.

Enroll in facility-wide classes that educate you on healthcare technology you may work with, such as feeding pumps and IV pumps. Ask questions and learn as much as you can. This will make you more knowledgeable, as next time you encounter these tools during your shift, you will feel more confident.

8. Connect With a Mentor

A mentor is an experienced nurse who provides guidance and shares their clinical experiences with you. They can take you under their wing, advocate for you, as well as help you grow as a nurse.

This doesn’t have to be the same person as your preceptor. Find a well-respected nurse that you look up to. Connect with them. Learn from them.

9. Join a Committee

Looking for a way to identify even more areas of improvement for nurses? Join nursing committees to continue learning and growing as a nurse. They also offer you a place where you can use your strengths to help enact change and teach others.

Consider these committees to join:

  • Nursing excellence committee
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion committee
  • Nursing shared leadership committee
  • Patient satisfaction committee

10. Set Professional Goals

One sure way to commit to areas of improvement for nurses is to set goals for yourself. It can be hard to make progress when you aren’t sure where you are going.

To help you think practically, enact SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Think about yourself and career in the future and envision where you want to be. Do you want to pursue an advanced degree? Do you want to become a charge nurse? Do you want to shift into nursing management?

These questions will help enlighten you and guide you. Once you’ve set goals, identify the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Be the Best Nurse You Can Be

Now that you’ve learned about these areas of improvement for nurses, you can put them into action and be the best nurse you can be. Perhaps your next goal is a different work environment that fits your life better. Need help with that? IntelyCare can match you with nursing job opportunities in the areas of your choice.