Creating a Nursing Skills Checklist for Your Facility

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse manager talks with her staff and goes over their nursing skills checklist.

The healthcare landscape is changing, and nurses no longer need to belong to a single organization to get shifts. On a given shift, a unit’s nursing staff could consist of a combination of staff nurses, travelers, agency contractors, and more.

It can be beneficial to have a nursing staff with diverse backgrounds and skill mixes — but facilities need to be sure competency is consistent across the board. By creating a nursing skills checklist, you can ensure every nurse is prepared to care for the patient population in your facility.

What Are Nursing Skills?

There are many characteristics of a good nurse that facilities should look for when hiring new nurses, which include both soft skills and clinical skills.

  • Soft skills allow nurses to interact with patients and coworkers to deliver person-centered care. Examples include teamwork, critical thinking, and empathy.
  • Clinical nursing skills are developed in nursing education and on-the-job training. Examples include starting IVs, placing NG tubes, and administering medications.

Whether a nurse is interviewing for a position or has already been onboarded at your facility, it’s important to get a better sense of their skills. You want to be sure they have the competency to care for patients on a specific unit prior to their start date. Use this guide to create a nursing skills checklist for your facility.

What Does Nursing Orientation Cover?

When a nurse begins working at a new facility, their training period is called orientation. It’s up to an organization to determine how long a nurse’s orientation lasts. This will be based on the nurse’s experience and the type of specialized care they provide.

The Joint Commission (TJC) defines a nursing orientation as “a process used to provide initial training and information while assessing the competence of clinical staff relative to job responsibilities and the organization’s mission and goals.” According to TJC, orientation should cover Key Safety Content, where a nurse learns about:

  • emergency response (such as a code blue or rapid response)
  • infection control and prevention
  • safety measures like bomb threats, fire, and personal safety
  • disaster preparedness
  • medical equipment failure procedures

During orientation, a nurse should also learn about standards of care and operations within a facility. It should cover things like:

  • patient rights
  • HIPAA training
  • scheduling
  • code of conduct
  • ethical and cultural thinking

Throughout a nursing orientation, it’s up to preceptors and unit leaders to verify a nurse’s readiness to care for patients independently. The Joint Commission states nurse competency is a combination of observable skills, knowledge, and abilities that demonstrate a nurse can deliver safe and quality care.

Tips for Creating a Nursing Skills Checklist

By the time a nurse comes to work in your facility, they should have basic nursing skills training. When you work with a staffing partner like IntelyCare, you can instantly access credentials from the app to verify a nurse is fit to care for your patients. Another way to check competency is by creating a targeted nursing skills checklist specific to the duties required for the role. Below are some suggestions for building one out.

1. Collaborate With a Nurse Educator

To get started on your nursing skills list, meet with the department’s nurse educator to review the skills and competencies necessary to work on the unit. A clinical nurse educator is responsible for overseeing training and continued education for nurses within a specialty. They may deliver training sessions for practice updates or new devices being used in the practice setting. This clinical leader is best suited to know the specialized skills a nurse will need to succeed on the unit.

2. Customize It for Each Unit

A nurse will master many skills in their career — and it’s impossible to quantify everything into one list. Make sure the skills you identify are customized to the patient population for the unit you’re describing. Whether your facility has three units or 30, try to avoid using a one-size-fits-all checklist. For example, a long-term care facility should have separate checklists for the assisted living wing and the memory care unit, where the approach to care is unique.

3. Set a Timeframe

Competency-based education is a core competency of nursing, which is why checking competency is a crucial part of orientation. It’s important to keep in mind that a nurse may not check off every skill from a list within an orientation period. Consider this when setting a timeframe for when the checklist should be completed. For example, a travel nurse will have an expedited training period compared to a new hire. A new graduate nurse could train for months without seeing specific conditions or procedures.

4. Separate It by Skill Type

Keep the nursing skills checklist organized by dividing it into skill categories. Here’s an example based on TJC’s guidelines:

  • diseases and conditions
  • medication administration
  • equipment
  • procedures
  • patient and family interaction
  • infection control
  • safety
  • age-appropriate care

Clinical Skills Examples

It’s time to put the checklist together. Remember to add or delete nursing skills based on the patient population within a unit or facility. Below is an example of a checklist for nurses in a long-term acute care hospital.

Category Skill Score

1 = no experience

2= needs assistance

3= functions independently

Date Observed
Safety National Patient Safety Goals

fire safety

fall risk

pressure ulcer prevention


Infection control and prevention universal precautions

isolation precautions

donning and doffing PPE

CAUTI prevention

CLABSI prevention

Care of the patient with respiratory failure

renal failure

chronic lung disease




heart failure

traumatic brain injury


fluid & electrolyte imbalances

Medication administration medication reconciliation

PO medications

IV push

secondary IV meds

continuous IV infusions



TPN/ lipids

Equipment telemetry


home ventilator

transfer devices/ lifts

Procedures/ devices IV placement


central line cultures

trach care

trach suctioning

colostomy/ileostomy care

PEG tube care

NG tube insertion

Foley catheter insertion

in & out catheter insertion

peritoneal dialysis

complex wound management

Patient and family interaction pain assessment

therapeutic communication

patient education

discharge instructions


Only Hire the Best Nurses

Nurses in the modern healthcare landscape are choosing to work flexible schedules in locations convenient for them. If your facility is one of them, celebrate the diverse experiences they bring — and start marking them off on your nursing skills checklist. Learn more about IntelyCare’s high standards by signing up for our free newsletter.