Andrew Wettengel / Tuesday, August 25, 2020 / Categories: Work World


Prerequisite and nursing school courses focus on highly technical information. However, as we all know, it takes more than technical skills and high test scores to make a great nurse. There are some things that you won't learn until you are in the thick of nursing. Nurses must be science-savvy, intellectual, and great with people. However, there are many important nursing skills that you do not learn in school. 

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that there are unpredictable events that nurses must face at some point in their careers around which nursing schools cannot necessarily build a curriculum. At OneStaff Medical, we want to share the vital nursing skills you did not learn in school. While many nursing school classes discuss these skills, it is difficult to apply and develop them without real-world experience.



While you learn an array of valuable skills in nursing school, there are many valuable talents that you develop on the job. Throughout your career, there will be skills and lessons you will need to learn on the fly. The following are only a few of the important skills that you will develop over the years. 

1.     Compassion

Nurses must be compassionate to give the highest quality of care possible. While nursing school doesn't necessarily teach you how to be compassionate, this is probably a characteristic that you had even before you decided on your nursing career. To decide to pursue nursing, you will probably already have the drive to help people who are sick or in need. 

As a nurse, it is essential to be compassionate to patients, patients' families, doctors, other nurses, and everyone else you interact with regularly. However, you must be compassionate with yourself, too. Self-care is vital for avoiding burn out. You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself first.

2.     Professionalism

Like any other career, professionalism is a crucial skill for nurses. Your appearance and behavior help patients trust you and feel comfortable as you treat and care for them. 

Remember, being professional also means you are respectful and have a positive attitude. Integrity, discipline, and dedication are also characteristics that play into professionalism. Being professional is not only a skill you must exhibit to patients but also your fellow nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers. 

3.     Cultural Awareness

Most careers require cultural awareness, especially for someone to be great at what they do. However, for nurses, cultural awareness is critical for various reasons. 

A patient's cultural or religious beliefs and values can influence how they receive medical care and treatments. You may even see patients who are hesitant to receive certain treatments, whether it is for religious reasons or otherwise. Understanding and empathizing with a patient's point of view ensures you are providing patient-focused care.

Many patients will not have the same knowledge of medicine that you do. You should remember this if they are ever scared or concerned before or during treatment. 

4.     Communication

Communication with patients, doctors, and other nurses is a part of every nurse's day-to-day responsibilities. As a nurse, you will often find yourself being the link between patients and physicians. When communicating with patients, you must be clear and professional. Remember, most patients will not have the background knowledge that you do. You will also want to be calm and reassuring. 

5.     Attention to Detail

Not only is having an eye for detail useful for providing excellent care to patients, but it is also critical to avoiding medical mistakes. As a nurse, you will also need to learn how to listen actively, which involves noticing non-verbal cues from your patients. Although non-verbal communication is often discussed in nursing school classes, this skill is one that further develops with experience. 

6.     Problem Solving

Treating patients is a form of problem-solving that relies on critical thinking abilities. You will need to learn how to use your experience and knowledge to help execute treatment solutions for your patients. If you identify problems, do not be afraid to discuss them with your nurse manager or the patient's physician. 

Staying up to date on medical field trends is also an essential piece of the problem-solving puzzle. You can use professional journals or industry articles to continuously learn about what is going on in your area of expertise, which will, of course, allow you to better care for patients. 

7.     Coping with Death

Depending on your area of specialty, you will likely experience the death of a patient at some point in your career. While there are many perks of nursing, this is one of the most challenging parts of the job. There is no way to prepare for the first time this happens. 

As a nurse, it is never easy to see a patient pass away. However, with experience, you will develop coping mechanisms that can help you carry on after the death of a patient. 



In addition to the valuable skills only gained from nursing experience, you will also learn a slew of other lessons as a traveling nurse. Here are just a few things nurses will learn if they choose to become a traveler.

1.     Getting and Staying Organized

Travel nursing requires you to be incredibly organized, as you move from assignment to assignment. This includes your schedule and calendar and your belongings. You need to keep all of your legal documents and certifications handy because you will likely need to provide them to facilities before starting each assignment. Some travel nurses like to keep all of these documents together in a file folder—both on their computers and as physical copies—while others might store important documents in a personal safe.

It is beneficial to create a calendar alert for a few months before your current assignment is scheduled to conclude so you can begin thinking about your next assignment. When time is almost up on your current assignment, you can start working with your recruiter to find the next one.

Keeping a list of the belongings you want to take to each assignment can also help you ensure that you aren’t forgetting things when it is time to move. If you spend time at a permanent residence between assignments, you might want to keep everything you want to travel with separate from the things that stay at your permanent address.

2.     Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Travel nurses become very good at getting out of their comfort zones. For each new assignment, you will be joining a new facility, unit, and team. To enjoy your time, you will need to meet new people and get to know your temporary colleagues that could turn into friends.

Learn about the ways to maintain friendships with fellow traveling nurses

If you are not naturally outgoing, you will learn to be as you step outside your comfort zone each time you begin a new assignment. You'll need to ask questions, become familiar with the hospital, and get to know your fellow nurses. While it can seem daunting to start a new job every several months, it is a fun challenge that can lead to wonderful memories.

3.     Exploring by Yourself

If you travel to nursing assignments on your own, you will get comfortable exploring the city or town by yourself. Although you can always make friends through work, the first several days on a new assignment will be spent getting familiar with the area, finding stores and businesses, and planning your route to work. You'll become confident enough to tackle each new adventure on your own.



Nursing school does not necessarily prepare you for the travel nursing lifestyle. Therefore, we wanted to share some final tips for travel nursing. 

Listen to Your Gut Feeling

Natural intuition can be a lot stronger than we believe. As a nurse, it is crucial to listen to your "gut feeling." This applies both to the assignments you take on and the care you provide patients. If your gut is telling you to take a specific assignment, do it! On the other hand, if you have a feeling that you should steer clear, trust it. 

When it comes to caring for patients, so many nurses were born with skills to make them great at what they do. However, you may find that you do not always listen when your gut is telling you something. With experience, you will learn to trust your intuition when providing care to patients as you are likely to provide better care when you do.

Find a Travel Nurse Mentor 

The best advice comes from those with plenty of experience. Finding someone to answer any of your questions can help ease any concerns about the travel nursing lifestyle. Often, you will begin each assignment with an orientation, which is a great way to meet other travel nurses who are starting at the same time as you. 

Prevent Nurse Fatigue

Many nurses will experience nurse fatigue at some point throughout their careers. Self-care is critical to your mental and physical health. By taking care of yourself, you can provide better care to your patients. Whether you are a travel nurse or have a permanent position, you should prioritize your health and wellness.

Check out our tips for staying healthy as a travel nurse

At work, nurses have stressful roles. When you are home, take time to decompress with things that make you happy. Whether you take time to explore your hobbies, spend time with friends, speak to a therapist, or enjoy a spa day, make sure that you are timing some time for yourself.

Self-care can be even harder for travel nurses with families. Balancing work, family, and yourself is a challenge, but if you can find even just a couple of hours a week to focus on yourself, it can help your mental health and prevent burnout.

At OneStaff Medical, we are dedicated to helping travel nurses find the perfect assignment for them. If you are interested in working with one of our experienced staffers, call our team at 877-783-1483.

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