Qualities of the Exceptional Nurse: Honoring Ecumen’s Nurses: Part 2

It's National Nurses Week, and we asked Ecumen nurses to tell us the qualities that make a nurse exceptional.

It’s National Nurses Week, a time set aside to pay special tribute to our nurses who are on the front lines of health care every day.  Ecumen employs more than 500 nurses and 1,800 nursing assistants, who provide quality care to our residents in our nursing homes, assisted living communities and through home care services. They make lives better in innumerable ways, and we can never thank them enough for their compassionate, caring, skillful work.  

Yesterday we reported on what makes nurses feel appreciated. Today we’re focusing on the qualities that make a nurse outstanding. We polled a sample of Ecumen nurses on this question:

What are the top qualities of an exceptional nurse?

Our nurses offered a long list of important qualities.  In summary, they said the exceptional nurse is a kind-hearted, compassionate, caring person with strong communication skills — someone who listens well and puts the patient first.  The exceptional nurse of course has strong clinical skills, keen attention to detail and commitment to the highest standards of care.  But a passion for people and a determination to make a difference in their lives are the overriding qualities that make a nurse exceptional.

Here is a sampling of how some Ecumen nurses said it in their own words:

Deb Buker, Director of Nursing at Ecumen Bethany Community in Alexandria, Minn.: “Having a caring heart, being patient and being kind. The ability to treat our residents with dignity and respect. I think these are some of the top qualities. Of course, you also need to be a problem solver, a team player, and time management is key because in this line of duty many things come your way during your shift. A good education is also a requirement, but you must have the other skills to put with it.”

Lori Olson, Clinical Director at Sunnyside Care Center in Lake Park, Minn.: “An exceptional nurse can keep a smile on her face when things get crazy — and they do. An exceptional nurse is able to cry with the family at the loss of a resident then get herself back together and move on caring for the many others that need her.”

Martha Overgaard, Homecare Manager at Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood: “An exceptional nurse is one that has a heart and passion for people. An exceptional nurse holds herself to the highest standard to provide quality care to whomever she is caring for. An exceptional nurse sets out to make a difference in the lives she/he touches.”

Brooke Anderson, Housing Clinical Director at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes: “The cliché is caring, but I think it goes deeper than that.  Being a good listener and having empathy for residents’ day-to-day concerns.  Following through, if you say you are going to do something you better do it.  Realizing that in any nursing field it is not solely the patient, resident or client but their friends, families and loved ones. By taking care of the big picture you are also taking care of resident’s whole being.  The last thing I think makes an exceptional nurse is being open-minded. You will not always have the right answer, and that is OK, but being able to admit that and utilizing your resources to get the right answers is what makes a nurse exceptional. We all want to do what’s right, but we don’t need to all be right to accomplish that.”

Bethany Delvas, Clinical Director at Ecumen Scenic Shores in Two Harbors, Minn.: “Compassion, understanding, determination, balance and heart. Nurses need to be strong to get through all of the tough times that others have, including our own.  Understanding that when residents/families are yelling at us it is usually because of something else. Determination to do what’s right for our residents and keep moving on even through the tough times. Balance to ensure we are taking care of both ourselves and our residents. Heart because in nurturing someone’s health, nurses look at mind, body and soul. Their heart needs to be big enough to provide all the caring for each area.”

Kara Sjol, a nurse at St. Marks Living in Austin, Minn.: “I think anyone can be trained and do skills, but what really makes good nurses is their compassion to their job and the people they work with.  Dedication to the job.  Patience when dealing with difficult situations.  Communication skills with patients, family and staff.  Attention to details.”

Jadie Winters, Home Care Manager, Ecumen Evergreens of Moorhead: “The top qualities of an exceptional nurse include being reliable, honest and having integrity. An exceptional nurse will always go above and beyond what is expected. An exceptional nurse will be understanding and also be able to offer forgiveness to others. An exceptional nurse will take all staff and residents under her wing, guiding them along the best paths while promoting independence.”

Erin Hall, a nurse at Colonial Manor in Balaton, Minn.: “Compassion: if you don't care about people you chose the wrong career path.  Open mindedness: I find that many nurses struggle to adjust to the times and then end up resenting their jobs and lose the love they once had for the profession.  Granted, there are still some tried-and-true methods to treat conditions but being willing to consider that new technology and methods work also is essential.  Being flexible: because even in nursing school that is essential. Being personable: people notice when you are not approachable and look like you hate your job. Smile:) 

Meaghan Dullea, Home Care Manager, Ecumen Detroit Lakes:Being approachable, knowledgeable, energetic (since a nurse’s job is never done), friendly, understanding but assertive to ensure compliance, great communication skills, sense of humor, and easy going since the healthcare field is ever changing.”

Rebecca Hoppe, Home Care Manger, Ecumen North Branch: “I feel that an exceptional nurse has to listen without judgement, advocate for those he/she serves and give the information and tools needed for patients to make informed decisions.”