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Becoming a 'good' nurse

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You started your nurse training not only because you wanted to become a nurse, but because you wanted to become a good nurse. 
Adult nursing lecturer, Chris McLean, reveals how you can be the best nurse you can be.

Some people believe that being a good nurse requires only care and compassion. It is true that the professional values of care and compassion are the foundations of nursing.Your caring attitudes will have attracted you to a career in nursing and examining these is an ideal place to begin:

  • What do care and compassion mean to you? 
  • How would you recognise a caring and compassionate nurse?
  • Can you describe the caring and compassionate nurse that you wish to become?

These questions highlight that care and compassion are difficult to define, but as a minimum, ‘caring’ must involve respecting, valuing and responding to other people. Beyond this only you can decide what kind of a nurse you wish to become.

Caring about others also means wanting the best possible outcomes for them. It follows that a nurse who really ‘cares’ will want evidence about how to achieve these outcomes, and will need the skills to make decisions in complex situations. Care and compassion themselves require that a good nurse must have a brain as well as a heart. 

A caring nurse would not only want the best for others and know how this may be achieved, but would want to make a difference. It takes courage to respond to people who are distressed and vulnerable; to advocate patient care or to challenge and change practice. Above all it takes courage to be the nurse you want to be if you see others fail to value people as individuals or ‘cut corners’. A good nurse needs courage, as well as a heart and brain. 

In the film “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy’s three companions represent her anxiety that she does not have the “heart”, “nerve” or the “brain” to be the person she wishes to be.  Being the good nurse that you wish to be requires that you have heart, brain and courage. 

Becoming a good nurse

At the end of “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy learns that there is no Wizard: she had “the heart”, “the nerve” and “the brain” all along. No-one else can make you a good nurse. They may encourage you; challenge you; inspire you or help you develop particular skills, but ultimately you must do it yourself.  

If you wish to become a good nurse it is your care and compassion for others that will provide you with motivation to learn, and every day presents you with opportunities to develop. Every time you adopt a positive attitude towards learning something new, or arriving on duty is a decision about the kind of nurse you wish to become. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council require that nurses are of ‘good character’. Becoming a nurse demands character as it is about developing yourself.  ‘Good character’ means not only having the heart, brain and courage required to nurse, but having the personal integrity needed to make a commitment to becoming the nurse that you wish to be.

This is a huge challenge, but then the rewards are huge too. Nothing can reward your nursing practice as much as the feeling you get when you know that you are being the nurse, and the person, that you want to be. 

Chris McLean is a lecturer and field lead for adult nursing pre-registration studies at the University of Southampton.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Adam Roxby

    I like this article because it gives us optimism in light of some disparaging comments in the mass media about the caring attitude of some newly qualified nurses.

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