5 Qualities Nurse Heroes Possess

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Every year during May, nurses around the globe celebrate the wonderful world of nursing. It’s a time for us to reflect on the progress we’ve made over the years and also a time to recognize the amazing nurses who seem to rise above the rest. I call them heroes because they CHOOSE to make decisions based on what’s best for their patients – not themselves.

A nurse who hears gunshots coming from the triage room in the ED and while everyone runs out, she runs in.

A nurse who after his shift ends goes back into his dying patient’s room so that he doesn’t die alone.

A nurse who despite being tortured as a new nurse goes out of her way to make sure no new nurse is ever treated that way again.

These are the nurse heroes that we celebrate during nurses week. The good news is that they are everywhere and often go unrecognized. Why? Because being a hero is who they are. Being a nurse is a calling to them – not a job.

The good news is that every nurse has the ability to be a true hero. Because nurses interact with people all day, they have countless opportunities to show genuine kindness.

Nurse heroes have numberless qualities, but let’s address a few of them.

Communicate with Respect

When a person seeks medical care, they typically interact with a nurse fairly quickly. Of course, most times when someone goes to the doctor, they don’t feel well and are not necessarily on their best behavior. Patients come to us in all kinds of moods.

Our co-workers may not always be in the best moods either.

In this post, I talk about ways to LEAD a difficult patient toward respect. These techniques work with anyone you may come in contact with through your workday.

The acronym LEAD stands for:

L – Listen

E – Establish Boundaries

A – Acknowledge Your Limitations

D – Don’t Take Abuse

Though not always easy, nurse heroes find ways to speak respectfully to those they come in contact with.

Build Relationships

Every conversation you have with someone is building a relationship or tearing it down.  Hero nurses know how to build.

As you know, you have about 30 seconds to establish yourself as a caring, knowledgeable caregiver.

Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “ No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I think he may have been talking directly to nurses! Maybe not, but he sure could have been as this applies to nursing in so many ways.

In this post, I offer 10 of my best tips on successfully practicing nursing, and many of the tips directly relate to ways to build solid relationships.

Nurse heroes find ways to quickly establish themselves as caring, smart healthcare providers to the patients they see.

Extend Compassion

Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. 

Many nurses are driven by an intense compassion for others.

Once you have been in the nursing world for awhile, sometimes the feelings of compassion diminish. Bad experiences with co-workers and patients, stress, fatigue, endless amounts of charting, and many other issues play a part.

Nurse heroes find ways to look at each new interaction as a way to show compassion. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it takes a lot of compartmentalization to make it happen, but compassionate nurses have a leading role in creating the best patient experiences. How? By remembering that the elderly woman in bed 4 is someone’s mom. The male patient who is going through alcohol withdrawal is someone’s son. And the “difficult” teenager is going through something you hope never happens to one of your children.

Hero nurses are compassionate because they recognize every patient is a member of someone’s family.

Strong Moral Courage

As a nurse, you have likely had experiences that have called your personal morals into question.

Perhaps you encountered a patient with a lifestyle much different than yours, or maybe you had an unpleasant encounter with a coworker. Whatever the situation, you will have experiences now and again that rock your moral code.

Nurse heroes take the time to reflect on situations and learn ways to handle things moving forward. They also make time to strengthen their moral resilience.

Own your practice

Nursing is a career, and for many, it is a life calling.

The nice thing about referring to the “practice” of medicine is that it gives healthcare  professionals the chance to constantly improve.

There are many ways to improve your nursing practice. Taking additional courses, reading patient books, blogs and experiences help you see the healthcare world through the patient’s eyes, which is the view to concentrate on to improve the way you deliver care.

Nurse heroes take their jobs seriously and take full ownership of how they perform the duties of nursing. They consistently find ways to reflect on situations that happen and learn new ways to handle future encounters.

Nursing is a heroic profession. The nurse heroes who walk the halls of healthcare institutions help make the patient experience the best it can be.

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected!


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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at [email protected] to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.


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4 thoughts on “5 Qualities Nurse Heroes Possess”

    1. Thanks Adrienne. I agree! I’ve seen so much empathy and compassion from nurses. Noble profession!

  1. Bullying is alive and well. Expect to be pummeled if you are a “vocal” nurse who challenges the way things are done; fights injustice ; advocates for patients and your coworkers or yourself. I have been a psych nurse 30 years and often “punished ” for my advocacy. ( I reported abuse going on in a personal care home my company serviced. I was pulled out of the facility and it was not investigated) one of the administrators actually said it was “up to the owner of the PCH as to how they wanted to run things.” despicable! I lost the ability to protect my patients and lost compensation.
    Fight bullying by using your mind ( Hypnosis) but also take a stand to leave a position and a company that will not be ethical.

    1. Bullying IS alive and well but there are so many of us who are out there doing our part to stop it. Bad behavior shouldn’t be considered the norm!!

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