African-American nurse in a contemplative pose

Am I Smart Enough To Be a Nurse?

Learn about the qualifications for this rewarding career path.

African-American nurse in a contemplative pose

A quick Google search of the question “am I smart enough to be a nurse?” turns up a surprising amount of verbatim results, which means that a lot of people who are interested in a career in nursing are asking themselves this question. And that means that a lot of potential nurses are avoiding pursuing their dream because of their fear of failure. But in the end, the question shouldn’t be “am I smart enough?” but “am I willing to work hard enough?”

There is usually a GPA requirement of some sort at every nursing school, though that exact number will fluctuate by school, program, or whether you’re attempting to transfer credits (requirements for Unitek College, for example, generally land between 2.0 and 3.0 depending on your specific course or program). And it makes sense that certain GPA requirements exist… after all, your nursing school must make sure you know what you’re doing before you take over the care of patients.

But here’s what’s important to remember. There will be nursing students who ace every test and nursing students who struggle to make that passing grade, but once the tests are passed, and the scrubs are one, those grades don’t matter any longer… all that matters then is how hard you work, how much you remember from your training, and how much you care for your patients.

While intelligence is important in nursing, it’s just one aspect of success in this field. This blog post covers the key dimensions of nursing, including academic intelligence, emotional intelligence, and various soft skills. Learn more about this path and explore how to become a nurse or the highest paid nursing jobs to see if healthcare is right for you.

Nursing School Requirements

There are several pathways to becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), or a Registered Nurse (RN). Below are quick breakdowns of the different paths you can take to become an RN.

How to Get a BSN

Essentially, everything about the BSN degree comes down to leadership. Registered nurses fill a vital, necessary role in the healthcare community, and the BSN degree builds on the skills and clinical experience earned in ADN programs.

In addition to clinical skills, BSN students also learn more about communication, critical thinking, and other management skills. Overall, this combination allows BSN holders to take charge and make positive changes in their healthcare settings.

The best nursing schools typically offer three pathways to a BSN degree:

  1. Full Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  2. Advanced Placement
  3. RN-to-BSN

Full – The Full Bachelor of Science (BSN) is a three-year program that prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

Advanced Placement – If you’re already an LVN, you can complete the BSN through an advanced placement program that usually takes about two years.

RN to BSN – This is a degree-completion program that transitions associate degree RNs into bachelor’s degree RNs. This can take about 1 year to complete.

Whether you have a high school diploma or years of nursing experience, these pathways can lead you to a BSN degree and create a foundation for career advancement.

Young nurse in scrubs typing on a computer

How to Get an ADN

An Associate Degree in Nursing is another valuable option for aspiring nurses. While an ADN takes less time to obtain than a BSN degree, it requires more time than a Vocational Nursing diploma program. In addition, this alternative route does not offer the same benefits or prepare nurses for the same levels of responsibility as BSN graduates.

If aspiring RNs pursue an associate degree, they will complete about two years of study at a community college or a vocational school. ADN courses typically include basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, emergency care, nutrition, and more.

As with many healthcare degrees, an ADN program tends to blend hands-on training with class work. Graduates equipped with this degree might find work in various medical settings, such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, insurance carriers, or offices of other health practitioners.

Here are the educational requirements for becoming a Registered Nurse:

  • Earn a Nursing Degree: Obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. A BSN is often preferred and may enhance job opportunities.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized test to obtain a nursing license.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Acquire experience in Registered Nursing. You can start with entry-level positions. Once you have gained a certain degree of experience (such as two years), you can pursue further certification or specialization.

Soft Skills and Emotional IQ in Nursing

Nurses must maintain a diverse set of skills and qualities to thrive in their complex roles. Some of these attributes include clinical skills, leadership roles, and evidence-based practice. Perhaps a nurse’s most important quality is their emotional intelligence, or emotional IQ.

What does this mean, you ask? Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand and manage emotions. In the field of nursing, it means you are capable of promoting effective communication, compassion, and conflict resolution. There are so many benefits to maintaining a high emotional IQ in this profession. Here are just a few:

  • More effective leadership
  • Quicker solutions to workplace conflicts
  • Boosts positive nurse and patient dynamics
  • Supports collaboration with other medical professionals
  • Creates a safer, more trusting environment for everyone
  • Helps nurses better understand their own emotions, recognize burnout, ask for help, etc.

There are several methods you can use to hone your emotional IQ. One of the best things you can do is to truly listen when someone is speaking with you. This means that you listen to understand and not just to respond. In addition to practicing active listening skills, try to foster a positive outlook, prioritize emotional skills, maintain boundaries, and remember why you chose this profession.

As you can see, the importance of empathy, compassion, and bedside manner cannot be overstated. The field of nursing is a competitive landscape, so soft skills can contribute to your effectiveness and help you stand out amongst your competitors. Plus, emotional IQ will only become more vital as technology and AI become more widely used in healthcare.

Male Latin nurse assisting an elderly man with a cane

Communication Skills in Nursing

Effective communication with patients, families, and fellow healthcare professionals is crucial for optimal care and ensuring patient safety. Nurses must not only help but understand their patients, which will allow them to demonstrate kindness, sincerity, and empathy. You must also learn how to use essential communication skills in high-stress situations.

Think about it like this: Communication skills are vital when it comes to collaborating with colleagues, following medical protocols, and building trust with patients. Nurses who truly listen to their patients and understand their concerns will be better equipped to handle issues as they arise. Poor communication can lead to improper care and even fatal patient outcomes.

Here are some effective communication skills for you to practice:

  • Speak with clarity, honesty, and accuracy. Always be aware of your tone of voice and the words you use. Avoid pet names and confusing technical language.
  • Maintain nonverbal communication as best you can. This means keeping an eye on your facial expressions and making eye contact. Don’t forget your body language, tone of voice, and posture. Even a smile can completely change an interaction.
  • Try to actively listen to your patients. Nod your head occasionally as they speak, smile without staring, sit down when possible to be on their level, and never use threatening body language—you want to appear open and engaged. You can offer some positive verbal reinforcement, such as “Please continue” or “I understand.”
  • Don’t forget your written communication skills. When it comes to communicating with other healthcare professionals, written communication skills are king. You must carefully maintain and update each patient’s medical record. Your work must be accurate so that the patient can receive the best possible care. Write legibly and clearly, include accurate times and dates, and make timely notes (you don’t want to forget anything).
  • Use presentation skills when transferring care to another medical professional. This time is also known as the “handover.” Whether it’s another nurse or healthcare provider, you should demonstrate effective presentation skills. They can also come in handy for conference presentations, case reports to physicians, and job interviews.

As always, be aware of your body language and verbal communication. Add visuals to your presentation whenever possible. Perhaps most importantly, know your audience and their needs.

Organizational Skills and Time Management in Nursing

As you can imagine, nurses must manage a unique workload with multiple responsibilities. Being well-organized and efficient with time is imperative for delivering quality patient care. This is especially vital when it comes to managing complex healthcare scenarios. Time management will also help you meet the demands of a fast-paced nursing environment.

Close up of a nurse in scrubs using a computer

There are several strategies for developing organizational skills and effective time management plans (prioritization and multitasking are chief among them).

  • List your tasks by priority and create a plan. Any to-do list worth its salt will start with the most important tasks and work downward. The ones at the top are vital to the well-being of your patients. With a tiered system like this, you can meet patients’ needs (and your own) in real-time.
  • Delegate whenever necessary. Not only does this add to team cohesion, but delegation allows you to focus your energy on the right tasks. Of course, remember to only reassign tasks in accordance with your state’s laws and the patient’s condition. You must always know what’s safely (legally) permitted before you take action.
  • Save low-priority tasks for calmer or slower periods. While these tasks are also important, they are not urgent, so they can be saved for quieter moments. Being proactive can also prepare you to react faster later, so try to tick more items off your list during these times.

In addition, it’s a good idea to plan out your week. Include padding (or buffers) for your most crucial commitments. Assess your calendar often and make changes as needed. Remember that early is better than barely on time, so try to arrive at your commitments at least ten minutes early. Remember to take breaks, too, and leave work at work. You have to take care of yourself before you can be a superstar nurse.

Work Ethic in Nursing

Work ethics are essential to the practice of nursing. If you think about it, nurses perform countless critical tasks every single day. That’s a lot of pressure, and it can be quite demanding; this is why the very nature of nursing requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong work ethic.

The nursing code of ethics helps guide nurses. It necessitates that these caregivers consider patient needs from various viewpoints and maintain the best care possible. Nurses should exercise flexible thinking and practice humility in the workplace. The American Nurses Association (ANA) states that nursing ethics covers areas like the following:

  • Advocacy
  • Caregiving
  • End-of-life concerns
  • Moral courage
  • Moral resilience
  • Cultural awareness

You may not realize it, but you’re likely familiar with several areas of ethics in nursing. Confidentiality is at the root of HIPAA, which means that nurses cannot discuss information about their patients. Nurses should also practice accountability, holistic treatment, patient advocacy, and the promotion of equality. If a nurse sees each patient as a person and values their individual needs, then they are on the right track.

Integrity in Nursing

In a similar vein, integrity is one of the essential tenets of nursing. Not only should you adhere to a code of morals, but you should practice forthrightness and maintain an aura of trustworthiness. Aspiring nurses should explore the ethical considerations and moral integrity required in this field. This is because integrity is the foundation for trusting relationships with patients as well as colleagues.

There will always be challenging situations that may test your integrity. We want to provide some guidance on how to navigate ethical dilemmas and find your voice as a caregiver in the medical landscape.

Nurse holding blocks with virtual healthcare symbols

Practicing integrity means that you maintain core values and actively demonstrate them. Here are just a few ways to show integrity as a nurse:

  • Always be honest. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Honesty is the best policy.” If you make a mistake, don’t hide it—own up to it right away. This will allow you to make amends and learn from the mistake. Remember to be tactful and compassionate while owning up to your mistakes.
  • Practice dependability. Make sure you are punctual and start work on time. If you get sick or experience an emergency, call your supervisor ASAP. You want to be someone that your patients, colleagues, and employers can count on.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated. Respect goes a very long way. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter their circumstances. If you treat everyone with equal consideration, you will demonstrate both professional and personal integrity.

Other ways to show integrity in nursing? Give credit where credit is due, follow company rules, and help others when possible. Above all else, become a positive, shining example for others to follow. You don’t have to be in a supervisory or leadership position to do this. Simply be a positive role model for others by having a great attitude, helpful nature, and respectful communication skills.

Are You Ready to Become a Nurse?

While intelligence is vital to the profession of nursing, we hope this blog post has shown that nurses also possess a diverse skill set for success. Intelligence is just one aspect of success in this field. In addition to academic intelligence, the ideal nurse has a high emotional IQ, great integrity, work ethic, and more.

“When I first started nursing school, I heard from other nursing students who were above me how hard nursing school was and how all these people failed….etc.,” writes Sarah at RegisteredNurseRN in her blog. “My advice to you is don’t listen to them…. they are being negative… if you put the time and effort into it, you will pass… I’m not any smarter than the average person, and I’m doing just fine, and if I can do it, you can trust me!”

And the numbers back Sarah up. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, over 80 percent of first-time test takers (who were educated in the U.S.) passed the NCLEX-RN exam for RNs. The numbers are similar for aspiring nurses who take the NCLEX-PN exam for LPNs or LVNs.

So, does this mean that nursing school is easy? Nope. In fact, nursing school has to be challenging because life as a nurse is challenging (but rewarding). There’s a lot you have to know and to really know something takes a lot of work, study, and practice.

Don’t let doubts about whether you’re smart enough to be a nurse stop you from becoming a nurse. If you are willing to put in the work, there’s a very good chance you’ll be wearing the pin and the scrubs one day. And remember, your faculty is there to help! There will naturally be things you struggle to fully comprehend, but your teachers and lab instructors are there to make certain that you do.

Use your faculty, use your school’s resources, study hard, and make wise time-management decisions. You’re smart enough to do this. The only real question is, how much do you want it?

In conclusion, it’s crucial that you reflect on your personal readiness to meet the challenges and responsibilities inherent to the nursing profession. Create a checklist for yourself that assesses your preparedness, covering aspects such as academic readiness, emotional intelligence, and commitment to ongoing learning.

Smiling male nurse in glasses holding an open folder

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here

In summary, this article sheds light on the challenging but exciting career path of a nurse. Aspiring nurses should consider all aspects of a successful career, such as emotional intelligence, academic readiness, overall integrity, and work ethics. If you follow this path, you can find a career that makes a profound impact on patients as well as their families.

Interested in nursing education? Unitek College offers tailored programs to help you transition into the healthcare field and become a nurse in a shorter duration. Start by checking out the LVN to BSN Advanced Placement Option for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. We also offer a Vocational Nursing program, Practical Nursing program, and ASVN program.

Our courses are designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career. Join us today!