Healthy Workforce

10 Qualities of a Superstar Nurse

These characteristics separate the truly great from the “just getting by”

When I was a new nurse, I wanted to be just like Marianne. She was my role model for what it meant to be a nurse: caring, compassionate, and clinically excellent — I watched her grab the crash cart and defibrillate patients numerous times, in awe of her confidence and competence. Patients and their families loved Marianne, as did her coworkers.

After many years in this profession, I’ve been fortunate enough to come across a good number of superstar nurses like Marianne. I can tell you what makes them stand out from the rest.

Here are 10 qualities of a superstar nurse:

1. They are self-motivated.

Every superstar employee has a natural drive towards performing at the highest level possible. Such motivation isn’t something that can be trained into people. They either have it or they don’t — it’s intrinsic.

2. They commit to personal development.

An important characteristic of successful people is their commitment to self-improvement, independent of what their boss or organization requires. As the late Jim Rohn said, “A formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” He’s not just referring to money here. (My tactic for personal development is to read something instructional or inspirational every morning, without fail.)

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3. They build relationships.

From the housekeeper to the CEO, superstar nurses form relationships with every member of the healthcare team. Relationship management is one of the most important competencies for the 21st century. If you don’t have strong interpersonal skills, start developing them now.

4. They uplift and inspire others.

Superstar nurses understand that success happens on multiple levels, and they make it a point to uplift others on their team. They help everyone boost their performance, improve their morale, and become the best they can be. As the late Zig Ziglar said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

5. They are consummate professionals.

Nurses frequently complain that they are not always treated with respect as professionals, but truth be told, I’ve seen my share of unprofessionalism from my colleagues. Superstar nurses radiate competence and a commitment to their work, especially when interacting with others. What they wear, what they say (verbally, nonverbally, and in writing), and how they behave all have a professional gloss.

6. They communicate effectively.

Excellent communication skills are vital to the true superstar nurse. Being friendly, approachable, confident, and appropriately funny leaves a lasting impression on patients and on other members of the healthcare team. Those who are outstanding recognize the value in everyone they interact with and communicate accordingly.

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7. They adopt a positive attitude.

When superstar nurses cross the threshold of their workplaces, they choose to be positive, whatever may be happening in their own lives. Positivity spreads positivity, just as negativity does.

8. They are conscientious.

Superstar nurses know that any job worth doing is worth doing well. They commit to the quality of care they provide to patients, and they take pride in the organizations they work for. They remain vigilant in forecasting needs, managing emergencies, and monitoring patients. They document their processes on tasks and figure out ways to do them better.

9. They advocate thoughtfully.

Outside-the-box thinking can be valuable in the workplace, but effective advocacy takes thought and effort, not just voicing ideas or complaints. Superstar nurses know how to consider the organization’s position and resources so they can present viable, executable plans that make sense for everyone involved.

10. They are kind.

No matter what they face, superstar nurses always respond with kindness. They are kind to patients and their families, of course, and also to their coworkers, support staff, physicians, administrators, students, and instructors. Just as violence begets violence, kindness begets kindness. By focusing on cultivating these 10 qualities, you too can become a superstar nurse!

RENEE THOMPSON, RN, DNP, CMSRN, is the CEO and founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute (

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