Top Soft Skills for a Career in Healthcare

There is plenty that you need for a successful career in healthcare. Knowledge and training courses such as a DNP are obviously at the foundation of this type of career path, but there are also plenty of ‘soft skills’, which will help no end in making your time in healthcare much more successful. What is meant by soft skills? Well, these are the abilities that you pick up beyond your core clinical skills. You may find some of the below qualities you already have naturally, while you’ll need to work harder at others. These skills are usually based on human relationships, which are so essential when you work in a caring profession. Here is a quick overview of some of the top soft skills needed for a career in healthcare.


Right at the top of the list is empathy. If you can put yourself in another person’s shoes, this helps them feel more at ease and reassures them that you truly understand what they are going through. People often find themselves in highly difficult situations when they are in a healthcare environment. While the healthcare professionals’ clinical abilities may be first and foremost on their minds, they are going to register how much empathy they are treated with. Of course, empathy is also a difficult skill to ‘learn,’ but if you struggle with it, you can try to imagine what the patient is going through and how you would like to be treated if you ever found yourself in a similar situation.


Good communication is vital – particularly when you are working in a busy environment like a hospital. You are bound to be part of a wider team, where each member should be working together to achieve common goals. DNP training can also help with this. Not only this, but you will also have to communicate with the patient and their family members during a time that is likely to be highly upsetting and worrying. Good communication can also impact how well the patient follows their care routine with regards to any follow-up activities that they need to complete. So, if you are the kind of person who tends to keep an internal monologue rather than expressing things externally, you may need to push yourself a little bit harder on this front.

Work Ethic

Many people enter a healthcare environment as they want to make a genuine difference to their patients’ lives, and they understand that this is not going to be a typical 9-5 job – especially if you undergo additional DNP training. Instead, many of the jobs require working shifts and overtime. Work ethic can be developed from a genuine desire to work in this profession and the love of your job. If you struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed every morning, this can certainly prove to be a major issue. You can also find motivation by improving your skillset – perhaps through taking a course like an online DNP. The advancement of your personal career can help to give you the added impetus to keep moving forward.

Stress Management

There is no doubt that healthcare jobs can be amongst the most stressful in the world, especially if you are a DNP, so you must make an effort to mitigate this stress and manage it however possible. If you don’t have a successful stress management program, you are more at risk of suffering burnout. If possible, you should try to avoid taking your work home with you at the end of the day and find an activity that reduces stressful feelings.

Exercise is a proven way of reducing stress, and you could also try some mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises or yoga. The simple act of spending time with friends and family can also go a long way towards helping to relieve stressful feelings in your life. Their support can also be invaluable in juggling the other areas of your life, which may suffer because you are working in such a demanding job role.

Also, getting enough sleep on a nightly basis is highly important. This can prove to be a problem for healthcare professionals who work shifts. Still, you can make it easier to sleep by creating a restful bedroom, engaging in some relaxing activities close to bedtime, and avoiding stimulating substances like coffee and alcohol – particularly later on in the day. If possible, you should try to keep the same waking and sleeping hours, but this can obviously prove to be particularly challenging when you are working in a job in which you are required to work shifts or changeable hours.


When you work in a particularly stressful environment, it can be very easy to descent into negativity. However, a negative attitude can be a major problem as it is very easy for it to creep in gradually, before slowing taking over. Positivity can be found by reminding yourself that you are working in a highly important job role that makes a difference in people’s lives. It can be found in the relationships that you build up with patients and your fellow professionals. It can be maintained through the stress management techniques that we mentioned above. Most of all, it can be achieved by talking to others about what you are going through. Everyone needs that release valve from time to time to vent about the problems of the day, before picking themselves up and re-entering the working environment with a renewed sense of positivity.

Time Management and Prioritizing

Working in a healthcare role means that many tasks and responsibilities are time sensitive. It is all too easy for your time to run away, so you need to become particularly adept at prioritizing your time – particularly if you are studying a DNP at the same time. Ideally, you should have a to-do list of what you want to achieve. Whether you will be able to follow this closely or not depends on the flow of the day. If you are in a more senior position, it can significantly help with your time management if you can delegate and pass on some of your daily tasks to those around you. Being able to put your trust in your colleagues can be significantly beneficial to your job role.


When you first enter a healthcare job, it can be tough to have a great sense of confidence straight away. Often, this comes over time as you gain more experience. When you are starting out, you may have to project an image of confidence that will hopefully gradually become more ‘real’ over time. Confidence can also come from having a close working relationship with your colleagues and knowing that they have got your back. Further training, like a DNP, can also help. While confidence doesn’t necessarily feel like it can be explicitly ‘learned’, it is certainly something that can be developed over time. Of course, you don’t want to be overconfident when you are still learning and developing, which can have a negative effect.

Ability to Ask for Help

It may feel like a bit of a contrast to mention this one next but asking for help doesn’t mean that you are not confident. It simply means that you want to be sure of what you are doing, which is highly important in many medical roles. It also shows a desire and willingness to learn from those who are in more experienced or senior roles. Again, taking an online DNP can help if you are in this field. Of course, there comes a time when you need to display the confidence that we just mentioned in knowing that you are ready to handle a procedure by yourself.

Ability to Handle Criticism

When you are learning a healthcare job, you are inevitably going to face some criticism. Whether this is delivered well or badly, you should try to respond in a positive manner towards it, treating it as a learning opportunity rather than an attack on your character. Nobody enters this field, knowing exactly what they are doing right from the start, so don’t get offended when your performance is criticised. Of course, if there is an overly critical colleague, you may have to deal with the problem in another way. Conflict resolution is another valuable soft skill that is worth developing.


There are many scenarios in which patience is a virtue in the healthcare profession; you have to deal with a particularly difficult patient or fellow staff member when you are waiting for a treatment to take effect, especially when you are waiting for the end of your shift! Patience is often a quality that develops naturally over time – the longer that you remain in the profession.


In a job where you never know what you will face from one day to the next, adaptability is another useful soft skill. By demonstrating it, you can roll with the punches and not worry too much when things go a different way to what you expected. Of course, adaptability doesn’t mean that you are a pushover who cannot put your own stamp on the job role. There are also times to be firm in doing things your way. Knowing the difference can take time and patience.


When working in a healthcare role, you will inevitably find yourself working in a team of some description. The ability to work as part of a team comes more naturally to some people than others, but it is something that you can develop over time. While you may all have contrasting and sometimes contradictory personalities, you should all be pulling together towards achieving collective goals. There may be times when you need to make sacrifices for your colleagues. For example, you may be asked to switch shifts or stay late on an evening. It should be a two-way street, and your colleagues will have your back when you need them. If you want to progress to a more senior role, you could take a DNP or similar.


The final soft skill quality to discuss is attentiveness. The importance of this one should be quite obvious in the healthcare profession. After all, you are going to need to be attentive in looking after your patients who have various wants and needs.

How to Develop Your Soft Skills

Now that we have run through some of the top skills that are useful to a career in healthcare, you may be wondering about how you can develop them further. First, you should identify your areas of weakness, so you know what you need to work on. In some cases, there may be professional courses that you can take to develop your skills further. In other situations, these may be qualities that are best developed on your own. Whether it is empathy or confidence, identify the situation that requires the ‘soft skill’ so you can practice developing it. Do this enough times, and you are likely to find that it becomes like second nature.

Some of them are skills that you can work on at home through training courses such as a DNP. For example, in the case of stress management, there are a host of useful techniques that you can try, and it is a case of working out what works best for you. Some of them you can also practice in your personal life. Patience is certainly a virtue when you are dealing with children!

Developing your soft skills takes time, but it is invaluable if you are looking to advance your career in healthcare. All of the above virtues will contribute towards making you a better all-round professional who is capable of dealing with a host of different challenges as they occur. Like developing any skill, practice makes perfect. There may even be some that prove to be a lifelong battle, but simply showing the willingness to learn and develop will go a long way in the first place.

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