How To Build Confidence In Your Nursing Skills

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

In nursing school, you aced every exam and impressed all of your professors. Now, with your learned skills being put to the test, you find yourself constantly second-guessing your actions. Your senior nurses are just as baffled as you are and are now wondering what happened to the self-possessed and intelligent young nurse they interviewed just a few months earlier.

It is perfectly natural to lose your confidence when adjusting to a new nursing role, and this is especially true for those who managed to sail through to graduation. New peers and supervisors are putting you on edge, just when you have very real patients to take care of. Those patients will sense your hesitation and self-doubt, and you will impede their care unless you take steps now to gain your confidence back.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is one of those words that we understand at face value, but have a hard time quantifying. It is a factor of mental well-being that is determined by your level of achievement, sense of belonging, and your self-esteem. It has a lot to do with how you see yourself, but even more to do with how you perceive others to see you. Some of the common attributes of a nurse with confidence include:

  • Optimism
  • Independence
  • Assertiveness
  • Trust
  • Enthusiasm
  • Emotional Maturity

Humans look to people who possess confidence and admire their calm and cool demeanors in the eye of the storm. You can build your own confidence and become a more effective nurse by:

  • Counting Your Achievements – Make your own log of your most recent achievements, and refer to it whenever you feel self-doubt. This list can include exam scores from nursing school, recommendations from your professors, or something you did to help someone else.
  • Adding to Your List – Catch yourself doing something right and add it to your own nursing achievement list. This will be even more impactful when it is something that you previously felt unsure of, such as starting an IV or taking a patient history. This forces your mind to focus on the positive contributions you are making in nursing and encourages you to strive for even more.
  • Reaching Out to a Mentor – This may sound backward, but the truth is, confident people are those who are not afraid to ask for help when they need it. Ask your nurse mentor to watch over your shoulder as you perform a procedure for the first time or for advice on how to talk to a patient’s family members.
  • Setting Realistic Goals for Yourself – Give yourself some time to acclimate in your new role as a practicing nurse by setting goals for what you need to accomplish. Your confidence will build every time you are able to cross another one off of the list.
  • Rewarding Your Accomplishments – Self-praise helps to restore your confidence by acknowledging that you have reached an important milestone. Treat yourself to a special lunch, buy a new lab coat, or go for a massage when you feel good about the work you have accomplished as a nurse.
  • Sharing Your Glories – Pick a friend or family as your confidence building buddy, and share your accomplishments with them. Preferably this will be someone who will be overjoyed at your successes and gush over every little thing – like your mom. Confident nurses don’t need to point out every achievement to their co-workers and peers, but when you are working on building yours, it helps to have someone in your corner.
  • Allowing Room for Mistakes – To err is human, and as a new nurse, you might do this a lot. But rather than beat yourself up over every little one, make a commitment to learn from them. Once you have mastered the art of bouncing back over accepting defeat, you will have reached a new level of self-confidence.

Confidence is a learned trait, and a lack of it is not a permanent condition. Once you have regained yours in nursing, you will begin to develop faith in the future of your career and see all obstacles as surmountable challenges.

What Does a Confident Nurse Look Like?

You can easily pick out the confident nurses in your list of peers and strive to emulate them. They are the ones who stay smiling during a hard shift and take command during stressful situations. Patients will know them by name and feel more comfortable when in their presence, while doctors look to them when they need special help. A confident nurse takes on new challenges with ease, and will encourage you to do the same.

A lack of confidence is a career breaker in nursing. Create a positive cycle now by entering each shift with confidence, and soon you will find a domino effect of excellent actions and reactions. This will work towards making you feel even better about yourself, and inevitably a better care giver to your patients.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. This is an excellent article and something I wish someone had told me 30 years ago, it would have helped me tremendously. If I knew a new nurse just starting out I would give them this article.


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