Practical Nursing Essential Skills

By law, a prospective nursing candidate must demonstrate the physical and psychological ability to provide safe nursing care.  With this legal requirement as a guide, every prospective student must assess his or her ability to provide safe and competent nursing care prior to choosing nursing as a career.  To understand the physical and psychological qualifications needed for successful nursing, the essential abilities have been listed below.
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Physical and Psychological Requirements
Qualifications Standard Examples of Necessary Activities
Critical Thinking The nursing student must possess critical thinking ability sufficient for clinical judgment.
  • Utilize the Nursing Process as a basis for solving nursing problems.
  • Identify cause-effect relationships in clinical situations.
  • Participate in the implementation of nursing interventions from the established plan of care.
Interpersonal Skills The nursing student must possess interpersonal abilities sufficient to interact with individuals, families and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds.
  • The student must be able to establish helping relationships with patients, families and significant others
  • Establish rapport with clients, families, staff and peers.
Communication The nursing student must possess communication abilities sufficient for interaction with others in verbal and written form.
  • Assist in identifying client’s teaching needs.
  • The student must be able to participate in the develop and implement action of the establish teaching plans.
  • The student must be able to convey nursing actions and patient responses to health care team members both verbally and in writing.
Mobility The nursing student must possess physical abilities sufficient to move from room to room and maneuver in small spaces.
  • Move around in patient rooms, bathrooms, workspaces, and treatment areas
  • Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Motor Skills The nursing student must possess gross and fine motor abilities sufficient to provide safe and effective nursing care.
  • The student must be able to calibrate and use equipment, e.g. administer injections, insert catheters, manipulate intravenous equipment, and position and transport patients.
Hearing The nursing student must possess auditory ability sufficient to monitor and assess health needs.
  • The student must be able to hear monitor alarms, emergency signals, auscultatory sounds (breath and heart sounds) and cries for help
Visual The nursing student must possess visual ability sufficient for observation and assessment necessary in nursing care.
  • Observe patient responses to treatment, such as changes in skin color, work of breathing, or facial expression
  • Read the scale on a syringe.
Tactile The nursing student must possess tactile ability sufficient for physical assessment.
  • Perform palpation, functions of physical examination and/or those related to therapeutic intervention e.g. insertion of catheters, palpate a pulse.
Weight Bearing The nursing student must possess the ability to maneuver/move 40-50 pounds, weekly and sometimes daily.
  • Position patients to perform therapies
  • Moving and relocating heavy equipment
Emotional The nursing student must possess emotional stability sufficient to maintain composure in stressful situations.
  • Cope effectively with stress in the workplace
  • Cope with client and colleague emotions calmly
  • Receive corrective feedback calmly
Environmental The nursing student must possess the ability to tolerate environmental stressors.
  • Adapt to variations in work schedules
  • Work safely with chemicals used in healthcare settings
  • Practice Standards Precautions in the clinical settings
  • Work in areas that are close, crowded or noisy

The above listed requirements are essential skills that a student must possess in order to progress satisfactorily through the nursing curriculum. A prospective student with a disability that is concerned that the disability may impact his or her ability to perform one or more of these skills, provide patient care, or participate in other job activities, is encouraged to contact a disabilities services counselor for assistance by calling 919-536-7207.

Occasionally, a student may experience a change in the status of these requirements while progressing through the curriculum. Should this occur, the student is required to notify the clinical faculty. The student will be provided with referrals for professional assistance. Each student will be given the opportunity to meet clinical objectives within a reasonable amount of time as determined by the program director in consultation with the helping professional.

However, a student may be denied continued enrollment in the Practical Nursing program until any identified issue is resolved. Should the issue remain unresolved after a reasonable period of time, the student may be dropped from the course.

To verify a student's ability to provide essential nursing care during clinical training, a physical examination is required of all students. This examination will be documented by a physician/nurse-practitioner on the form provided by the Admissions office.

All prospective students must be in stable emotional or mental health. This must be documented on the student's physical examination form and signed by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner.

Likewise, all students completing the Practical Nursing program and applying to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) must sign an affidavit of physical and mental competency to safely practice in North Carolina. The North Carolina Board of Nursing provides forms.

Signature Required

Please sign the Essential Skills form certifying that you understand the physical and psychological requirements needed for providing safe respiratory care.