Technical Skills in Nursing

A profession filled with variety, in both environment and population served, offers choices from a vast array of potential technical skills in nursing. Every nurse begins with training in foundational skills, to include clinical assessments to computerized charting. From there, whether you work in emergency rooms, intensive care units or in some other specialized or general medical setting, the use of unique technical skills is a professional certainty.

Nursing in Critical, Intensive and Emergency Care Settings

To work in an emergency room or intensive care unit means learning an entire range of skill sets for every major organ system. Intensive care units specialize in cardiology, neurology, trauma care and many other areas. Emergency departments include a lot of variety and pace. Nurses working on other specialty and general medicine units use most of the skills listed here:

  • Cardiology — use of telemetry devices and advanced lifesaving training (ACLS)
  • Pulmonary — chest tube, ventilator and airway management
  • Neurological — lumbar punctures techniques and conscious sedation
  • Gastrointestinal — tube feedings and ostomy care
  • Endocrinology — specialized diabetic care and glucose monitoring
  • Wound care — use of wound-vacs, specialized dressings and advanced skin care
  • Phlebotomy — starting and managing IVs, central lines and other ports
  • Orthopedics — cast care, traction management, pins, immobilizers and use of assistive devices
  • Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat — operating fluoro and Woods lamps, specialized eye care
  • Urology — dialysis and management of urinary diversion devices
  • Oncology — use of chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapies
  • Transport — emergency ground and flight nursing
  • Social — assessment of elder and child abuse
  • Psychiatric — therapeutic intervention skills with a variety of mental health issues

Perioperative Nursing

Pre-op nurses are skilled at preparing patients for surgery and work closely with anesthesia providers. Both scrub and circulating nurses staff the operating room. Scrub nurses work in the sterile OR setting and handle all instruments and equipment used during surgery. Circulators supervise the bigger picture, ensuring the OR is properly set up, scheduling workflows and acting as liaison. Recovery room nurses make sure patients are stable enough to be transferred or to go home.

Neonatal, Labor & Delivery and General Medical Care

Labor and delivery nurses use special equipment, such as sonograms and fetal Dopplers, to monitor the progress of labor. Before and after delivery, specialized nurses employ skills unique to maternity, childbirth, newborn and post-partum care. As with most nursing specializations, education is a critical component of the profession. These range from childbirth classes to lactation consulting.

Technical skills in nursing may or may not be as highly evolved in general medical or as surgical as those in critical and emergency care settings. Even so, all nurses have expertise with skills that require extensive training.

Tags: nursing, surgery, dialysis, Pulmonary, radiation

Charles R. Hooper, MSW

About Charles R. Hooper, MSW

With over 20 years experience as a medical social worker and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have been honored to dedicate most of my professional life to service in health care. I have worked in multiple medical/nursing settings, including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, trauma care and others. I also founded the medical social work program at a regional trauma center and a very busy emergency department. View all posts by Charles R. Hooper, MSW →