How Do I Know if I Can be a Nurse?

Functional Abilities Essential for Nursing Practice and Essential Eligibility Requirement for Participation in the Nursing Program

  • Nursing is a practice discipline, with cognitive, sensory, affective, and psychomotor performance requirements. The following Core Performance Standards identify eligibility requirements for participation in the nursing program.

Category Description Examples of Necessary Activities (not all inclusive)

Gross motor skills: Sufficient to provide the full range of safe & effective nursing care activities.


  • Move within confined spaces
  • Sit & maintain balance
  • Reach above shoulders (e.g., I.V. poles)
  • Reach below waist (e.g., plug electrical appliance into wall outlets)

Fine motor skills: Sufficient to perform manual psychomotor skills.


  • Pick up objects with hands
  • Grasp small objects with hands (e.g., IV tubing, pencil)
  • Write with pen or pencil
  • Key/type (e.g., use a computer)
  • Pinch/pick or otherwise work with fingers (e.g., manipulate a syringe)
  • Twist (e.g., turn objects/knobs using hands)
  • Squeeze with finger (e.g., eye dropper)

Physical endurance: Sufficient to perform client care activities for entire length of work role.


  • Stand (e.g., at client side during surgical or therapeutic procedure)
  • Sustain repetitive movement (e.g., CPR)
  • Maintain physical tolerance (e.g., work entire shift)

Physical strength: Sufficient to perform full range of required client care activities.


  • Push & pull 25 pounds (e.g., position clients)
  • Support 25 pounds of weight (e.g., ambulate client)
  • Lift 25 pounds (e.g., pick up a child, transfer client)
  • Move light objects weighing up to 10 pounds (e.g., IV poles)
  • Move heavy objects weighing from 11-50 pounds
  • Defend self against combative client
  • Carry equipment/supplies
  • Use upper body strength (e.g., perform CPR, physically restrain a client)
  • Squeeze with hands (e.g., operate fire extinguisher)

Mobility: Physical abilities sufficient to move from place to place and maneuver to perform nursing activities.


  • Twist
  • Bend
  • Stoop/squat
  • Move quickly (e.g., response to an emergency)
  • Climb (e.g., ladders/stools/stairs)
  • Walk

Hearing: Auditory ability to sufficient for physical monitoring and assessment of client health care needs.


  • Hear normal speaking level sounds (e.g., person-to-person report)
  • Hear faint voices
  • Hear faint body sounds (e.g., blood pressure sounds, assess placement of tubes)
  • Hear in situation when not able to see lips (e.g., when masks are used)
  • Hear auditory alarms (e.g., monitors, fire alarms, call bells)

Visual: Sufficient for accurate observation and performance of nursing care.


  • See objects up to 20 inches away (e.g., information on a computer screen, skin conditions)
  • See objects up to 20 feet away (e.g., client in a room)
  • See objects more than 20 feet away (e.g., client at end of hall)
  • Use peripheral vision
  • Distinguish color (e.g., color codes on supplies, charts, bed)
  • Distinguish color intensity (e.g., flushed skin, skin paleness)

Tactile: Sufficient for physical monitoring and assessment of health care needs.


  • Feel vibrations (e.g., palpate pulses)
  • Detect temperature (e.g., skin, solutions)
  • Feel differences in surface characteristics (e.g., skin turgor, rashes)
  • Detect environmental temperatures (e.g., check for drafts)

Smell: Olfactory ability sufficient to detect significant environmental and client odors.


  • Detect odors from client (e.g., foul smelling drainage, alcohol breath, etc.)

Reading: Ability sufficient to comprehend the written word at a minimum of tenth grade level.


  • Read and understand written documents (e.g., policies, protocols)

Math Skills: Ability sufficient to do computations at a minimum of eighth grade level.


  • Counting: the act of enumerating or determining the number of items in a group.
  • Measuring: the act or process of ascertaining the extent, dimensions, or quantity of something.
  • Computing: the act or process of performing mathematical calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  • Read and understand columns of writing (flow sheet, charts)
  • Read digital displays
  • Read graphic printouts (e.g, EKG)
  • Calibrate equipment
  • Convert numbers to and/or from the Metric system
  • Read graphs (e.g., vital sign sheets)
  • Tell time
  • Measure time (e.g., count duration of contractions, etc.)
  • Count rates (e.g., drips/minute, pulse)
  • Use measuring tools (e.g. measurement tapes, scales, etc.)
  • Read measurement marks (e.g., measurement tapes, scales, etc.)
  • Add, subtract, multiply, and/or divide whole numbers
  • Compute fractions (e.g., medication dosages)
  • Use a calculator
  • Write numbers in records

Emotional Stability: Sufficient to assume responsibility/accountability for actions.


  • Establish therapeutic boundaries
  • Provide client with emotional support
  • Adapt to changing environment/stress
  • Deal with the unexpected (e.g., client going bad, crisis)
  • Focus attention on task
  • Monitor own emotions
  • Perform multiple responsibilities concurrently
  • Handle strong emotions (e.g., grief)

Analytical thinking: Reasoning skills sufficient to perform deductive/inductive thinking for nursing decisions.


  • Transfer knowledge from one situation to another
  • Process information
  • Evaluate outcomes
  • Solve problems
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Use long term memory
  • Use short term memory

Critical thinking: Ability sufficient to exercise sound nursing judgement.


  • Identify cause-effect relationships
  • Plan/control activities for others
  • Synthesize knowledge and skills
  • Sequence information

Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal abilities sufficient to interact with individuals, families and groups respecting social, cultural, and spiritual diversity.


  • Negotiate interpersonal conflict
  • Respect differences in clients
  • Establish rapport with clients
  • Establish rapport with co-workers

Communication skills: Abilities sufficient for interaction with others in oral and written form.


  • Teach (e.g., client/family about health care)
  • Explain procedures
  • Give oral reports (e.g., report on client's condition to others)
  • Interact with others (e.g., health care workers)
  • Speak on the telephone
  • Influence people
  • Direct activities of others
  • Convey information through writing (e.g., progress notes)

If you believe that you cannot meet one or more of these standards without accommodations or modifications, you may request appropriate assistance and guidance. The nursing program will determine, on an individual basis, whether or not the necessary accommodations or modifications can reasonably be made.

Validation Study: Functional Abilities Essential for Nursing Practice. National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. 1996. *Adopted from the Southern Council on Collegiate Education for Nursing (SCCEN). 1993.