Great nurses are the heart of every successful practice. What makes the perfect nurse? Strong technical skills are the foundation, but the job requires a wealth of so-called “soft skills” as well. When you’re recruiting a new nurse for your team, here are five must-have qualities to look for.
1. An exceptional sense of empathy
Nursing is the classic caring profession, and a great nurse needs more than technical proficiency to be really effective. It’s not an easy task to remain understanding, calm, sympathetic, non-judgmental and comforting under challenging circumstances – and yet that’s what the job requires. The quality of empathy can be difficult to measure in an interview, but look for clues in the way applicants talk about patients. Ask about a difficult encounter with a past patient, and listen for the way they frame the incident, the language they use, and how they feel about it now. Can they imagine themselves in the patient’s place? Professional personality tests are another way to gain some insight into the level of empathy you can expect from a new hire.
2. Strong communication skills
Nurses need to be able to communicate well with patients, doctors, coworkers and technicians in an often pressured and fast-paced environment. They need to be able to take accurate notes and write up patient reports without errors. They are frequently in the dual role of liaison and advocate, and need the ability to answer patients’ questions and anticipate their needs. Effective listening skills are critical. Though the communication demands of nursing are highly specialized, they are intrinsically linked to everyday communication skills. You can see that an applicant is detail oriented in a resume and cover letter free of typos and clearly laid out. Do they converse easily and effectively in the interview? Good eye contact and intelligent questions are great indicators.
3. A strong work ethic
Professionalism, diligence and reliability are deeply important qualities in your nursing staff. You need nurses with the organizational skills and attention to detail, physical endurance and flexibility to cope effectively with whatever the day may bring. Great, detailed references are the best way to get a glimpse of what you can expect from a new hire.
4. A good balance between independence and teamwork
You’re looking for a nurse with the ability to solve problems, think critically, and use his or her intuition, but you also need someone who can integrate seamlessly with a team. Hours can be long, and the work can be stressful, so everyone needs to be able to pull together and support each other. A sense of humor and generosity towards patients and coworkers alike will go a long way. Miscommunications or disagreements can be extremely dangerous in a medical setting, so the ability to handle conflict constructively is a must. Again, it’s a good idea to ask the applicant to talk about past experiences where they used both sets of skills.
5. A thirst for knowledge
A nursing degree is just the beginning. A strong interest in staying on the cutting edge of medical developments, technology and patient care best practices speaks to a sharp mind and a deep commitment to excellence. Ask the applicant about the most interesting journal article they’ve read recently. Look out for recent certifications or enrichment courses on their resume, and ask if they are interested in ongoing development opportunities. It’s a good way to understand the level of passion they will bring to the job.
A nurse who embodies all of these traits is a treasure who will support your patients and your practice in a hundred ways. Hire them, and hang on to them!
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