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Nurse Staffing: The Ideal Candidate

What makes for a great nurse or a great nursing candidate for your team? Is there a typical ideal nurse personality? The answer depends on who is asked. Some hiring managers value punctuality and a process-oriented approach. Others look for enthusiasm and a team spirit. And let’s not leave out empathy, compassion, and the innate desire to help people feel better that is at the core of every good nurse’s work ethic.

Right now, nursing shortages mean that facilities are scrambling to get and keep good staff. Even so, bringing on the wrong person, someone who’s not a good skill or cultural fit, does more harm than good. Here are six key nurse personality traits that are often identified as essential for a good nursing career:

  • Compassion
  • Respect
  • Keeping cool under pressure
  • Detail-oriented
  • Good communicator
  • Knowledgeable

There are plenty more characteristics, of course, because nurses are just as diverse as the entities that employ them and the patients they provide care for every day. That being said, here’s a breakdown of these skill sets, and why they matter when hiring new nursing staff and assessing those already on board for training, continuing educational, and managerial opportunities.

  • Compassion. The best nurse is a caring nurse. They want to make a difference in every patient’s life, every day. When hiring, ask nurse prospects about patient experiences that stand out—and why. Ask what they find most rewarding about nursing, as well as outside activities. Those answers will highlight that nurse’s empathy, as well as where their talents might be directed within the organization.
  • Respect. Nurses are part of the facility’s “chain of command,” often working under the supervision of other nurses, and supervising technicians and other care-team support. To succeed, nurses must be able to recognize their roles in that chain and be able to follow instructions as well as give them.
  • Keeping cool under pressure. Hospitals can be frantic places. Sure, there are slow periods, and there also are times when every alarm is going off at once, the phones are ringing, meds need to be delivered, doctors are tapping their fingertips on the counter… you know the drill. No one can be 100 percent calm all the time, but good nurses can pivot to the priorities and exude the kind of professionalism that calms patients and brings it all down a notch.
  • Detail-oriented. Providing care means recording data, now more than ever. Reading a chart wrong, or recording data incorrectly can have devastating consequences. Bedside stats, ongoing monitoring, and other chances to collect numbers and input them are vital to patient care, as well as operational mandates.
  • Good communicator. Nobody likes a coworker who sulks in silence or assumes the rest of the team already knows what’s going on. Nurse rounding, for instance, has gone a long way toward improve total-team communication. Being able to discuss patient needs, as well as their own, is essential for today’s nurses to perform well.
  • Knowledgeable. Some nurses want to stay in Med-Surg their entire careers; others have their eye on the CNO office. For them, and everyone in between, ongoing training and continuing education should be a goal. If someone has no interest in learning new skills, they’re going to be left behind and become a liability rather than an asset.

Anyone who works in HR will say that there’s always a laundry list of qualifications for the prefect candidate, that “unicorn” who can do it all. Realistically, the goal is to find someone with the right attitude and skill set to be a good fit to the team and culture of a healthcare provider. By assessing some core attributes, you can go a long way toward identifying and onboarding that person.

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