A registered nurse is an individual that has undergone higher education to obtain a nursing degree or to graduate from a nursing school. These highly skilled professionals provide patient care in a direct capacity, delivering essential services in a range of healthcare and community settings.
Those settings include hospitals, general clinics, schools, assisted living facilities and at-home patient care.
As well as performing general nursing duties, registered nurses can opt to work in specialised fields, for example, paediatrics, mental health or emergency care nursing. Whatever their field of expertise they play a vital role in patient well-being, using their extensive skills and knowledge to deliver effective treatment and care.
In this article, we discuss the skills and abilities of a talented registered nurse. We also look at how to test for these using pre-employment assessments, so you can be sure you take on the very best candidates in your next recruitment drive.
What should a registered nurse be able to do?
The exact duties of a registered nurse will depend on the setting in which they work and their specialist field. It’s also a very unpredictable career in which no two days are the same, so it’s impossible to provide a definitive job description here.
However, regardless of the specifics of a registered nurse’s employment, there are certain tasks that they should be able to complete to a high standard. These include:
Accurately administering medications and monitoring for adverse side effects.
Performing minor treatments such as those relating to superficial wounds.
Closely examining patients to determine their physical state.
Continuously monitoring vital signs and recording patient progress.
Assisting doctors with more advanced treatments and procedures.
Physically and mentally preparing patients in their care for upcoming operations.
Administering vaccinations and prescribing certain medications.
Working with other healthcare practitioners to devise, implement and monitor long-term care plans.
Educating patients and their carers on medical conditions and how to control them.
A registered nurse also needs to undergo continuous development, learning about new treatments, techniques and technologies that contribute to more effective outcomes.
Skills to look for in a registered nurse
To be successful in their general duties, a registered nurse needs a combination of technical and soft skills. Technical skills, such as the use of medical devices and equipment and the correct physical handling of patients allow them to provide appropriate standards of care.
Soft skills on the other hand are what separate a competent registered nurse from one that excels in their profession. These should be seen as essential when compiling selection criteria and include:
Time management: a registered nurse typically has many patients under their care simultaneously, particularly in a hospital setting. To ensure each and every one of them receives appropriate attention, registered nurses need excellent time management skills. They will also use these skills to ensure clinical paperwork is completed on time so as not to cause treatment delays.
Interpersonal skills: a registered nurse must be a people person with a strong desire to help others. They must be excellent verbal and non-verbal communicators that show empathy, patience and understanding. They must also be able to handle conflict and effectively deal with those suffering from anxiety. As well as using these skills when dealing with patients, they will apply them when working with other healthcare professionals.
Complex problem solving: as registered nurses are directly involved in patient care, they should have the skills required to explore all potential solutions to any given medical problem, and choose the one that will lead to the most effective outcome. Oftentimes, they will need to problem solve under pressure, so these skills need to be highly developed.
Active listening: a registered nurse that does not give their full attention when being spoken to cannot perform their job satisfactorily. They need to actively listen to all that is said to them, whether speaking with a patient, doctor or coworker, to ensure that no critical information is missed.
Professional judgement: it often falls to a registered nurse to make important decisions about a patient's treatment, for example, when putting together long-term care plans. For this they need to apply their professional judgement, suggesting what they determine to be the best course of action based on their experience.
Useful abilities for a registered nurse
To complement these essential skills, a candidate for the position of registered nurse should also be able to demonstrate key abilities and natural aptitudes. Though these are incredibly difficult to assess, they should not be overlooked in the selection process, as they can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful hire.
These key abilities include:
Critical thinking: from monitoring a patient’s vital signs to responding to an emergency situation, a registered nurse needs to be able to think on their feet and quickly react in a logical manner. This requires them to apply critical thinking, so they act on evidence rather than instinct.
Attention to detail: almost every part of a registered nurse’s job requires strict attention to detail, from correctly administering medications to keeping accurate patient records. Due to the fact they often work long shifts, they need to maintain this eye for detail for extended periods of time. They also need to ensure nothing is missed in a shift handover.
Flexibility: the work of a registered nurse is unpredictable, particularly for those that work in settings such as emergency and critical care. There’s no telling what situations they will face on an hour-by-hour basis, so it's essential they have the ability to adapt quickly and be flexible in their approach.
Integrity: patients put their well-being in the hands of a registered nurse so they must be able to trust them. To build trusted relationships, the nurse in question must display honesty and always put the best interests of the patient first.
Problem sensitivity: as well as highly developed problem-solving skills, a registered nurse needs a finely tuned sense of problem sensitivity. This is not about finding a solution to a problem, but rather knowing when a problem is likely to arise. This ability allows a registered nurse to implement preventative measures.
What soft skills tests could I use to hire a registered nurse?
Soft skills are difficult to assess until a candidate actually enters the working environment. You can of course use competency-based interview questions, but this would mean interviewing every qualified applicant, which is rarely feasible.
The alternative is to administer soft skills tests in the early stages of selection. These give you objective, comparable data on your applicant pool, helping you to shortlist the best of the best.
Soft skills tests you might consider for a registered nurse are:
Interpersonal skills: with this test you can determine if an applicant has the required people skills to effectively navigate life as a registered nurse. It looks at things like how well they communicate in different circumstances and how sensitive they are to the needs of others.
Accountability: this will tell you how responsible the applicant is, and whether they are likely to take ownership of the decisions they make on the job. An accountability test gives you peace of mind that a candidate will always put their patients first.
Time management: as the name suggests, this test is an excellent measure of an applicant’s time management skills. They’ll be asked to respond to a range of hypothetical scenarios that test prioritisation, task management and organisation.
Adaptability: here you’re looking at how flexible an individual will prove in a professional setting. Test results will show their capacity for adapting to change, rearranging their work schedule and adopting new healthcare approaches.
Teamwork: with a teamwork test you’re looking specifically at a candidate's ability to work alongside other healthcare professionals, all whilst keeping the patient’s best interests in mind. It tackles topics such as collaborative communication, negotiation and conflict resolution.
What technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a registered nurse?
To really understand the full potential of an applicant, it’s advisable to also administer relevant technical and aptitude tests. In the case of a registered nurse, these may include:
Error checking: this test measures attention to detail under pressure. Candidates must work through data sets to check for errors and inconsistencies answering as many questions as they can in a given amount of time, assessing not just their eye for detail, but accuracy and selective attention.
Logical reasoning: this looks at complex problem-solving capacity. Test takers are presented with a pattern containing shapes and symbols, the sequence of which is dictated by certain sequential rules. They must identify these rules and apply them to find the missing answer.
Verbal reasoning: critical thinking ability and verbal comprehension are tested here, with candidates required to draw logical conclusions from new information given in written passages of text. A high score shows someone capable of making evidence-based decisions at speed.
Situational judgement: in a situational judgement test, candidates must choose what they see as the most effective response to a range of hypothetical workplace scenarios. How they respond will give you insight into their professional judgement and decision-making skills.
Our recommended test battery for a registered nurse
With so many skills and abilities to look out for, it’s important to choose assessments that focus on the most essential ones. To help you do just that, here’s our recommended test battery for a registered nurse:
Time management: administer this test to ensure applicants possess the critical time management skills required for such a busy working environment.
Logical reasoning: this test will assure you that your shortlisted applicants have a well-developed capacity for complex problem-solving.
Error checking: use the error checking test to check if an applicant can work with both speed and accuracy under pressure.
Decision-making: a situational judgement test looks at various skills and abilities such as interpersonal skills, decision-making, integrity and teamwork, so it is ideal when recruiting for a registered nurse.
Find more information on how to hire a registered nurse on our registered nurse test page.