Characteristics of a Nurse: 10 Qualities to Look for When Hiring

Image of content creator smiling at the camera
Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Image of content creator
Reviewed by Danielle Roques, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare

If your healthcare facility is affected by the nurse staffing shortage, nurse hiring is likely an ongoing challenge. It takes a team effort between human resources and hiring managers to attract qualified nurses to your facility. As your team collaborates, they may be wondering what characteristics of a nurse they should be looking for when interviewing candidates.

In this guide, we share 10 of the top skills and qualities of a good nurse to look for during the hiring process. Having a good understanding of the needs of your facility will help you write a more effective job description and reach the right candidates. Once you nail down what you’re looking for in a candidate, be sure to check out our guides for selecting the best RN interview questions and LPN interview questions to ask potential candidates.

What Are the 10 Characteristics of a Good Nurse?

You’ll be able to see a nurse’s clinical experience and education on their nursing resume. This is an effective way to quickly determine if their background aligns with the role. However, it takes further investigation to uncover a nurse’s soft skills, which can be just as important as clinical skills.

Prior to selecting potential candidates, define what qualities you need to have in nurses at your facility. Here is our list of top characteristics to help you get started.

Chart showing 10 characteristics of a good nurse

1. Empathy

Most nurses are naturally empathic, meaning they understand others’ feelings. This is a useful quality when dealing with difficult patients or families. Patients are at their most vulnerable in the healthcare setting, and emotions often run high. Having empathy allows the nurse to separate themselves from a situation to understand what the patient is going through and provide non-judgmental care.

2. Integrity

During interviews, hiring managers often ask candidates what characteristics of a nurse they think are needed to be successful. These types of questions may open the conversation to a nurse’s values, such as integrity. Nurses should take pride in their work. Integrity means always doing what is right for the patient, even when no one is watching. This quality lends itself to a strong work ethic, which fuels nurses through long and strenuous shifts.

3. Teamwork

Nurses function as key members of a multidisciplinary team, and the ability to work well with everyone is a must. A team-player mentality is equally important within a team of nurses. A strong nurse is aware of the needs of their unit and is willing to help colleagues in times of need.

4. Professionalism

To determine what characteristics of a nurse help them to stand out from the crowd, consider your organization’s professionalism standards. Being professional means a nurse:

  • Shows up on time for work.
  • Follows the uniform policy.
  • Works well with others.
  • Doesn’t take things personally.
  • Has high-quality work standards.

5. Communication

Nurses should have strong communication skills, both written and spoken. Strong interpersonal communication is especially important when relaying pertinent patient information to providers.

In fact, nurse communication is included in the Joint Commission’s national patient safety goals. According to national safety standards, nurses are required to communicate and document critical labs within an established timeframe.

Written communication is put into practice with documentation in the electronic health record (EHR). Nurses should provide clear documentation, sometimes in narrative form, of events that occur during a patient’s stay.

6. Critical Thinking

Keen decision-making skills and the ability to think autonomously are important characteristics of a good nurse leader. Critical thinking guides decisions when responding to a patient’s change in status. Having an organized thought pattern and following the chain of command is crucial when emergency situations arise.

7. Attention to Detail

Of the characteristics of a nurse that are helpful in any specialty, one in particular stands out — attention to detail. Whether a nurse titrates drips in the ICU or catches a medication error before it happens, every detail matters when it comes to patient care. On a given shift, a nurse is expected to notice subtle changes in areas like:

  • Patient assessments
  • Vital signs
  • Drug doses
  • Intake and output
  • Lab results

8. Time Management

Nursing students learn the art of time management in nursing school, but it’s a skill that’s best developed with experience. It’s necessary to manage a daily nursing workload and all of the tasks included in each patient’s care plan.

9. Adaptability

So many variables are constantly changing in a nurse’s job — from patient workloads to the technology that drives workflow processes. Nurses must demonstrate adaptability to change. The way a nurse handles change can be an indicator of how they function in a fast-paced healthcare setting.

10. Lifelong Learner

Provision seven of the nursing code of ethics says nurses should have a commitment to advancing the profession through research and scholarly inquiry. This involves participation in professional development, evidence-based research, and professional standards development. A nurse’s commitment to improving their practice allows them to evolve and grow with your organization.

Find Qualified and Capable Nurses Today

Now that you’ve established the characteristics of a nurse that would stand out at your facility, you’re well on your way to recruiting and hiring high-quality candidates. If you need help finding nursing professionals to apply for your vacant positions, consider posting them on our national nursing job board. Start the process today by posting your next job with us for free.

Reach 1 million+ nursing professionals

with the IntelyCare Job Board