TestGorilla LogoTestGorilla Logo

How to assess nursing skills


Communities rely on nurses to deliver care throughout a lifetime, serving everyone from newborn babies to the older population. Nursing is an ever-evolving field requiring specialized abilities to give expert care to all patients. Alongside technical skills in nursing, your candidates need soft skills like communication and compassion to interact with others on a human level.

A nurse’s learning journey never ends because there are always advancements in healthcare. New nurses or those changing roles should show their core nursing skills during the hiring process. This process is where skills-based hiring in the healthcare sector is most valuable. 

You can tailor an assessment to test the nursing skills of candidates, enabling you to shortlist skilled people for the role in question.

Read through this article’s content to learn how to assess nursing candidates by using skills assessments.

What is a nursing skills assessment? 

A nursing skills assessment is a customizable set of tests expertly designed to pinpoint the most suitable candidates for a nursing role. It tests job-relevant skills for nurses, including hard skills like medical knowledge and soft skills like decision making, time management, and communication. With skills assessments from TestGorilla you can tailor the assessment to match the exact requirements of the position you want to fill.

As an employer, it's difficult to uncover this information through interviewing alone. If you use tests that target these skills in particular, you can count on finding a candidate with the ideal mix of clinical, technical, and people skills. In turn, this will ensure your new hire can:

  • Perform physical examinations

  • Navigate clinical information systems 

  • Empathize with patients and their families 

  • Work effectively alone and as part of a team

  • Assess symptoms and administer the appropriate medication

Why are nursing skills important? 

Your nursing team is responsible for delivering high-quality patient care. It should consist of adaptable, organized, and caring personnel with relevant education and experience. Inadequate nursing skills can hinder professional performance and reduce the quality of care for patients.

Here are some of the top reasons why nursing skills are indispensable:

Patients are in safe hands

Skills in nursing are necessary for keeping patients safe and well. Adherence to patient-safety principles is essential for nurses to provide quality care and prevent errors. These principles ensure positive patient health outcomes, helping to:

  • Manage chronic diseases

  • Ensure continuity of care

  • Enhance preventative care

Those with the relevant skills can better navigate medical complications and emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, and seizures. They can think and act accordingly in high-pressure environments, administering treatment and reducing harm. 

Patient outcomes improve

Skilled nurses can influence patient health outcomes by providing expert care. They use their knowledge and professional skills, such as urgent care knowledge and patient assessment, to administer the right treatments, spot complications, and monitor patient conditions to ensure treatment works.

They also must:

  • Use active listening to acknowledge any patient ailments

  • Show compassion and genuine interest in patient well-being

  • Be respectful and trustworthy when treating patients

In turn, these actions speed up recovery time and reduce the risk of further health problems.

  • How can skilled nurses influence patient health outcomes graphic

Builds trust in the community 

People from all walks of life visit healthcare settings and put their trust in nurses and other medical professionals to care for them and their families. Trust is an essential part of the nurse-patient relationship that fosters positive outcomes, such as enhanced continuity of care. 

Research shows that patients report greater satisfaction, fewer symptoms, and higher quality of life when they trust their healthcare team. Therefore, the ability to make people feel comfortable and safe is one of the essential qualities of a nurse. 

Ensures comprehensive care

Nurses must be team players because collaboration among healthcare professionals provides comprehensive patient care. This means patients receive care that caters to all their needs, including physical and mental health. 

Effective communication, including active listening and written communication, is particularly necessary in this case because nurses must collaborate and coordinate care with fellow nurses and doctors. Also, they may need to communicate with family members about important care decisions, such as end-of-life care. 

Strengthens the reputation of the organization

When you fill your team with highly skilled nurses, you build an organization with a strong reputation. This outcome assures communities that they are in capable and caring hands and, in turn, attracts more great nurses to join your workforce.

What skills and traits are important for nurses?

Nursing is a complex career that demands individuals with expertise and attributes that set them up for success. There are some key skills and characteristics of nursing that you can look for in applicants. 

Time management 

Nurses handle multiple daily tasks, from assessing patients and administering medication to conducting physical exams and patient records. Nurses often face unforeseen circumstances, for example, when a patient’s condition changes or an emergency arises. Often, matters are time sensitive, for example, when caring for a patient in critical condition. 

Since people’s lives are at stake, time management is a requisite of a good nurse who can juggle priorities. Time management skills also help nurses take better care of themselves because managing time effectively can reduce stress and emotional toll. 

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret situations and take appropriate action while remaining rational. Since nurses constantly face complex circumstances, critical thinking enables them to make informed decisions about the next steps, whether deciding which patient to see first or selecting an alternative medication based on symptoms.

Nurses with critical thinking skills follow a specific process when administering patient care, including to:

  • Assess the patient

  • Diagnose the individual

  • Plan a course of treatment

  • Implement the course of treatment

  • Evaluate the outcome

It’s crucial to evaluate whether candidates have used critical thinking to complete duties such as these because it will tell you which candidates have sufficient experience for the role. You can complete this evaluation with the help of a skills test along with the interview process.


Your candidates must show effective communication skills because nurses interact with many people, including other nurses, doctors, patients, and families. Delivering the correct information clearly to others ensures patients receive the care they need while preventing misunderstandings that can lead to mistakes. 

Communication, such as oral and written communication, is important because nurses need to share technical medical information with non-medical individuals. Therefore, you should assess their communication skills with skills testing.

Clinical competence 

Clinical competency is necessary for nurses to perform duties in different clinical settings effectively. To be clinically competent, the applicant must have a solid foundation in medical knowledge, including an understanding of anatomy, pharmacology, medical terminology, and infection control. They can then integrate this knowledge into a clinical setting. 

For example, nurses need anatomy expertise when assessing a patient’s symptoms, pharmacology when administering medication, and medical terminology for charting and documentation. They’ll also have basic life support training to implement in emergencies.

Compassion and empathy

​​When people enter clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare settings, it’s often in times of distress. They might be battling disease or illness, dealing with a medical emergency, or visiting a loved one with poor health. In these times, people seek connection and emotional support from healthcare staff. 

For this reason, you need nurses who can build relationships and show compassion and empathy. These traits align with patient advocacy because they help guide and support patients through their healthcare journey, keeping their best interests at heart. These are essential traits that bring many people to the profession of nursing. 

Computer literacy 

Computer literacy skills and other digital technologies are increasingly important in modern healthcare settings. Advancements in technology are driving more accurate and efficient ways of working, and nurses must adapt to these changes and show proficiency in using computers. 

For instance, many facilities have switched from storing patient information on paper to electronic health records. There’s also the rise of telehealth platforms, where nurses need computer literacy to communicate with patients via virtual consultations and collaborate with other health professionals through emails. When nurses use these technologies correctly, it saves time and reduces human error.

Attention to detail 

A good nurse has excellent attention to detail, even in hectic situations. It keeps mistakes at bay, mitigating the risk of severe consequences, for instance, when measuring medication or keeping records. It also strengthens patient safety because observant nurses can recognize if their patient is deteriorating or spot changes in their condition that demand attention.

For instance, if a patient has a recurring lung infection, a nurse might need to monitor and recognize if they have worsening symptoms, such as a more severe cough. The outcome may include a longer life for the patient or an adjustment of treatment.


Adaptability equips nurses to navigate rapidly changing circumstances and manage them appropriately and promptly. Nurses might begin their shifts with a strict plan, but the unpredictability of patient care makes it difficult to adhere to it. 

Instead, they might find themselves juggling multiple tasks, such as answering patient questions, sourcing medication, or dealing with failing equipment. Therefore, it’s crucial to hire nurses who can switch between responsibilities without putting patients at risk.  

Multitasking is a risk factor for mistakes because nurses can lose focus or become overwhelmed. To handle these scenarios, you need an adaptable workforce to ensure patients receive the care they need.

When hiring adaptable employees, it’s crucial to encourage that adaptability and create a healthy work environment to ensure employee well-being because highly-adaptable nurses can still suffer from burnout.


Nursing is demanding, and patience is an essential attribute to have in this profession. Situations will arise that test a nurse’s patience, for example, when dealing with difficult patients or colleagues, if there’s a lack of medication, or when equipment is unavailable. 

They sometimes face frustrating circumstances, but when things get tough, they should remain calm and continue to work well under pressure. When you hire patient candidates, you help to ensure your nurse can handle distressing events with care and professionalism.

Skills and traits tests 

Up to five skills and traits tests form the custom nursing skills assessment that can help you discover your next hire. TestGorilla has a wide selection of tests to examine hard and soft skills before inviting candidates to interview. You can then feel confident they have what it takes to join your nursing team.

Are you ready to hire with confidence? If so, consider the following tests to build a custom assessment for prospective nurses: 

Communication test

See how well your candidates can communicate using our Communication test. It addresses the candidates’ understanding, interpretation, and handling of written and verbal communication. 

Also, it tests active listening skills and interpretation of non-verbal cues. Success in this test assures you hire nurses who can listen to patients and help those unable to communicate their distress verbally. 

Time management test

Applicants can prove their ability to prioritize, multitask, and juggle tasks in stressful situations with our Time management test. It features real-life workplace scenarios and asks them to solve problems in the best way possible, ensuring efficiency and productivity. 

Critical thinking test

The Critical thinking test helps you find candidates who can interpret information and make sound judgments through independent thinking, initiative, expertise, and reasoning. It covers the interpretation of sequences and arrangements to find conclusions, understanding cause-and-effect relationships, and recognizing assumptions.

Computer literacy (PC) test

Discover if candidates can use a computer, for example, when updating electronic health records, with the Computer literacy (PC) test. It evaluates entry-level knowledge of computers and their ability to use them in the workplace as necessary. It shows if they can handle basic tasks, like handling files and folders, sending emails, and using the internet.

Problem solving test

Solving problems is a core skill for all healthcare professionals because the sector continuously faces challenges. The Problem solving test considers analytical skills that enable candidates to respond to various situations by prioritizing and making decisions.

Leadership & people management test

Find nurses who can lead, guide, and assist others with our Leadership & people management test. This test follows Blanchard and Hersey’s theory of leadership and assesses if candidates can delegate tasks, authority, and responsibility; help others to learn and develop their skills; and provide guidance and feedback.

It identifies leaders and those who genuinely care about supporting others and sharing their skillset to strengthen workplace practices. 

Telehealth test

The Telehealth test won’t apply to all nursing positions, but it’s useful if you’re looking for a nurse to administer remote care. Around 20% of the US population lives in rural areas, where only 9% of physicians serve. For this reason, one of the most significant advantages of telehealth is to reduce health disparities in these areas. 

The Telehealth test determines if a candidate has the expertise, interpersonal skills, and time-management ability to deliver services effectively in remote conditions, from assessing symptoms to giving advice. It evaluates skills in telephone triage and the ability to collect data and monitor patients without seeing them in person. 

Recommended reading:

Nursing skills assessment FAQs

Do you want to learn more about assessing nursing skills? If so, you can find answers to frequently asked questions below:

How can I assess a nurse’s clinical competency during the hiring process?

Skills-based assessments are ideal for studying a nurse’s clinical competency in the pre-hire stages. Assessments with exercises using real-life scenarios enable nurses to apply their clinical expertise to a workplace problem using their analytical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving abilities. 

What are effective methods to evaluate a nurse's communication and interpersonal skills?

You can evaluate a nurse’s communication and interpersonal skills through in-person interviews and communication tests as part of a skills-based hiring process. In interviews, you can assess their behavior and verbal communication. With a communication test, you can address verbal and written communication skills, listening skills, and interpretation of non-verbal cues. 

What indicators should employers look for when assessing a nurse's attention to detail?

Employers can find detail-oriented nurses by examining their adherence to safety regulations, medication administration protocols, record-keeping, and patient assessment strategies. Being accurate and knowledgeable in these areas indicates strong attention to detail and thoroughness in various aspects of nursing work.

How can employers assess a nurse's ability to work under pressure? 

Asking a candidate to share past experiences of dealing with problems under pressure can give you an insight into their abilities. You can also implement assessments that test their handling of real-life scenarios, for example, through multiple-choice questions. The interview process can also give you an idea of how they handle pressure because you can observe their composure and communication skills as you ask questions.

How TestGorilla can help you find the right skilled nurse

Instead of hiring an applicant and recognizing their skills later, TestGorilla helps you find nurses with the right skills before you offer them a position. You can rest easy knowing that your new hires can deal with nursing challenges and excel in their roles because the assessment results show your candidates are good communicators, critical thinkers, and computer-literate individuals. 

Furthermore, you can identify and hire nurses with personality traits that a career in healthcare demands, such as compassion, empathy, and patience. 

With TestGorilla’s pre-hire tests, you can take a comprehensive approach to hiring, attracting, and recruiting highly-skilled nurses for your healthcare team.

Recommended reading: How to assess pharmacist skills

Get started with TestGorilla

With TestGorilla’s skills assessments, you can guarantee to find a candidate that matches your job’s requirements, your expectations, and the quality of care that patients deserve. Whether you’re looking for nurses to work in a hospital, doctor's office, telehealth, or a long-term care facility, you can find those with the essential skills to care for their communities.

Browse our test library today and begin planning your nursing skills assessment to find talent quickly. All tests are made and validated by our psychometrics team, who use the principles of test theory to create the framework before applying first-hand subject knowledge to ensure the most relevant tests.


Hire the best candidates with TestGorilla

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

TestGorilla Logo

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Free resources

Anti-cheating checklist

This checklist covers key features you should look for when choosing a skills testing platform

Onboarding checklist

This resource will help you develop an onboarding checklist for new hires.

How to find candidates with strong attention to detail

How to assess your candidates' attention to detail.

How to get HR certified

Learn how to get human resources certified through HRCI or SHRM.

Improve quality of hire

Learn how you can improve the level of talent at your company.

Case study
Case study: How CapitalT reduces hiring bias

Learn how CapitalT reduced hiring bias with online skills assessments.

Resume screening guide

Learn how to make the resume process more efficient and more effective.

Recruiting metrics
Important recruitment metrics

Improve your hiring strategy with these 7 critical recruitment metrics.

Case study
Case study: How Sukhi reduces shortlisting time

Learn how Sukhi decreased time spent reviewing resumes by 83%!

12 pre-employment testing hacks

Hire more efficiently with these hacks that 99% of recruiters aren't using.

The benefits of diversity

Make a business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives with this data.