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How to hire a nurse


Nurses’ role in healthcare is often underappreciated – and yet, they are the heartbeat of healthcare facilities, dedicated to providing essential medical care, support, and empathy to all patients.

Therefore, when looking to hire a nurse, it's not just about finding someone with the right qualifications. You need to find the best candidate with the right mix of skills, dedication, and compassion required for the role.

In this article, we'll discuss how you can find the most skilled applicants, evaluate their abilities, and hire the most suitable registered nurse for your healthcare facility. 

We’ll also talk about interview questions you can ask, what the average salary for the role is, and explain how skills assessments can help you streamline the recruitment process.

What is a nurse?

Before we discuss the nurse hiring process, it's essential to understand what nurses do and look at the different settings in which they work.

Nurses are healthcare professionals who provide care to individuals and families, administer treatment, and perform and coordinate different medical procedures. They also provide psychological support to patients and help them recover from illnesses. 

Registered nurses (RNs) are healthcare professionals who have completed their formal education and training programs in nursing and typically hold a bachelor's or associate degree from a college. This means they need to pass a state licensing exam and thus doctors and other healthcare workers can trust them with complicated medical procedures.

Here are different types of nurses depending on the kind of work they do:

  • Medical-surgical nurses: These nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They take care of patients before and after surgical procedures, administer treatment during the hospital stay, and help make sure patients recover successfully. 

  • Critical care nurses: As the name might suggest, critical care nurses are trained to provide specialized care to patients in critical conditions, often in intensive care units (ICUs).

  • Pediatric nurses: Pediatric nurses specialize in caring for children and adolescents and addressing their unique healthcare needs.

  • Psychiatric nurses: These nurses focus on patients’ mental health and provide care and support to them, often in cooperation with psychiatrists. 

  • Oncology nurses: Oncology nurses work with cancer patients and provide treatment, support, and education throughout their cancer journey.

Hard skills for a nurse

Nurses need a vast array of hard skills to be successful in their roles. Some of the most essential abilities to look for are: 

Medical knowledge

That’s a no-brainer: While nurses never perform the actual surgery or manage the diagnostic process, they must understand different medical conditions, surgical procedures, and treatments specific to their area of expertise.

Be it cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, or any other field, nurses should have a good understanding of the latest research, procedures, guidelines, and advancements in the medical field to provide the best possible care to each patient.

Patient assessment

Doctors might not always be able to see every patient before and after surgical procedures, especially at large, busy hospitals. It's often nurses who make the initial evaluation of each patient.

For this, they need to be quick and accurate when reviewing patients’ condition. They must also be able to conduct comprehensive assessments, like to check the patient's vital signs, record past history, inquire about allergies, and monitor various symptoms. 

They need to be able to accurately gauge the urgency of each case and alert doctors in the event of an emergency. 

Medical equipment proficiency

Hospitals often use state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology that is not only expensive but extremely valuable in saving a patient's life.

Nurses should be adept in using and troubleshooting equipment such as advanced monitoring devices, ventilators, MRI or CT scanners, X-ray machines, and more. 

Depending on their specialization, they might also need to perform technical procedures on patients, such as administering chemotherapy or assisting with pacemaker insertions.

Records management

Just like doctors can't always meet every patient individually, they can't remember a patient's specific conditions in detail. It's the responsibility of the nurse to keep accurate records of the patient's condition, treatment plan, medications, and more.

Many healthcare facilities have transitioned to electronic health records for documentation purposes, so nurses must be proficient in navigating those and finding records quickly. 

Treatment administration

Administering medications safely and accurately is a core responsibility for nurses. In specialized hospitals, the use of new medications, sophisticated treatment regimens, and advanced equipment can make this task even more complex. 

Nurses must understand dosages and administration routes and be aware of potential drug interactions, side effects, and contraindications.

Skills that nurse candidates must have graphic

Soft skills of a nurse

A nurse’s role is certainly not limited to their hard skills: Nurses need a wide set of soft skills to effectively communicate with patients, build trust, and facilitate recovery. 

Skills such as empathy, active listening, and teamwork, improve patients’ experiences and help healthcare teams be more efficient. This, in turn, contributes to positive health outcomes – so it’s easy to see why soft skills are so essential. 

Empathy and compassion

Empathy and compassion are necessary skills for any nurse. They have to talk to patients and their families, educate them about treatment options, explain conditions and illnesses, and even provide some emotional support.

That’s particularly important in cases where patients are dealing with complex and serious conditions. Compassion helps the nurses build trust and rapport with patients and make them feel more comfortable in their journey to better health.

Effective communication

Hospitals can be very stressful workplaces, so nurses need to have excellent communication skills.

It begins with active listening: Nurses need to be attentive to the patient's concerns and questions to be able to provide tailored care and better information. They also need to understand what doctors need during surgeries and other medical procedures and provide it quickly.


Nurses have to collaborate with doctors, therapists, support staff, and other healthcare professionals regularly. They should be excellent team players who can communicate effectively within interdisciplinary teams and ensure efficient and coordinated patient care.

Nurses often have to deal with conflicts at healthcare facilities as well, such as: 

  • Conflicts between family members and hospital staff regarding treatments

  • Disputes within the healthcare team

  • Tension between patients at wards

They need to be skilled in de-escalating conflicts and finding solutions that benefit patients and teams.

Adaptability and problem-solving

Taking care of patients is a demanding career and nurses often need to deal with change. Nurses might have to adapt to new protocols, procedures, and technologies to deliver effective care. Specialized hospitals might use cutting-edge technologies that nurses need to quickly get familiar with and learn how to operate. 

Thinking on their feet and making the best of what's available is a crucial skill for nurses. They need to be able to make quick decisions in rapidly evolving situations and always find ways to provide the best care possible.

Stress management

Nursing can be quite demanding and traumatizing at times. Nurses must be able to manage stress levels efficiently and prioritize their well-being to provide high-quality care. Stress-management techniques are essential, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and seeking support when needed.

How to test nursing skills

Nurses are responsible for saving people's lives and assisting doctors in taking care of patients. They are among the most essential workers in any healthcare facility, so it’s important to know how to hire the best candidates.

Shortlisting nurses based on their resumes alone is neither effective nor ethical. It is necessary to assess nursing skills and abilities thoroughly before trusting them to care for patients and be responsible for their treatment.

Leverage TestGorilla's pre-employment skills test to shortlist candidates who are qualified to work in a medical facility and can fulfill their responsibilities. 

You can combine up to five tests of your choice to create a customized assessment to evaluate and find the best nurse for your team – and add qualifying questions to make sure they have the right formal training and have passed the state licensing exam. 

Here are some of the tests that you can use in your nurse recruitment process:

  • Motivation: In such a demanding job, motivation is essential. Use this test to see whether candidates’ expectations align with what you have to offer.

  • Attention to detail: Assess whether candidates are capable of paying attention to the tiniest details and get the right information from patients.

  • Communication: Use this test to evaluate candidates’ communication skills and active listening.

  • Critical thinking: This test will help you identify nurses who can think analytically, assess patients' condition quickly and make sound judgments.

  • Time management: Nurses need to administer medication to patients on time, prioritize tasks, and make sure they stay organized even on busy days. Use this test to evaluate applicants’ time management skills.

Interview questions to evaluate nursing skills

Once you evaluate applicants’ skills with skills tests and personalized questions, you’ll be able to easily shortlist your most promising talent. Simply invite the best candidates to an interview to gain a deeper understanding of their skills and experience. 

The right interview questions will inevitably vary from specialty to specialty. Below, you’ll find some general interview questions, plus a few for different types of nurses. 

General nursing interview questions

Here are some general questions you can ask nurses: 

  1. What qualities do you believe are most important for your profession?

  2. How do you handle emotionally charged situations, like delivering bad news or managing a grieving family?

  3. How do you prioritize tasks when you're assisting many patients with different needs?

  4. Describe a situation where you made a mistake. How did you handle it and what did you learn?

  5. How do you handle disagreements with other team members?

  6. How do you maintain effective communication with doctors, other nurses, and wider teams?

  7. Tell me about a particularly rewarding experience you've had as a nurse.

  8. How do you ensure patient safety in your day-to-day work?

  9. Describe your experience with electronic health record systems.

  10. Why are you interested in working at this particular healthcare institution? How would you contribute to our mission?

Interview questions for intensive care unit (ICU) nurses

Ask future ICU nurses some of the following questions to get a better understanding of their experience: 

  1. How do you prioritize tasks when multiple patients are in critical condition?

  2. How do you keep up with the latest advancements in critical care?

  3. Describe a time when you had to make a split-second decision.

  4. How do you cope with the loss of a patient?

  5. What strategies do you use to prevent errors in such a high-pressure environment?

  6. How do you ensure patients' dignity and privacy in an open ICU setting?

  7. How do you communicate with families during particularly stressful situations?

  8. What techniques do you use to prevent burnout?

  9. How do you handle the emotional toll of caring for critically ill patients?

  10. How do you handle a situation where a patient's family is in denial about their loved one's condition?

Interview questions for pediatric nurses

Pediatric nurses need to have a special talent for communicating with children and their families to help everyone feel more comfortable and reassured during stressful times. 

  1. How do you approach pain assessment in young children that might struggle to communicate effectively?

  2. Describe your strategies for educating young patients about their conditions and treatments.

  3. If you believe a child might be a victim of domestic violence, how would you handle the situation?

  4. Describe your experience with pediatric emergencies.

  5. What's your approach to children with special needs?

  6. Describe your strategies for educating young patients about their conditions and treatments.

  7. A family has a hard time coming to terms with their child's condition and starts blaming the hospital staff. How do you handle the situation?

  8. A child is scared of a medical procedure. What do you do to reassure them?

  9. How do you handle situations where the wishes of a child's parents conflict with medical advice?

  10. What’s your approach to helping patients with chronic illnesses? 

To these questions, you might add some of our nursing behavioral interview questions for a more detailed assessment of your applicants’ skills. For more ideas, check out our dental assistant interview questions – some of the questions there apply for all healthcare roles.

Where to find a nurse

Finding a highly skilled and qualified nurse for your healthcare facility can be challenging – and the same is true if you need to hire a part-time nurse to take care of a sick family member. Here are some avenues to explore when looking for the best candidate:

Job boards and online platforms

You can post job openings on popular job boards such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn to connect with a broad audience of professional nurses. 

Alternatively, you might use nursing job boards such as Nurse.com, Nurse.org, and AllNurses.com to attract a large pool of nurses looking for new job opportunities.

Healthcare recruitment agencies 

Consider partnering with recruitment agencies specialized in hiring healthcare staff. These agencies focus on matching healthcare professionals with suitable employers. 

Local nursing schools, universities, and colleges 

Campus recruitment is another effective strategy you could use. Contact local nursing schools, universities, and colleges to find recent graduates and get in touch with upcoming nursing talent.

Another great place to find potential candidates is by attending career fairs, workshops, or nursing association events.

Referrals and online communities

Leverage your professional network and consult with colleagues, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who may know qualified nurses seeking a new role. You can also use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to ask for recommendations.

If you're looking to hire a nurse to help take care of a sick family member, then referrals can be a great way to find the right talent.

How much does a nurse cost

The average salary of a registered nurse varies significantly based on their specialty, experience, location, and healthcare facility. Nurses in specialized hospitals tend to earn higher salaries than nurses working in clinics or government hospitals.

Experienced nurses with advanced degrees, certifications, and recommendations from trusted doctors will almost certainly cost more. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, a registered nurse in the US earned an average of $80,010 per year or $38.47 per hour in 2021, with the top 10% of nurses earning an average of $116,230.

Hire the best registered nurse without bias

Finding the right nurse for your healthcare facility is crucial: Your decision will impact patient care and the overall success of your organization. 

By using a combination of skills-based assessments and interviews you can find a nurse who meets the technical requirements and demonstrates the compassion and commitment necessary to excel in healthcare.

Streamline your nurse hiring process with the help of skills tests. Combine different tests from our test library for an efficient and bias-free recruitment with TestGorilla. Start your free trial today and hire the best nurse for your team.


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