Can bedside manner be measured?

Posted 16 March 2012 by
Can bedside manner be measured?

Psychometric assessments are widely used to provide recruiters with a clear picture of whether a job applicant has the right competencies and behaviours to give them the best chance of succeeding in a particular job or sector.

Every role has a job specification and required personal traits to go with it. So, for example, if an applicant is going into a customer facing role in a busy, high-stress retail environment, the ability to multitask, calmly interact with customers and have great interpersonal skills are a must.

However, when a recent report suggesting that this kind of trait-based approach should be used more widely when recruiting nurses, it caused some debate. Given the kinds of people skills nurses are expected to have, shouldn’t some kind of personality assessment actually be essential?

The report was focused on elderly care nursing where first of all, having the right academic qualifications is a must. But as compassion, empathy, warmth and listening skills are also needed in order to provide adequate patient care, this side of an applicant’s qualities must be measured in some way.

Qualifications, past experience and references are a pre-requisite for any nursing role, but this can only indicate so much. Nursing comes with many other emotional demands and this is why some level of personality and behaviour assessment should be embedded into the recruitment and development process.

There are some links between personality type and job choice in the wider medical sector. Past OPP research has looked at the relationship between personality and selection performance across medical specialisms.

One research project showed a clear personality difference between GPs and neurosurgeons, with the most relevant results showing that students choosing to be GPs are warmer and more sensitive than students choosing to be neurosurgeons – this is in line with what most people would expect and hope for.

Other studies using the 16PF personality tool have shown that people choosing to work in family practice positions tend to be more empathic and tender-minded than those going into surgical roles; again, this is what we would want to see from people in those jobs.

Regardless of sector or job role, what is most important is that the right person is selected for the right job.

Ability to do the job should of course be the most important factor, but that should not just be reviewed in terms of academic capability – especially in roles where very specific personal traits can make all the difference in being able to perform to the standard that is expected or not.

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