Yin and Yang, light and dark, are two very different sides of the same coin. Personalities in nursing are diverse and represented by a wide spectrum. But does your underlying personality impact what area of nursing you should pursue or maintain? In a word, probably. While nursing as a whole requires some universal personality characteristics (attention to detail, multi-tasking, effective communication skills) to name a few, nurses in a specialty field may be better served by certain personality traits. There are a million stereotypes, some hysterical memes, and some truth behind them all, not all personality types necessarily work well for every nursing specialty. As these assumptions become more engrained within professional practices, and HR recruiters are increasingly utilizing personality tests and psychometric aptitude tests to make informed hiring decisions. That fact, opens up the world of conflicting beliefs, potential discrimination, and shattered plans of those that desire to work in a field that wants to exclude or include them based on a personality test.
According to an article in BMC Nursing, personality tests are being used, in addition to psychometric and aptitude tests, when placing nurses into roles during the recruitment process. However, the jury is out on exactly how useful these tests are. The article goes on to state that just a few of the concerns with personality testing would include cultural or gender discrimination, not to mention the ever-present concern of false or coached results and the lack of direct correlation between test results and position success. Specifically, BCM goes on to state, “Personality testing has the potential to play a role in the recruitment of nursing staff suited to a particular specialty, just as it has been considered in some medical fields, such as anesthesia. It is recognized that there is still considerable work that needs to be done in order to establish the usefulness of personality testing, including establishing valid and reliable methods of personality assessment, before it is to be incorporated in recruitment practices within the healthcare profession.” In other words, the use of personality testing should, at a minimum, be executed with exceptional oversight and recognition of its fallibility.
In addition to these risks, a very real question exists. With the current nationwide nursing shortage, can the profession afford to turn away willing and skilled nurses because their personalities do not mesh with what a personality test deems is an appropriate position? In a word, no. But could there be a place for personality profiles? The BMC article goes on to state, “Personality profile information may also be used to further explore stress/burnout and job satisfaction within defined nursing specialty areas for the purpose of improving retention.” This application may be the more prudent and conservative approach in today’s environment.
In fact, according to BCM, “If employees possess the personality characteristics that are best suited to the job, this will likely result in improved workplace efficiency, job satisfaction and retention of staff. All of these factors, in turn, have the capacity to influence the quality of care delivery. Clearly, identified personality characteristics linked to stress and burnout have the potential to enable appropriate interventions and plans to be put in place to assist in improving the nurses’ ability to deal with workplace stressors. This, in turn, would assist to reduce staff turnover in stressful work environments.”
In taking a look at two specific nursing specialties and the generally agreed-on personality traits most suited to each, we can see not only the overlap, but distinct personality features that might be different between the two specialties that would make those with personality traits.
Based on an article from Best Master of Science in Nursing, Emergency nurses would include those who typically work within trauma centers or ambulatory settings such as ambulances, helicopters, or urgent or emergency care centers. The environment is one of constant stress, movement, noise, and time-sensitive crises that require an immediate and thorough assessment of their nature. Given both the workload and the nature of the work, the Emergency Nurses Association states, “it takes special personality traits to be an emergency room nurse and retain the job while enjoying it.” Key personality traits listed by the Emergency Nurses Association include:
Within the field, perhaps considered the polar opposite of emergency or trauma nurses (based on typical personality stereotypes), would be Labor and Delivery Nurses. According to an allnurses.com article:
It becomes apparent, reading through the adjectives of these two diverse nursing positions, that personalities that flourish in one, may not flourish in the other. Neither position is better than the other, both are highly sought after positions with incredibly talented and driven individuals who bring exactly what is needed to their respective teams. But placing the right personality in the right position would certainly be likely to increase patient satisfaction as well as reduce turnover and frustration.
So, is there a place for personality testing in nursing? Maybe, however, instead of wielding personality tests like a weapon, as a method to exclude or include candidates, recruiters, and HR managers can utilize them as a tool to help nurses find their perfect fit. By working collaboratively to determine if burnout or diminished performance could be addressed by moving to a different specialty, more compatible with underlying personality traits, perhaps nurse retention can be increased. No matter what the future holds, nursing will continue to be home for those who all have one thing in common, a drive to help people and make the world a little bit better.