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UK's largest NHS trust to test nurses for compassion

The UK’s largest NHS trust is to start using psychometric tests on its nursing recruits in a bid to assess their levels of compassion and the values they hold.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is to become one of the first acute trusts in the country to put its future nurses through a series of personality tests designed to assess their ability to offer compassion and preserve patients’ dignity and respect.

The news comes just weeks after Nursing Times exclusively revealed that a London mental health trust was also currently in the early stages of developing a new assessment process for nursing applicants, which includes looking at how potential recruits interact with each other to help gauge their compassion levels.

Janice Sigsworth, director of nursing at Imperial, told Nursing Times that the acute trust was developing psychometric testing to be launched in the next couple of months. 

‘We are also developing a letter which will be sent out to all potential candidates, which will set out the values of the organisation,’ she said.  Ms Sigsworth said that although these values were yet to be finalised they were likely to be ‘pride’, ‘respect’, ‘innovation’ and ‘care’.

‘We want to screen and recruit for the right values, and then train for skills,’ she added. The trust is also in the process of developing a hospital handbook to be given to every patient, which will set out what service they can expect from staff.

‘The crux of Lord Darzi’s NHS Next Stage Review was about personalisation. Society has changed and nurses have not necessarily changed to fit that,’ Ms Sigsworth said.

However, Peter Griffiths, director of the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College, London, said he had reservations about psychometric testing.

He was one of the authors of a report – State of the art metrics for nursing: a rapid appraisal (see attached document)– which was published last year and is seen as the first step in trying to quantify and measure the work that nurses do, including the levels of compassion they offer patients.

‘I am a bit prejudiced against psychometric testing,’ he said. ‘Many professions use it to test for the personality traits they are looking for but I’m not sure this kind of testing will achieve what it sets out, as people can get wise to them and they are easy to fake,’ he added.

Instead Professor Griffiths said he thought measuring the experiences of the patient was key to getting an idea of whether nurses were compassionate. ‘We need to remind staff what the whole thing looks and feels like through a patient’s eyes, because it is often very difficult to keep that perspective,’ he added.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I really don't agree with this. I went for an interview with BUPA a while back and they used this. I didn't get the job because the test said I wasn't compassionate enough. However I now have a job as an NA in the NHS and staff/managerial supervison say I am great at my job for this very reason!

    These tests will just put a brick wall up against genuine people who will work hard for the NHS.

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  • Phil Dup

    What a joke - more useless dross imported from USA Big Business Corps. Psychometric testing is not a true scientific method and is wide open to interpretation. To be honest any Trust using such hocus pocus voodoo nonsense is not a Trust to work for - using Psychometrics is living in the past and as such they will mess up big time in the future. We can say goodbye to the NHS at this rate....

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  • I agree with the 1st comment in that, whatever test is used needs to have been properly evaluated so good caring nurses aren't excluded from posts; to use this as the only tool to assess candidates' attitude to patients would be short-sighted.

    However, equally, having recently been on the other side of the fence as a patient, I was ashamed of the attitude/lack of willingness to involve themselves with patients of my own profession. I received far more understanding/time from the junior doctors than any of the nursing team. How did we lose our core value of 'caring'? And we are now at the point where the a lot of the current mentors have been 'brought up' in a system where focus had moved away from this basic value so risk it being perpetuated.

    I don't believe it's necessarily what the nurses themselves want - it's easier to pick up/criticise someone for having missed a piece of documentation than the 'invisible' but personal aspects of care, so is it surprising that nurses focus on these if working in that kind of culture? The positive point that should be taken from this article is that there are organisations that want to refocus back on 'compassionate care' from target-chasing, & I would feel encouraged to join an organisation with that ethos.

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