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The use of patient experts in values-based recruitment

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Recruiting the right nurses can be a tricky task, so Carly Huish and colleagues came up with a new way to do it. 

carly huish

I have been the project lead for the trainee nurse associates within my organisation for just over a year, having been seconded from my role as ward manager.

Following the successful completion of the first group of trainee nursing associates commencing as part of the first wave in January 2017, I have been recruiting for the second cohort, due to start in January 2018.

As with any recruitment process, the importance of selecting the right candidates for this new role was paramount. However I was keen to do this in a different way than previously by using values-based recruitment methods in order to ensure that the individual’s values and behaviours reflect our organisation.

In order to ensure we had the correct individuals at recruitment and to promote engagement and buy in, I invited our educational tutors and patient experts, along with key staff from the organisation including ward managers, current trainee nursing associates and mentors - as well as key university staff.

“The recruiting team took on the task of role play with enthusiasm and skill based on their vast knowledge and experience”

During planning of the recruitment event, input was sought from the patient experts and directors of nursing around the questions and scenarios to be used. This ensured that this was relevant to both patients’ and our own values.

Candidates were invited to the recruitment day, where they undertook an academic task facilitated by our educational lead from the university. This was then followed by the roleplay scenario. There were six options for the roleplay, including a patient wanting to self-discharge and a patient who had been diagnosed with dementia.

One member of the recruiting staff undertook the role of the patient whilst the second person sat and observed. The scenarios were assessed based on:

  • Appropriate eye contact;
  • Physicality;
  • Provision of assistance;
  • Evidence of compassion;
  • How they made you feel.

This was formulated into two scores.

Part two consisted of structured interviews around situational and behavioural scenario-based structured questions. Candidates were asked to imagine a set of circumstances and then indicate how they would respond in that situation.

The questions were written in line with our trust values i.e.– “you have been asked to work with a new member of staff an apprentice HCA”. After the first few weeks you notice that she does not appear happy and is very negative. What may your actions be? (Trust value-striving for excellence and acting with integrity). 

The outcome and feedback from this recruitment style has been positive and identified the key skills we wished to establish from the candidates, which can be hard to do in the more traditional style of interview.

These softer skills around compassion and communication are vital for delivering patient care and vital when working in the nursing profession.

My conclusion would be that, as nurses, we are so adaptable and creative. The recruiting team took on the task of role play with enthusiasm and skill based on their vast knowledge and experience.

As an organisation we feel confident that we have identified the correct candidates for this vital role in relation to our trust values and skills that are so important to our patients. 

Carly Huish is the project lead for the trainee nurse associates in Northern Devon Healthcare trust, and has a background of acute medical nursing. Carly is also a RCN steward and a member of the South West board for the RCN.




  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • At Essex Univeristy (Southend Campus) patients play a crucial role is interviews, selecting prospective candidates, and in participating in lectures etc. We have been doing this for very many years and it works really well.
    Patient involvement of general and mental health patients covers adult nursing, mental health students and social workers.
    We have a fantastic relationship with the university and our input is greatly valued by the students.

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