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OPINION

Getting to know all about you

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Does aptitude testing risk alienating nurses or will it help to mould a more caring, compassionate workforce?

This week Nursing Times surveyed trusts about their interview process for nurse posts (see news ‘Few trusts test nurses for compassion’).

From what we can gather, not many trusts use emotional aptitude tests but those that do say positive things. They say that aptitude testing helps to recruit nurses with the ‘right values and potential’.

But how much insight can you really gain into someone’s ability to care from a questionnaire?

If this process is taken on by more trusts does it risk alienating a wealth of nurses that would be put off by such intense and intrusive recruitment methods? Or will it help to mould a more caring, compassionate workforce? Something that most would agree the NHS desperately needs.

I took an online psychometric test for the job that I had before joining Nursing Times. The site told me to answer as quickly as possible and not think too deeply. It wanted to record my knee jerk response to questions like ‘Do you like being in a crowd?’ and ‘How would you react if a colleague gained a promotion?’ I’m not sure that the test really helped my employers to get to know me any better. It all felt a bit fake. And I found it pretty easy to second guess the response that I believed my employer wanted me to give.

But if there is any chance that aptitude testing works, then I believe nursing would benefit. Nursing needs nurses who can empathise with patients. And is damaged by employing those who can’t. But is testing at the job applicant stage leaving things a bit too late?

Maybe people should be tested at a student level for their aptitude to care when they are recruited onto nurse training courses. This would prevent nurses being swept into the rubbish bin after investing in training only to be told they don’t hold the right ‘aptitude, values and potential’. And could prevent nurses with the wrong attitude from being employed in the profession.

The thing is, if an aptitude test identifies a lack of numerical and verbal know how, this is something that can be improved on. But if an aptitude test identifies a lack of compassion, can compassion be taught? But maybe that’s the whole point.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • it works both ways. why are employers not looking at their own best practice to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of providing adequate working conditions, support and compassion to their staff. There should be aptitude tests for employers as well so that new recruits know exactly what they are getting into and if they are compatible with their prospective employer.

    I also think that if compassion tests have to be introduced it should be done at level of entry for training and not later in a career. although, one can ask, do levels of compassion change during a career depending on life's experiences and on support and treatment one receives from one's employers. It seems that most nurses start out with good caring attitudes and certain ideologies but become embittered for various reasons such as exploitation, not feeling valued, negative attitudes of employers, colleagues and the public, negative personal experiences outside the workplace, etc. etc. the list is fairly endless and has been well recorded in the press.

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