Match made in nursing: Where does your personality fit?




Nurses, according to a long-standing tale, always can identify their colleagues who work in the OR.

Those nurses have to deal with specific instruments for certain procedures, patients in exact positions and being correct “down to the millimeter,” said Launette Woolforde, EdD, DNP, RN-BC, senior administrative director for patient care services at North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y. “OR nurses are the most stringent about this structure piece.”

So finding a nurse who enjoys scrutinizing each detail, and aligning that personality with the right specialty, can improve the quality and caliber of outcomes, Woolforde said.

“When you’re able to make that connection between that internal driving force, intrinsic motivation and the role, you’ll find that individuals will do things such as process improvement, improving a program, simply because they want the outcome to be of higher quality,” she said.

It also can make for happier patients.

“The right nurse in the right position is key to patient satisfaction,” said Donna Caccavale, BSN, MBA, RN, CIC, NEA-BC, vice president for nursing, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

Notable matches

Donna Caccavale, RN

Some specialties require nurses to have certain traits to be successful. For example:

ED nurses are easily identified because they’re energized by the fast pace of the department “[They] really function well under pressure,” Woolforde said. They also have assertive personalities and like the turnover of dealing with new patients, said Kathryn McLay, RN, senior HR business partner, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Perth Amboy, N.J.

Oncology and pediatrics often have nurses who are more soft-spoken, McLay said.
Community health nurses enjoy getting to know a variety of patient types one-on-one, seeing their outcomes and watching them progress, according to McLay.

Medical ICU nurses don’t need the excitement of something new every day like surgical nurses and can handle dealing with the dynamics of patient families, Caccavale said.

Neurological ICU nurses enjoy being “in it for the long haul” because they might not know a patient’s outcome for a year, Caccavale said.

Nurse educators, according to Woolforde, get their primary source of job satisfaction through seeing the growth of other nurses.

Nurse managers, meanwhile, can lead by influence, not brute force, because they are seen as honest and able to establish fellowships with their colleagues, Woolforde said.

Where does a nurse fit?

Launette Woolforde, RN-BC

“Most nurses are coming into profession with a pretty strong idea about what they want to be,” said Woolforde, who mentioned pediatrics, NICU and critical care among the most popular choices for new nurses.

One nurse who interviewed for a hospital job in pediatric oncology broke down when asked about how she would handle a child dying, McLay said. That nurse wouldn’t have made a good fit, according to McLay, because the specialty requires nurses to support the child and family.

Panel interviews and behavioral interviewing, however, can help determine whether nurses’ ideas fit with reality.

Along with seeking the right clinical skills, experience and education, nurses from a variety of specialties at Winthrop interview candidates looking for different personality types to find where they would fit best, Caccavale said.

The panel of nurses asks situational questions to learn about nurses’ experiences, such as how the candidates would handle a surgeon screaming at them. A good surgical ICU candidate can move past the emotion, not take it personally, and be able to get to the root of the problem, she said.

For a medical ICU nurse, the panel might ask how the candidate would handle a sick patient whose family withdraws care. The nurses want to find a candidate who has had that experience, who can handle family turmoil and do what the patient or legally designated family member want, Caccavale said.

Understanding a nurse’s values will help match that person to a rewarding job working at a high level, Woolforde said.

But along with personality, experience shadowing nurses in that field, volunteering in a hospital and speaking with someone who is practicing day in and day out is invaluable in helping a nurse determine the desire to pursue a specific specialty, said Amy Knowles, EdD, assistant dean for student affairs and admissions at NYU School of Nursing, Manhattan.

When circumstances change

Not all nurses stay in one specialty their entire careers. People change, and which specialty might be a good fit for them can change, too.

When Caccavale was a clinician, she worked with adults and children in surgical and cardiac care.

But when she started her own family, Caccavale said she knew she couldn’t do this type of work anymore because she didn’t want to see a child die. A nurse needs to be self-aware, she said, and mature enough to realize that change.

Nurses’ career aspirations, needs and goals in the profession will change as their lives change.

“Whether you change as a person or something happens in your life, you’re able to switch from maybe a pediatrics [unit] to an intensive care unit or the emergency room to home care,” McLay said.

Karen Long is a freelance writer.


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