What healthcare providers look for when they hire a nurse

  • The need for nurses is projected to grow in upcoming years, even after the surge in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • It could be a wise decision for aspiring nurses to highlight and refine certain skills to ensure they can successfully land the positions they want. 
  • Business Insider spoke with healthcare industry experts to find out the main qualities and skills healthcare providers are looking for in prospective nurses.
  • Soft skills like flexibility have always been important in nursing, but they’re more crucial than ever since the onset of the pandemic. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.



While industries like hospitality and transportation have been hard hit since the onset of the pandemic, jobs increased for healthcare professionals during both the Great Recession of 2008 and the 2001 recession. Similarly, healthcare experts expect to see a surge in demand for nursing after COVID-19. And in terms of pay, some nursing positions can yield up to six figures.

There are a few steps beyond obtaining a degree in nursing that nurses should take to get a better chance of landing these lucrative roles. Business Insider spoke with healthcare industry experts to get a breakdown of the most important skills nurses need in order to market themselves in the industry.

Soft skills like flexibility and communication

Soft skills are important in any industry. But they’re especially crucial in nursing, where nurses are constantly dealing with patient needs and unpredictable circumstances. 

Jennifer Dotzenrod, associate dean of student affairs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, said that soft skills like flexibility have become increasingly important during the pandemic. As nurses are redeployed to fill different needs, they need to think on their feet and quickly determine solutions. 

“The most important things that we always push with our students – and I would say during the pandemic even more so – are critical thinking skills, flexibility, and adaptability,” Dotzenrod told Business Insider.  

Vicki Salemi, career expert at job database Monster, said that soft skills are important during the pandemic, but they’ve always been important and will continue to be emphasized by employers. 

“How are they able to handle difficult conversations; how do they deal with conflict? Do they seem to be demonstrating kindness? Are they calm? Do they seem to have a peaceful demeanor and positivity?” Salemi said, listing some of the qualities employers would be looking for throughout the hiring process. 

Your resume can be a great space to highlight these skills. Dotzenrod said that automated tracking systems, or the databases that sift through resumes before they get into the hands of a hiring manager, are likely programmed to seek out words like “critical thinking” or “communication.” It’s also helpful to come to the interview prepared with examples that can exhibit these skills. 

Certifications beyond a master’s degree in nursing

A master’s degree in nursing is probably the most surefire way to get a boost in income. But certifications can also take your nursing qualifications to the next level — especially if you get certified in a particularly lucrative area. 

For example, the average annual salary for nurse anesthetists is over $150,000 a year, but they are required to participate in an anesthesia education program before taking a certification exam. 

Other certifications that healthcare providers are looking for right now include certifications in nephrology, or kidney health, and geriatric care, according to Salemi.

Speaking a second language can also enhance the skills you already have, but it’s important to have the right medical terminology in your second language. That’s why a medical interpreter certification can be helpful to give second language speakers the boost they need to use that language in the workplace. Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese are especially in demand. 

A solid understanding of technology

As the coronavirus pushes more meetings into virtual telemedicine appointments, healthcare providers are also seeking out nurses who have the ability to treat patients virtually. 

This is where soft skills, like effective communication and critical thinking, come in handy. But telemedicine also requires that nurses have a solid understanding of the technology needed to communicate with patients. 

“In telemedicine, it’s not only being able to have that patient care, but also being able to use technology. Those are the skills that employers will assess,” Salemi said.

And even outside of telemedicine, the ability to use technology around the hospital is crucial. Even something as basic as keyboard skills is an important skill for nurses to have. 

“You’ll need them to prepare for the increased speed that’s needed to document in electronic medical records,” Debra Cox, past president of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, told Monster. 

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