Most hospitals are focused on finding nurses who are compassionate and patient-centered. But how can you be patient-centered when you are pulled in a thousand different directions? Your selection system probably targets the requisite clinical and technical skills, and the obvious behavioral competencies: Compassion, Attention to Detail, Quality Focus and Decision-Making. What about the ability to multitask?
From a research paper on the topic, Interruptions and multitasking in nursing care:
- Nursing care requires complex thinking processes including making inferences and synthesizing information.
- The environment is fast-paced and unpredictable.
- The cognitive load is extremely heavy and the work environment is fragmented, interruptive and multitask driven.
- Interruptions and multitasking can predispose individuals to making errors.
- Nurses in the study experienced as many as 18 interruptions per hour!
How do you use this information in your selection system? According to Paul Glatzhofer, I/O Psychologist and the head of our Select Interviewing program, multitasking is tough to evaluate, but “you can use a behavior based question and make sure to tap a specific example of past behavior. For example - tell me about a time that you had to accomplish two tasks at the same time. What did you do to make sure everything was done? The interviewer should collect three pieces of info - the background of the situation, the actions the candidate took, and the result of the situation.”
Well-designed pre-employment assessments can provide insight into a candidate’s ability to handle stress, and work under pressure, but have a hard time getting directly at multitasking. Our own Ted Kinney, Ph.D. is a leading researcher in the field and notes, “a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that planning/organizing, conscientiousness, or polychronicity work; but they don’t. ” See a recent article on the topic, quoting Dr. Kinney: http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/story.jsp?storyId=453264130
Our research and development team has taken on the challenge of creating a new tool to
evaluate the ability to multitask in a nursing environment. We’ve been using similar tools in manufacturing around the world for almost two decades. Our soon to be released Select Assessment for Nursing is built on proven concepts from the renowned Select Assessment for Manufacturing (SAM) and Select Assessment for Customer Service (SACS). The new tool is being piloted and initial results are promising.
Until it’s available, think about multitasking as you consider selection competencies and how you evaluate them. Glean what information you can from a structured, behavioral interview and a sound, predictive pre-employment assessment targeting the right competencies. Evaluating motivational fit is also helpful as some nurses lean toward fast-paced, multitasking work environments, and some do not.
No matter how many technological and process improvements we make, we can’t completely eliminate the unpredictable and interruptive nature of the nursing environment so we’d better consider it as we build our team.
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