The Importance of Interpersonal Skills in Healthcare

When hiring a new candidate, what are the top qualities that come to mind? Sure, folks participating in final-round interviews should have the appropriate education and experience. Two boxes checked. But let’s dig a little deeper. What about who they are as a whole person, rather than just as an employee?

While hiring based on concrete qualifications (hard skills) is crucial in the healthcare field, there are more complex pieces that make up the ideal candidate, regardless of the position level. For example, a great candidate should have a student mentality, eager to learn and grow with a company, no matter how many years of experience they have. You want someone who is teachable, flexible, and open to listening to others’ perspectives.

Additionally, hiring mangers should seek out candidates who present as friendly, patient, and empathetic. These types of traits are referred to as interpersonal skills, also known “soft skills” or “people skills.”

What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are used in everyday life – at work, at home, at the store or otherwise. They are habits and strengths that we acquire over time through real-life experiences. These skills tend to shine through when we are in an uncomfortable, high-stress scenario.

As a hiring manager or recruiter, if you stumble across a resume that could use a boost, helpful feedback could be suggesting that a candidate include their top three interpersonal skills. For example, candidates who note that they have leadership skills, patient de-escalation skills, or a passion for providing excellent care to others, will likely sparkle and get the employer’s attention amidst a stagnant sea of mediocre resumes.

Interpersonal Skills in Healthcare

A stellar combination of clinical skills and soft skills are key in the healthcare field. Of course, everyone wants a nurse or technician who is confident in medical terminology and monitoring vital signs. And, equally, residents and their family members also need staff who are compassionate, calm under pressure, and willing to listen.

According to research from the National Library of Medicine, communication is “a fundamental clinical skill that, if performed competently and efficiently, facilitates the establishment of a relationship of trust between the medical staff and the patient, a truly therapeutic alliance.”

Soft skills in healthcare might look like: the ability to build relationships with residents and their family members, knowing how to appropriately communicate with a team and supervisors, handling stressful situations with tact, and remaining professional in all areas of their work.

How to Improve Your Soft Skills

Working to intentionally improve interpersonal skills will not only make someone a better employee, but a better person all-around. For example, if you know a candidate is actively wanting to improve their leadership skills, suggest that they find a mentor, either internally or externally. A mentor can provide tips and tricks and discuss tough scenarios that he/she has navigated and overcome. Additionally, thanks to the internet, there are tons of free or low-cost courses on how to improve interpersonal skills, such as this series through LinkedIn Learning.

The bottom line: Someone can have an amazing clinical background and multiple Bachelor’s degrees, but if they’re difficult to get along with, have a bad attitude or are unwilling to adjust to change, they can negatively impact the entire department, which could ultimately lead to burnout
, affecting patient care as well as the workload of other staff members.

From entry level healthcare worker to established leader, the truth remains the same: employees who possess and proactively work to develop both hard skills and soft skills are essential and a major part of the recipe for success within a healthcare organization.

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LeaderStat specializes in direct care staff, interim leadership, executive recruitment, travel nursing and consulting for healthcare organizations nationwide.