I think you are asking a great question. In fact, it is one of the standard questions I have used when I interview for a job -- especially when I am in the process of applying for a job. I ask the question of everyone I interview with so that I can find out what they value and so that I can be sure that I will be a good fit for the position. I also use it to find out if the different people I meet during the interview process have views that are compatable with each other. I wouldn't want to accept a job on a team that had a lot of disagreements within their group about what they valued in a nurse. Finally, I usually ask the opposite question along with it. I ask, "What qualities would lead to say that someone was a really bad nurse?"
Anyway ... to give you my answer to the question ...
I look for 4 major things when I am looking for a good nurse.
1. Critical thinking skills. Call it what you will, but I look for a nurse with a good head on his/her shoulders ... someone who is smart and who can think through a situation well to problem-solve the situations that arise. I can teach a good nurse the factual information and/or the procedures necessary to do the job -- but I need a well-functioning brain to work with.
2. I look for someone who puts her patients' needs above his/her immediate personal comfort, desires, or needs when on duty. While none of us should allow ourselves to be abused by our employers, coworkers, or patients, there is a need to "give" more than "receive" in being a good nurse. While on duty, a good nurse says, "It's NOT all about me."
3. Interpersonal skills. Nursing involves working with people -- patients, colleagues, employers, etc. The interpersonal skills are critical to a nurse's success.
4. Positive attitude. A good nurse maintains a positive attitude through adversity. That includes the basics, such as not being a b**** with your colleagues -- as well as things such as being able to respond positively to change, being able to counted on in an emergency, etc.
Again ... I can teach facts and skills. The things listed above are harder to teach and often make the difference between success and failure as a nurse -- and they tend to distinguish the good nurses from the bad ones.