30 Common Nursing Interview Questions And Answers
- by: careercrawlers
- April 26, 2020
If you are a current or future nurse and applying for work in the medical profession, then this guide will help you prepare. We have gathered the MOST common nursing interview questions and answers. The interviewer will typically ask two types of questions during your interview: General, for example, your work history, key strengths, relationships with co-workers, etc. You will also be asked Behavioral type questions, which are situational based to determine what actions or processes you would take in a given scenario. So, how did we gather these questions? We used what we believe are the two MOST effective strategies. First, we teamed up with the leading nursing recruiting agencies who have firsthand knowledge of the type of questions asked by interviewers. Secondly, we’ve spoken to nurses and receive valuable information on how to prepare for nursing interviews. Who better to ask since they have gone through the process and succeeded.
Before we go into our questions and answers, we would like you to do an exercise that we believe will ease your preparation for everything else to come. In other words, it will help you HIT a home run while preparing for your interview.
We recommend browsing over the job description because it does hold clues into what strengths the interviewer would be more interested in. For example, let’s explore the following posting in Denver, CO – RN – Registered Nurse – Home Health – Flexible Hours.
After browsing the job description, we’ve listed a few responsibilities from the job description below. For example,
“Instructs participants and family regarding medications and treatment instructions.”
“Performs general nursing care on participants, including administering prescribed medications and treatments.”
“Assesses and re-assesses participants to determine individual needs and to ensure the least restrictive environment. Assesses participants to determine the change in condition that necessitates a change in the level of care and coordinates the plan of care with Home Care resources.”
So, now your task is to highlight next to each responsibility what you think are the necessary skills required to carry out each of these responsibilities. Before reading our answers, take 5 minutes to jot down your thoughts.
Here are our answers in blue:
“Instructs participants and family regarding medications and treatment instructions.” (SKILL SET REQUIRED: communication, ability to pay attention, empathy)
“Performs general nursing care on participants, including administering prescribed medications and treatments.” (SKILL SET REQUIRED: patience, communication, following instructions, reporting)
“Assesses and re-assesses participants to determine individual needs and to ensure the least restrictive environment. Assesses participants to determine the change in condition that necessitates a change in the level of care and coordinates the plan of care with Home Care resources.” (SKILL SET REQUIRED: problem-solving, reporting, teamwork, independent thinker, analytical thinker )
Before your interview, you should have received a job description. We highly recommend you use this approach when preparing for your interview since this will enable you to incorporate the critical skill set into your answers.
Common Nursing Interview Questions And Answers
These questions are commonly asked by the interviewer to understand more about you, your work experience, key skill set, and why you feel you’ll be an excellent choice for this job. We’ve done our BEST to provide questions and answers for both nurses with previous work experience, and those being interviewed for their first job.
We have listed 20 questions in total with “Sample Answers,” where applicable.
1) Why Do You Want to Work In The Industry?
When answering this question, MOST applicants will say the same thing as everyone else. For example, ever since they were a child, they wanted to be a nurse or how much they enjoyed reading through medical journals while growing up. These are answers interviewers have heard countless times, over and over again. The entire purpose of the interviewing process is not only to find someone qualified for the position but to find someone who stands out (in a positive way).
There’s nothing wrong with starting off the answer by saying you have always had a love for nursing. Still, it needs to go in deeper, focusing on your work as a volunteer at a senior citizen center in high school, or when helping an ailing parent (if this applies to you obviously). Both these examples will put more of a personal stamp on it, and it shows compassion at the same time. Being a nurse is not just about the job but also showing compassion to patients and demonstrating this when being interviewed by a recruiter.
In our experience, this is a common nursing interview question, so let’s get you a bit more prepared. We have provided a sample answer to help you get started. However, we want to give you a great tip on how you can create several excellent answers on your own, depending on the job your applying for.
First, start by skimming through the job posting again, looking at the specific job requirements. Several clues within the posting can help CRAFT the perfect answer. Here is a sample posting for a Registered Nurse – Women’s Health Float – Full-Time Nights
In the “Roles & Responsibilities,” you can determine what qualities the job is looking for in a candidate. We’ve listed the following –
- Assess and evaluates patients
- Manage and coordinates patient care activities
- Reporting and research
“I find it very gratifying and motivating, helping others in providing them care. Becoming a nurse will give me the unique opportunity to help others work towards achieving a healthy state of being. I believe your health is one of the essential factors in enjoying a FULL life. I’ve always found it very easy to connect with people throughout my life and build strong relationships with them. Hopefully, as a nurse, I will be able to build influential relationships with my patients to inspire them positively.
I’m proud of my ability to work in a team environment, and this has been something I’ve been doing since high school. Being able to work in a team will NOT only allow me to learn more on the job but will also allow me to use the skills I’m most proud of. For example, creating reports, researching, and hopefully managing a team in the future.
With that said, this career is extremely rewarding in nature. It can provide stable work opportunities, and the industry itself has enormous mobility for progressive roles. I want to work in an industry that will allow me to grow personally and professionally. And, that’s why I have chosen the nursing industry.”
2) Why Should We Hire You? Or, Why Should We Choose You For This Position?
Along the interview process, far too many applicants are going to say, “I’m the best candidate.” The fact of the matter is there is no way for the employer to know that. They don’t know who else is applying for the job, so this kind of comment comes off as pretentious. Instead, this is where pointing out your past experience and education is a plus. It’s also helpful to point out how you have gone outside of the box to improve yourself throughout the years within the industry (such as obtaining certifications outside of work). This allows the applicant to say they are willing to go the extra mile over what other candidates might offer (without actually saying other candidates won’t do it). With that said, you will be required to answer this question in detail and provide examples of why you’ll be the ideal choice. So,
We recommend being very specific about the skills you’ll bring to the job. Employers are looking for someone (an applicant) who meets the job specifications. Read through the job description because it will provide several clues into how you should answer these questions. For example, check out this RECENT posting for a Clinical Nurse – Leukemia Office Practice, Outpatient, NYC.
Under the “You Are” section, you’ll notice several keywords like creative decision-maker, approachable, effective communicator, flexibility, customer relationships, ability to align with shifting demands, high energy, etc.
When asked this question by the recruiter, implement some of these critical skills into your answer. For example, “I work well in a team and understand how being an effective communicator can help streamline the care process. I can build strong relationships with patients and their families, so they feel comfortable approaching me whenever they have a concern?”
3) Tell Us About Yourself?
In terms of common nursing interview questions and answers, this is as basic as they come. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think of some relevant answers. What we mean by relevant is to CRAFT an answer that keeps some of the job specifications in mind. For example, when applying for a nursing position, there is no point in emphasizing your love for cooking. It’s a great idea to mention you love to cook but don’t go into too much detail on it. Instead, focus on your love for reading or learning new things because both can be transferable skills in a nursing job. Other possible attributes you can mention is your love for networking or working at finding solutions for everyday problems.
Another great tip is NOT just to give a bullet-point rundown of your work history. Your “Work History” is information the recruiter can already see on the resume. Instead, focus on your strengths, especially those that can be an asset on the job. For example, talk about your strong communication skills and how working in a previous position has helped build confidence and work ethic. Mention your solid track record of success when faced with difficult situations, or how different types of jobs have helped give you a broader perspective on life. Keep in mind; the interviewer already knows what school you graduated from and what qualifications you hold. However, they may not realize that you worked three jobs while in high school or college. Talking about this shows perseverance, determination, and dedication.
4) Why Are You Leaving Your Current Position?
In our experience with common nursing interview questions and answers, this is another one that is almost always going to come up. Recruiters want to know the reason why you have left your current position and if you’ll be transparent about your decision. Recruiters also want to ensure your reason for leaving, and whether this current position aligns with your career plans. This way, you DON’T simply abandon ship and move onto the next job quickly. Employers want someone who will grow into the position since they will invest time and effort into your growth within the organization. With that said,
This is a crucial question, and many applicants have made a mistake in saying they are leaving (or left) because they don’t like their current boss or what they are doing for work. To the recruiter, this is an indication of an applicant who may be hard to get along with or is NOT willing to work at resolving issues within the workplace. So, we recommend taking a different route by saying something more along the lines of how you have learned a great deal from your current job; however, your growth is now limited. You are now at a stage in your life that you want to push forward and bring on new challenges. Go into more details on how you want to learn new skills by taking on unique challenges where you can flourish professionally.
“Let me start by saying I was (or am) very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at (company name). During my time there, I learned a great deal. I was able to work with exceptional people who taught me a lot about research, patient assessment, reporting, etc. However, it came to a point where my growth was limited, and I want to grow professionally. I’ve always seen myself heading a team or working on complex problems to solve issues that affect people all over the world. I want to be more hands-on with patients working with them and their families to come up with long-term treatment plans. I feel this position will be an amazing fit for me and allow me to excel at what I know I’m capable of doing.”
Anything in blue, please change to be more specific to the job you are applying for.
5) What Do You Think of Your Last Job/Boss?
When looking at general nursing interview questions, this is a bit of a bait and hook question (but will MOST certainly be asked during your interview). The interviewer doesn’t want to know dirt about your previous boss and your other job. They are NOT looking to gather any kind of gossip, either. In fact, when the interviewer asks about your current or former boss, they want to understand more about your character and how well you respect the character of others you are working with. For example, stating your previous boss is hard to work with or that they don’t listen can reflect poorly on you too. Avoid answering this question in any way that can backfire on you making your character look bad. Another thing to keep in mind is that the interviewer can end up being your boss either now or in the near future and wants to ensure the applicant can be trusted to withhold the ethics of the workplace. With that said,
When answering such a question, it’s essential to focus on the positive attributes of your previous boss. Focusing on the positive attributes should even apply if you are NOT happy with your current boss because your answer is a reflection of your character. So, when approaching this question, focus on the positives, perhaps how your previous boss helped you understand the importance of teamwork. Or, they played a critical role in helping you learn more effective researching techniques. You can even say that your boss was a no-nonsense individual who required extremely hard work from those around him or her. This attitude taught you how hard work could pay off when it comes to solving problems and meeting deadlines. In the end, you DON’T need to paint them in a glowing light. That just comes off as fake. Merely pointing out how they helped make you a better job candidate should suffice with this answer.
6) If I Contacted Your Previous Boss, What Would They Tell Me About You?
You’ll notice this is similar to the “What Would Your Friends Say About You” line of questions. However, this question is meant to bring out a much more accurate and trustworthy response from you. It’s important to note that you may or may not be asked this question. Either way, we are here to ensure you are prepared by providing possible ways you can answer this type of question. You should be well-aware the interviewer can always double-check your honesty through a simple phone call to your previous boss. So, when approaching this type of question, it’s crucial to be honest, yet not contrary to the previous questions regarding your last job and boss. For example, you’ll be asked several similar type questions throughout your interview, and you MUST ensure your answers are all aligned together.
So, what are some possible ways to answer such a question? Approach this question by first examining your relationship with your previous or current boss.
a) If you are in excellent terms with your boss, you can be honest with the interviewer about your relationship with him or her. Many times when you have an excellent working relationship with your boss, they are willing to provide feedback to you directly about your character that you can pass on to the recruiter. You can even let your previous or current boss know they might receive a phone call for a reference.
However, you may be in a position that your relationship was or isn’t the best with your boss. If this is the case, you should take the following approach.
b) Be completely honest about your relationship with your previous boss because the interviewer can find out through a phone call if you’re honest. If you DON’T/DIDN’T have a proper working relationship with your boss, then be honest about it, however, provide examples as to how you tried to bridge the gap or improve communication with your boss. Demonstrating problem-solving skills is always a beneficial trait. After all, not everyone will get along together, which is why problem-solving and co-existing is so essential.
As mentioned previously, the interviewer may or may not decide to contact your previous boss. However, this typically depends on the position itself and if additional background checks are required due to the sensitivity of the job.
7) What Did You Not Like (or Like Least) About Your Position?
Another common nursing interview question. The interviewer is NOT looking for disgruntle employee talk, gossip or negativity (even though the question itself may come off as one). The interviewer is trying to determine how well you will align with the responsibilities of this job. For example, if you answer stating you didn’t enjoy working with a team at your previous job, and this new position requires teamwork, then you obviously won’t be a good fit. So, before answering this question, it’s essential to study and know the functions or responsibilities of this new position. You want to know what this new position will cover and then formulate an answer that avoids speaking negatively about specific responsibilities that you will be performing at this new job that you are being interviewed for.
We recommend uniquely approaching this question. For example, say there wasn’t anything you disliked about your last job, but then pointing out non-medical related work, such as having to travel a good deal of the time which interfered with your life as a newlywed or parent (just make sure traveling isn’t part of the new position). You can even refer to how your previous job was or is limiting your growth, and you wanted new challenges. This answer needs to avoid any conflict with the job description for the new role you are being interviewed for.
8) Tell Me About One Of Your Greatest Accomplishments In Your Previous Role?
When answering this question, it’s important NOT to give a general, vague answer here. You want to draw on a RECENT accomplishment where you can quantify or relate the benefits of your actions or outcomes. One can be that you formulated bespoke care plans for individual patients, which led to quicker recovery time for patients and improved their satisfaction by 35%. Or, as a nurse, you trained and mentored ten new nurses, which led to an overall improvement in patient assessment and increased team dynamics/morale. These are just two examples you can use in your answer; however, each one should be customized to fit your previous roles.
When answering this type of question, there’s no right or wrong answer, and it can be as simple as spending time and interacting with patients, making them feel comfortable while putting a smile on their face. Deliver your answer with confidence backing up what you say with examples.
Helping a family member through a difficult time in the hospital or assisting a child, so they are not as afraid of a particular operation.
Communicated essential information to patients, managers, colleagues, and physicians which subsequentially improved communication gap by 30%
Managed team of nurses to meet service support levels every month and RECENTLY performed above target by 10%.
9) What is Your Greatest Weakness?
A standard nursing interview question that can be tricky to answer, however there some strategic ways of answering this question that puts you in a WIN-WIN situation. First, When asked this question, do NOT deny that you have weaknesses. We are sure many of you are fortunate enough not to have any weaknesses; however, do NOT say this during your nursing interview. We also firmly recommend NOT giving the typical answers like “I work too hard” because interviewers have heard this several times before. This answer is way too generic and won’t make you stand out as a candidate for the position. With that said, we advise you to take the following two approaches when answering the question. First, you can present weaknesses which are potential ‘strengths’ in nature, for example, your passion for perfection. When applying this to nursing, you can say when working in a team, you expect perfection from everyone, even the new nurses, which may be an unrealistic demand since they are not fully equipped with the experience necessary yet.
The second approach is you can highlight those weaknesses which are not in direct conflict with the nursing job requirements. For instance, public speaking may be one of your weaknesses. It may be unlikely that this will be a requirement for a potential new nursing job. Therefore by stating public speaking as your weakness, this should not adversely impact your job chances.
In the end, you must finish off your answer by describing the steps you are taking to overcome your weaknesses. By stating these steps, it shows you understand your shortcomings and how you pride yourself in making improvements to better yourself.
“One of the things I struggle with is my tendency to want perfection out of everyone I’m managing. Perfection stems from my passion for wanting to deliver excellent patient care no matter what the obstacles. Therefore, I want everyone on my team to be aligned with this shared objective. Perfection at all times, in turn, may, however, put pressure on others to perform, especially those who are new to the team. To improve this weakness, I’ve learned to delegate more tasks and even taken some management courses offered online. And, I have taken one on one meetings with all my team members so we can voice concerns with each other and help each other in achieving a common objective.
10) What is Your Greatest Failure And What (If Anything) Did You Learn From It?
Another common nursing interview question so you MUST be prepared with a unique answer. You don’t want to choose a failure that will hurt your chances of a successful interview. So, it is essential to choose something from earlier on in your career or something that won’t reflect poorly on this current job you are applying for. With that said, we recommend answering this question concerning education somehow. Or how a minor working incident has changed the way you carry out processes to perform at work better.
Sample Answer 1:
“When I was in College and faced with a tough semester, I decided to take two years off to work; however, the downside of this choice was limited career opportunities. I was also working in an industry not aligned with my passion. However, what I learned after my time off was no matter how difficult or challenging you find something, you should never give up. With hard work and perseverance, anything complicated can be overcome. And, this is true because I went on to earn my (mention degree) however it took me longer to achieve it because of my time off. I now appreciate the value of time and the value of NOT giving up through hard work.”
Sample Answer 2:
“When working at my first hospital job, I made an error in recording information on the patient’s chart. It wasn’t crucial information, but nonetheless, it was a mistake that should not have been made. It was only when a doctor was viewing the patient’s chart that she noticed there was an irregularity in the information. This error caused me to be very embarrassed; however, it was an eye-opener for me, and now I double or even triple check my work before finalizing it. This incident has made me more vigilant in my professional and even personal life.”
11) Why Is There a Gap In Your Employment History? Can You Explain?
It is essential to know that employment gaps happen for several reasons throughout a person’s life. For example, as a nurse, you may decide to transition from a Certified Nursing Assistant to a Registered Nurse, so have taken time out to study for the NCLEX examination. The key is in how you answer such a question when asked by the interviewer. Believe it or not, we have heard applicants say that they were “tired of working,” so decided to take time off. Stating you were tired of working can hurt your chances of getting hired since the interviewer can assume the same outcome if you get tired of this position. In the end, companies are looking to hire someone dedicated and passionate about their job. They want someone who will persevere no matter what kind of adversity they are faced with at work. With that said,
In most instances, an applicant would have taken time away from work to travel or study to further their education. Both are GREAT answers to this question if you can show how they taught some valuable life lessons. We’ll demonstrate in the “Sample Answer” below. Now, if there is a gap in your work history because you were searching for work, then stating the following can work very well – “you didn’t want to rush and take a job that would leave your desire to work in the industry unfulfilled.” This type of answer shows determination and motivation to find the right job.
“After my last job, I decided to take time off to study part-time and to pursue my passion for traveling. After graduating from college, I started working right away because I could not afford to travel at that time. However, now that I was able to gain some experience in my field and with a solid financial foundation, I decided to travel. Traveling was one of the best decisions I’ve made because it broaden my perspective on life. Through traveling, I was able to connect with many people from different walks of life, cultures, and professions. I become more confident in the way I communicate with others. My ability to communicate more thoroughly is a skill I knew I would be able to utilize in nursing. Especially inpatient care, which is all about rapport building. Oh, and while traveling, I was studying in the most beautiful places ever. The ability to study on my own time gave me a greater appreciation for the material that was covered in the books. Subsequently, it renewed my passion for knowledge and my career choice.”
12) In Your Opinion, What Makes a Good Leader?
For any nursing role, it is essential that you are equipped with leadership skills to carry out your job effectively. Having leadership skills are important because nurses in a medical facility, whether it’s a doctor’s office, nursing home, or a hospital, are usually at the front-line since they are more accessible than doctors. Therefore, there is more onus on nurses to take charge and ownership of patient care initially. Since such a huge responsibility is placed on nurses in this way, interviewers will ask this question to gauge if the applicant understands the necessary skill set required to make a good nurse leader.
Hence, what skills, attributes, and values make a good leader? A good leader will be a visionary in that they will be creative, confident, dynamic, and will be pro-active in taking the initiative for their patients and staff. They will not be deterred by stressful situations or difficult patients, but rather will relish at the challenges faced. Therefore, they will possess excellent problem solving/analytical skills to help them thrive in such demanding situations. They will also possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, so they can bring out the best in their team members (to motivate them towards the common team goal), and also help in establishing a rapport with their patients. Additionally, they will be adaptable in which they can adjust to different circumstances since the nursing industry is fast-paced, with no two same patients necessarily receiving the same type of care plan. And finally, they will be perfectionists in that they strive for complete and continued success, whereby failing or underperforming is not even an option.
13) How Would Your Friends Describe You?
Your friends are an extension of you, especially those that have been with you since junior grade. When answering this type of question, as an applicant, you need to dig deep and think about your relationship with your friends. I’m sure throughout your friendship with them, many have provided clues into your GREATEST assets and qualities. So, it’s time to flatter yourself a little bit when answering this question. First, it’s important to be prepared because this is a common nursing interview question. This question provides the interviewer insight into your character from those that are NOT part of a working relationship. We recommend avoiding the usual answers like “They’d say I’m a good listener” or ”They’d say I’ve always been there for them.” Interviewers have heard all this nonsense before, so avoid it. Instead, choose an answer more unique and where the positives of the quality outweigh the negatives. For example, “They’d say I’m very stubborn and WON’T take no for an answer. I will continue to try and try until I succeed”. The key is to be unique and think outside of the box to leave a lasting impression. After all, you want to set yourself apart from all the other candidates.
Here’s another example where a negative in one’s eyes will be positive in another: Bill Gates is credited for saying – “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
We are not suggesting you literally say that you are lazy – but you get our drift on leaving a lasting impression and how manipulating specific qualities can work in your favor.
14) Which Values Are You Most Proud Of?
This nursing interview question is NOT as complicated as others since it’s not situational based, nor is it asking directly about your previous employment. So, by asking this question, the interviewer is trying to determine how well the applicant’s values coincide with the position or how well the applicant’s values will correlate with the medical profession. Keep in mind that the medical profession prides itself on ethics, values, confidentiality, and more. Before constructing your answer, it’s essential to know the definition of the word “Values” because this will help guide your answer.
“Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.”
With that said,
With each “VALUE,” be as detailed as possible. For example, “I believe in the power of loyalty because through loyalty, you build trust. When working in the medical profession, a lot of trust is placed in you because of your duty to provide health care. When you have a team where everyone trusts each other, you can provide the best patient care. For example, you feel more comfortable communicating with other team members, voicing concerns, etc.”
15) What Drives You? What Motivates You?
This question is giving you an opportunity to make an impression, so make it count. It is commonly used by interviewers to gauge an applicant’s passion and is a gateway to assess what positive traits you as an individual will bring to the job. The nursing industry is unique since it is a profession that is immensely rewarding due to the emphasis it places on providing a duty of care to society. Having said this, helping others is perhaps one of the main reasons why people choose the nursing profession in the first instance. Therefore, relaying driving or motivating factors, shouldn’t be too difficult. For example, getting children in the cancer ward to laugh, or working with patients who are difficult to be around, may drive or motivate you. Alternatively, by easing a patient’s pain and suffering through appropriate care and comfort may motivate you also. These are just some examples you can incorporate in your answer.
16) How Do You Motivate Others? Or How Do You Bring Out The Best In Your Staff/Team?
This question is more or less asking what your strengths are and how you can be an asset working in a team with other staff. It’s an opportunity for the applicant to talk about their unique strengths, and it’s imperative to mention ONLY those strengths that will help you strive in the workplace. Staying focused on an answer in relation to work will help shorten it, making it more precise and targeted. We’ve heard stories about candidates talking about their strengths for 45 minutes going off-topic without mentioning how their strengths can help the team or staff at work. It’s vital for you NOT to make the same mistake.
Some examples of how you can motivate others and bring out the BEST in your co-workers can be seen in the reference below:
a) Understand team member’s strengths and level of experience: When referring to this, mention how one of your strengths is understanding the value another team member brings to the table. At the same time, you also appreciate their level of experience and how to apply that to the common objective/goal of the team. Through identification and appreciation, you will motivate them by utilizing them at what they do BEST, which in turn will translate into better performance.
b) Give clear directions: Every team member may have a different level of understanding, so it’s essential to give clear instructions. When answering this question, you can say: “I pride myself on my ability to communicate clearly because I understand how, in the medical profession, every second counts. Through clear directions/instructions, every team member is on the same page leaving little room for error or confusion. When every team member is clear about their responsibilities, they will be more motivated to be productive.”
c) Your ability to inspire your team: Say you lead by example, and that’s how you feel is the BEST way to inspire your team to perform to their fullest potential. Not to mention, leading through example, you can educate your team to find new and efficient ways to complete the tasks at hand. When other team members see colleges or managers working on the same project together, it builds a greater sense of unity and comradery.
d) Praise and reward when possible: Sometimes, others just need to be appreciated to bring out the best in them. Saying that, “I’ve found appreciating both the smaller achievements and bigger achievements can have a positive effect on working relationships and performance. For example, acknowledgment of a job well done will motivate the person to continue to strive during stressful times because they are aware of how their effort is truly making a difference to the team.”
e) Give them more autonomy: By delegating tasks and giving them more responsibility, you are empowering them in the workplace. By delegating tasks, you are giving them a sense of self-worth since you are trusting them with a responsibility that is vital to the dynamics of the team. This level of trust has two critical benefits to the person. First, it makes them feel appreciated as an essential link within the team. Secondly, it improves performance because that sense of trust makes them work harder, so they don’t let the team down. In the long run, it will even improve their skills, knowledge, and performance at whatever responsibility they find themselves doing at the time.
17) Being A Nurse Can Be Overwhelming. What Do You Think Is The Hardest Part About Being A Nurse?
When asked this question, the interviewer is trying to determine what you consider difficult and whether this will impact your performance on the job. For example, if you say that working long hours or cleaning up after patients is the MOST challenging part, this will potentially hurt your chances of a successful interview. As you can imagine, these two are essential duties of a nurse. Naturally, when answering this question, try to highlight those things which are NOT directly assigned to you or are in your control. So, in the sample answer, you will notice how we describe a scenario that we have NO control over, i.e., loss of life or a young child who is diagnosed with an illness that has no cure.
“For me, the hardest part of being a nurse is having to deal with the loss of life, and the IMPACT it leaves on immediate family. Loss of life is NOT only heartbreaking on the family members but also for us nurses, too, since we have built up relationships with our patients. A patient is brought to us to seek help and recover. I feel as a nurse, I am personally responsible for their well being. When a patient’s illness is so aggressive and your NOT able to help any further, you still feel burdened with the fact that you let them down (even though this isn’t the case). These situations are very sensitive and can impact us nurses emotionally.”
18) Where Do You See Yourself Within The Next Five Years?
There is no real right answer to this question, and your response should be totally dependent upon what your career vision and goals are. However, what is certain when answering this question is to show ambition, motivation, and a desire to want to grow and develop professionally. Additionally, employers also want to determine your loyalty by assessing your commitment levels to the industry/company (or hospital) itself. After all, the company does not want to see you leave them as soon as a better opportunity comes along your way. So be sure you make a reference to wanting to continue to work for them in some way.
Also, while it is not always necessary to have a specific job title in mind, you do need to focus your answer around progressive positions within the nursing industry. On this note, in the nursing industry, there is ample opportunity for growth and movement. Examples of progressive nursing roles that you can perhaps draw upon in your answer can be seen with reference to becoming a unit manager or supervisor for an entire wing, becoming a nurse director, or transitioning into a different nursing specialty.
Alternatively, when answering this question, you can also take on a different approach which doesn’t necessarily tie you to a specific job title. For example, you may want to demonstrate your commitment to growing within the industry by dedicating yourself to acquiring an increased level of knowledge. Meaning, you can perhaps point out to wanting to gain additional certifications or degrees, which will then put you in good stead for other superior roles. By answering in this way, it shows a continued drive within the medical industry without specifically pointing out a particular job title or position.
Whichever route you use, both will be equally effective in answering the question demonstrating a commitment towards professional growth on your part
“Ideally, I would like to transition into a supervisory or management role within the hospital in charge of a sizeable team. I feel that I am a very people orientated and approachable individual. This quality of mine should hopefully put me in good stead towards nurturing and mentoring others to excel to their full potential, especially those colleagues who are starting their careers. I feel this increase in professional responsibility will not only increase my commitment towards delivering more excellent patient care but will also help me as a person to perform better. This is because teamwork, team dynamics, and team comradery motivate me to work harder since I fear letting people down or underperforming. Hence management responsibility will push me to strive for ultimate success continuously.”
19) What Kind of Salary Are You Looking For?
This is sometimes a tricky question to answer, hence you need to tread carefully. If you have applied for the job through an agency, then it is wise to let the agencies carry out the salary negotiations on your behalf. Hopefully, the agencies would have relayed to the recruiter your salary expectations in advance, or alternatively, you can suggest to the employer that they can speak to your agency concerning this matter. However, in instances where this is not the case or not possible, it is fair for you to state that you would expect to be paid in line with what the industry standard is for the level of experience you have to offer to the role. Hence do you research beforehand so that if you need to give an average salary range, you can put this forward.
20) Do You Have Any Questions For Us?
This question typically closes out most interviews. It also offers a major stumbling block for applicants who do not ask questions because it can show a lack of interest in their part. It is essential to ask the interviewer(s) questions about the company. It demonstrates that the applicant has taken a genuine interest in taking time out to think about the position. You should keep the questions relevant to the team, or culture of the company because these are two things you can’t research. For example, how the nursing staff works together, how many patients are seen during a shift, who will you be reporting to, the team dynamics, and even the chance of your progression throughout the company.
Behavioral Nursing Interview Questions And Answers
During your nursing interview, you will be asked behavioral type questions. These types of questions are situational based, and the interviewer is trying to determine what steps you would take when faced with unique challenges on the job. We have researched the MOST common nursing behavioral interview questions and answers by asking nurses who have already been through the interview process successfully. With that said, we have found that the BEST approach in answering these types of questions is by utilizing the STAR method.
The STAR method is one that uses a specific structure when answering a behavioral-based interview question. For example, STAR is defined as
(S) Situation – Describe the situation or scenario you were in.
(T) Task – Explain the task you had to do at work. If possible, describe some of the challenges faced.
(A) Action – Describe what actions you took to resolve the situation and the tasks at hand.
(R) Results – What was the outcome of your actions.
1) How Do You Deal With A Difficult Patient?
As a nurse, you will be confronted with frustrated patients every single day. Your success at work will depend on the way you handle such situations. An interviewer wants to engage how well you handle stress and what actions you take during these challenging situations. So, the key when answering such a question is to highlight that one needs to remain calm and display professional temperament. With that said, in such a situation, the critical skills which will come into play for any nurse will be excellent communication (in being persuasive) and interpersonal skills, excellent listening skills, problem-solving, or critical thinking skills. We didn’t mention teamwork because, as you can understand that “teamwork” in this particular scenario will NOT be applicable. So, the key here is only to mention those skills which apply to the scenario.
“As a nurse, I am well aware that I will be dealing with challenging patients every single day. These patients are going through a difficult time in their lives, and this is not only giving them a physical burden but an emotional one too. The key here is to remain calm and professional while reassuring them that we are here to try and make them better.
For example, during my previous job, there was an elderly patient that was being verbally and physically abusive towards me every day. This patient had no visitors coming to see him and had very little communication throughout the day. I understood this could be very lonely, and it can take a toll on someone’s mental being. My solution was to offer him friendship and companionship. I took it upon myself to change his routine by getting him more involved in activities. For example, I would take him outside for fresh air, read to him, or even play games with him, which he enjoyed. These activities are what he needed because I saw a positive change in his mood. He became more talkative and friendly. Ultimately, the abuse completely stopped!”
Again, this is a sample answer, so hopefully, you can construct an answer using this template for your interview.
2) How Do You Prioritize Tasks To Meet Deadlines While Upholding Excellent Patient Care?
This question is all about multi-tasking while maintaining the highest standards at work. In this scenario, the essential skills the nurse will need to display are excellent time management skills, organizational skills, analytical skills, and critical thinking. Each one of these skills will allow you to meet your deadlines while enabling you to maintain excellent patient care. So, what we have decided to do is use the COVID-19 crisis as a framework for our sample answer.
NOTE: In this scenario, our deadline/target is to achieve faster patient recovery so you can free up beds to attend to other patients.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic, we are overwhelmed with the number of patients coming into our hospital. So, this has increased the number of tasks and protocols we have to follow. Through identification, we understood that our ability to provide excellent patient care was dependent upon prioritizing our safety. Therefore, I got organized for my team and implemented different safety strategies that we had to follow before coming to work and at work before dealing with patients. For example, a checklist posted on our wall at work that each one must complete before attending to patients. This checklist consists of things like showering, dressing, gloves, laundry, disposal, sanitizing, fever checks, etc.
By taking the precautions we have to, we have limited the amount of nursing staff that has been effective by COVID-19. With less affected staff, we can continue to attend to more patients quicker and help with their faster recovery.”
The sample answer above shows that by prioritizing through critical thinking, you were able to be organized, which in turn led to achieving your deadlines in this scenario (faster recovery of patients).
3) A Patient Has Continuing Pain, How Do Help Alleviate Their Pain?
As a nurse, your primary objective is to find the root cause of the pain. Finding the cause of the pain is accomplished by doing the necessary physical examinations and asking all the RIGHT questions. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are following the correct, thorough process. This scenario requires these skills and traits to be displayed. Problem-solving, critical thinking, communication skills, and a level of empathy needs to be displayed.
“I did have a patient that had severe pain that wasn’t going away even after the initial treatment provided. I decided to go back and look over everything that had been done so far to ensure that nothing was missed. After my second check, the patient was still experiencing enormous pain, and I determined more action was necessary. So, I got a second opinion from the managing nurse to determine if anything was missed or could be done further. I also asked if it would be possible to escalate to the doctor assigned to the ward at the time. The nursing manager deemed that all the steps I had taken were correct; however, now the patient had to be looked by the doctor for further tests. I did take it upon myself to communicate everything openly with the patient. I reassured her that she would be fine.”
4) How Do You Go About Delivering Bad News To A Patient Or Family Members? What Did You Say?
As part of a nurse’s role, delivering bad news MAY NOT be part of your responsibilities. However, an interviewer may ask this question to understand if you have the right thought process and skills set to carry out these tasks. The primary skill required for this scenario would be communication and interpersonal skills. When answering this question, highlight to the interviewer that such a process needs to start with an empathetic tone while also being completely objective and transparent with the patient or family members. In nursing school, you will be trained for such scenarios because this is such a sensitive matter.
“I always try to put myself in the patient’s or family member’s shoes before approaching the situation. Allowing myself to take the patient’s place will help me be more empathetic and prepared. I realize that receiving bad news can be life-altering, so tread carefully with my tone and the words I choose.
Once I had to deliver news to the family members in the waiting room that their grandmother passed away. I got them to sit down and sat next to them before breaking the news. Then in a soft-spoken tone, I was open with them as to what happened and how she went. I ended on some positive note by letting them know she went peacefully and reassured them we are here to help any way we can. I highlighted some support groups available in the hospital to help them through the grieving process. Before leaving, I gave them a chance to ask any questions they have and answered them as thoroughly as possible.”
5) Explain a Time You Did Not Get Along With Other Nurses/Co-Workers?
Let’s face it, there are some people you will get along with more than others, while there are some that you will not get along with at all. It is not uncommon to have personality clashes within the workplace. However, what is not acceptable is for such differences to interfere with one’s duties and performance, especially when you have to work in close proximity with such colleagues.
When you are asked about potential conflict with co-workers, remember the interviewer wants to determine if you are a team player, if you can function well under stress and determine if you are a problem solver. Hence, you need to demonstrate these qualities in your answer.
Remember, when describing the incident, you must avoid criticizing your former colleagues as this can reflect poorly on your personality and your ability to work in a team. Hence, ensure your tone is positive and constructive.
“Once there was an incident with myself and my colleague when we disagreed on the appropriate care plans for the patients in our wing. I strongly felt that even though I did not have as much experience as her, my care plans were far more suited in helping the patients recover faster. Hence I felt it necessary to voice my concerns in a way that would not undermine her nor come across as confrontational.
Subsequently, I invited her to have lunch with me. Our lunch made our meeting informal, relaxed and helped me build a rapport with her. By having lunch, we were both able to exchange our ideas constructively, which led to revised care plans incorporating both of our expertise. It also helped me to better understand her methods, which initially I did not agree with. In the end, we both were aligned to our common goal of providing excellent patient care, and indeed we delivered on that through our combined efforts.”
6) How Would You Communicate Medical Jargon To A Patient or Family Member Who Is Having Difficulty Understanding The Issue? Can You Provide An Example Too?
As a nurse, communication is a crucial strength that is imperative for the job. For example, communicating with colleagues, senior colleagues, patients, and their families will be part of your everyday responsibility. However, the way you would communicate with your team will be significantly different from the way you communicate with a patient or their family members since they will NOT have the same medical expertise. So, when asked this type of question during a job interviewer, it’s essential to acknowledge that you are aware of the difference. You can mention that when speaking to non-medical individuals, different strategies can be employed. For example, the use of simplified language by avoiding the overuse of medical terminology or illustrating a point visually to help get the point across. You can also mention the importance of practicing these situations on friends or come up with creative analogies to help communicate with a non-medical audience.
NOTE: If this is your first job interview for a nurse role, you may not have come across such a situation before. However, you can still describe the essential strategies that would be used in this scenario.
“I understand patients do not have the medical expertise to understand medical conditions, and therefore you need to adopt a more straightforward approach. At my previous job, there was an elderly patient who was in a coma, and I was in constant communication with her family. The family was not well-versed in English and did not understand what a coma was. Through shorter sentences and hand gestures, I was able to describe effectively that she was in a deep sleep. I also had to explain the procedures the doctors we going to use to bring her back to consciousness. I did this by illustrating on a piece of paper through drawing what tools and what areas we were going to focus on. I also had the family repeat back to me what I had just explained to them. When they repeated everything correctly, it gave me confidence and reassurance that they understood me and the issue at hand.”
7) What Would You Do If You Don’t Know The Answer To A Question Or Concern The Patient Has?
Let’s face it; we won’t always have the answers to everything. Not knowing the answer is NOT a weakness on your part, and this is something the interviewer recognizes. However, the interviewer is more concerned with what you would do in such cases and what steps you would take to find the correct solution. In such a situation, first and foremost, admit that you DON’T have the answer to the patient. Mention how it’s important that you DON’T give the patient misleading information as to what you think the answer would be. So, you would like to validate any response you give them. With that said, you will let the patient know that you will get back to them. It is also your responsibility to follow up with the patient once you have the correct information. So, how do you go about finding the correct information? There is a protocol you should follow:
First, let the interviewer know how you would take the time to conduct the research yourself. Secondly, after doing the research, you would talk to a colleague or senior colleague to validate whatever information you have found. If you have not found the answer yourself, again, you would still ask someone superior to help you out.
“When I first started as a nurse, one of my patients ask me something technical about the medication they were taking. I had a vague idea about the answer but wasn’t entirely sure about it. Obviously, I could have told them to speak to the pharmacist in the hospital about their medication, but I did not want to shy away from the responsibility nor give them any misleading answers. Instead, I told the patient that I wasn’t too sure and assured them that I would find the answer and let them know. I did some research myself to gather information and spoke to our pharmacist to get their expert opinion. They were able to validate the information I researched, and I was confident enough to relay the answer back to the patient. Before leaving, I asked if the patient had any further questions for me.”
8) Can You Describe A Time When You Had To Adapt to A Change In Working Practices? How Did You Handle These Changes?
As a nurse, you will need to be flexible, versatile, and adaptable due to the fast-paced environment you are working in. The interviewer will ask this type of question to assess your ability to make changes as required. So, during your preparation, think about potential changes that you may experience as a nurse. For example, the introduction of new technologies, working with a new management team, new medical equipment, and new communication infrastructure. As a nurse, you have to be open to change because this is part of your job, especially when in the medical profession, changes are being made quickly where seconds can result in lives ultimately being saved.
“Throughout my career as a nurse, I have experienced several changes in the way we work and had to find ways to adapt to several of them quickly. An example would be just recently in my last job we were given new x-ray equipment that required training. Although we were given training, my colleagues and I felt that we were not adequately trained due to the limitation of time. So, I took it upon myself to become more comfortable with the x-ray equipment. I would practice using the machinery after my shift while reading through the user manual. I also made simplified notes with diagrams to make it easier to understand complicated instructions in the user manual. My process notes were used by my colleagues because they were much easier to follow and understand.”
NOTE: Another great example would be how tablets and phone applications are being used to communicate amongst staff. You can use this in your answer, illustrating how you adapted to modern communication technologies.
9) What Would You Do If You See A Senior Colleague Breaking The Rules or Misbehaving With Patients?
In the workplace, you may be confronted with situations where you see a senior colleague mistreating a patient or being negligent towards patient care. Although you have a responsibility to your team and co-workers, you MUST not forget why you became a nurse. Over time, you may develop strong friendships with your co-workers and superiors, this should not interfere with your professional integrity. These types of questions are often asked in an interview to understand one’s moral obligation better. So, make sure your answer reflects your moral obligation towards patient care being your number one priority no matter at what expense.
“I’ve always prided myself on excellent relationships with my co-workers, even seniors. But, I did encounter a situation where a senior doctor who was also a good friend of mine being intoxicated on the job. I knew I had no choice but to report this matter to the correct management even though I knew this would destroy our relationship and strip him of his license. I did confront him, and he said to give him a second chance, but I knew there was no second in such a matter. I knew if I didn’t report him, and he made an error in judgment with one of the patients, this could have been potentially devastating. My moral obligation has and always will be taking care of the patient’s best interests first.”
10) What Would You Do If You Needed Information From A Colleague And They Were Slow To Respond? How Would You Manage The Situation?
In the nursing profession, you will be working in collaboration with many departments, i.e., lab techs, doctors, consultants, etc. There will be many scenarios were their work or information will impact your job or duties. Naturally, each department will be working towards its own deadlines and priorities, which will NOT necessarily coincide with yours. So, you need to demonstrate to the interviewer how you will overcome such a situation. So, when answering such a question, it is essential to demonstrate your ability to be proactive and take the initiative without compromising the other department’s deadlines. In such situations, it will also help if you can demonstrate creative strategies to utilize your time more efficiently.
“In my previous nursing job, I was left in charge of updating the code of conduct for the hospital. My responsibility included working with different department heads to ensure that we were all on the same page in agreeing upon moral and ethical guidelines to be used as a final framework. To accurately create a new hospital guideline manual, I scheduled meetings with each of the department heads to get updates and feedback on essential areas of the document. However, there was one department head that was extremely hard to get a hold. Every time I would schedule a meeting, it always got postponed from there end due to critical deadlines they had to meet. Naturally, I understood the importance of them having to meet deadlines, so I took matters into my own hands to come up with ways to get the information without interfering with the completion of their deadlines. I decided to get creative with the ways we would have meetings. For example, instead of having that 1-hour formal meeting, I would schedule 15 minutes meetings during his coffee breaks. This way, I was able to get the information I needed to complete my project while NOT interfering with his deadline.”
NOTE: There may be scenarios sometimes where you may have to escalate the situation to senior management to get the information required. Escalating to management will only be done in situations where you have exhausted all possible avenues and whereby the worker is being sheer lazy.
We have hope this guide has helped you prepare for your upcoming interview. Remember that preparation is vital, so familiarize yourself with the job specification and perhaps practice or rehearse these questions as much as you can. In closing, we want to give you some quick tips:
Always walk in with confidence, give a firm handshake, keep adequate eye contact with the interviewer, and don’t forget to ask questions before ending your interview (if given the opportunity). If you have any questions, please post them in the comment box below or in our CareerCrawlers Community.
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