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Common Nursing Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Going into a nursing job interview may seem intimidating.

This is true, even for the most seasoned nursing veterans.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t have to give you anxiety.

With adequate preparation, you will be good to go.

Here are some of the questions you can anticipate and sample answers you can give.

A. Common Nursing Interview Questions

Here are some of the commonly-asked questions during nursing interviews:

Sample Interview Questions on Teamwork

1. Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult co-worker. How did you handle it?

When answering this question, ensure you do not throw anybody under the bus.

Include the resolution, and if possible, your learnings from the situation.

Sample answer:

I worked the day shift with a nurse who consistently showed up late for their shift. This would impact the whole team and put us behind. I took time to talk with the nurse and asked them if switching shifts would help them arrive to work on time. They said it would help them since the particular hour they were scheduled was difficult for them. We switched, and the challenge was resolved. I learned that taking initiative goes a long way.

2. Describe a time there was a miscommunication between you and a teammate. How did you handle it?

Miscommunications are inevitable in a team setting. Knowing how to work through conflict is important. Present a conflict or miscommunication that you didn’t cause, yet you played a pivotal role in solving it.

Sample answer:

One of my co-workers struggled to communicate during the hand-off period to begin her shift. She would often tell me partial information about a patient’s status. This led to confusion and chaos. Eventually, I told her politely that she wasn’t giving me proper information about the shift change. She corrected her ways and even began writing notes for the hand-off. I learned the importance of speaking up and being direct at that moment.

3. Tell us about a time that you were in a leadership position. Were you pleased with the results?

Hiring managers seek people they can promote. They want to find someone who has experience as a leader. If you are a recent graduate, you can talk about leadership experience with volunteering or an academic project.

Sample answer:

As a licensed RN, I have gravitated toward leadership positions. In one of my roles, I led a group of LVNs. I developed a team that dedicated itself to patient-centered care and efficiency. We made sure to involve families in the care and specialize treatment plans to individual patients’ needs. One of my proudest moments was seeing one of the LVN/s earn their RN certification. In that sense, I felt more than pleased with the results.

4. How do you like working with a team?

Nurses don’t work in silos. A lot of their work depends on other people. Cooperation and flexibility are important traits to facilitate a healthy team.

Sample answer:

I thrive while working as a part of a team because of my ability to adapt. I find that working on a team allows for the best outcomes for patients. Everyone has a different way of looking at a problem and multiple perspectives can bring about creative solutions to issues. Also, working on a team motivated me because I enjoy celebrating the successes of others. Last, I feel confident in my ability to work alone as well.

5. Describe a situation where you felt proud of your healthcare team. What role did you play in your team’s success?

Every nursing unit experiences success in one way or another. Being in a position to articulate a time when you contributed to a successful situation helps your hiring team.

When answering this question make sure you are as detailed as possible and explain the role you had in the success.

Sample answer:

Working as a surgical nurse, I often see a lot of success doing my job. One time, my patient had infected feeding tubes. I was able to thoroughly clean and helped prevent further injury to the patient.

Sample Interview Questions on Patient Care

Patient care is a central focal point for nurse candidates.

Interviewers want to be sure they can rely on you to have a good relationship with every patient, regardless of circumstances.

1. Describe a problematic patient you have had in the past. How did you handle the situation?

Nurses have their fair share of problematic patients. The key is knowing how to deal with troublesome patients in constructive ways.

Sample answer:

Trying to get children to take their meds is challenging. I had one kid who cried and threw a fit every time we wanted to give them medication. So, one day I asked the kid a simple question, “ What’s your favorite kind of ice cream?” The child said chocolate, and I brought them chocolate pudding to take with their medication. It did the trick. The child stopped screaming and crying at medication time, and I earned a friend on the floor.

2. Have you dealt with a family or patient who was displeased with your care? How did you handle it?

Unfortunately, not every patient will feel satisfied with your care. The important thing is finding a resolution and that’s what this question is looking for.

Sample answer:

I strive to provide high-quality care to each patient. However, sometimes the patient doesn’t agree with my methods. For example, I once had a patient who complained about how I administered his insulin. He told my administrator that I stuck the needle in too quickly and not gentle enough. From that point, I decided to go especially slow with that patient to accommodate their needs and provide patient-centered care.

3. How do you address questions from a patient’s family and friends?

Family and friends often ask a lot of questions. Sometimes you aren’t able to answer all their questions in a timely matter. Having the ability to balance answering questions and taking care of the patient is crucial.

Sample answer:

I lead with empathy. I know that I need to give them the best information that I can. However, I try to make sure that I’m answering them in kind ways, and I imagine myself in their shoes. Now, I know that I can’t answer all of their questions, so I try to set boundaries and make sure I’m not enabling, either.

4. What is your idea of effective patient and family education?

Every patient has their own learning style. Emphasizing that you can work with a variety of patients to provide quality patient and family education is important.

Sample answer:

Effective patient education centres around the patient and family’s needs. You have to understand their learning style and adapt accordingly. For example, some patients prefer reading medical instructions versus watching a DVD. You also need to figure out what each patient needs. Some want detailed information; others just want the necessary information. Including the family in the treatment process is crucial because they may end up serving as primary caretakers for the patient going forward. Show them how vital they are to the process and key them in on how they can help.

5. Can you explain situations without using a lot of medical jargon? Give an example.

Medical information can seem unintelligible to some patients. The nurse has to effectively translate information from the doctor to a patient. In this example, emphasize how you go out of your way to make sure that the patient understands.

Sample answer:

I have various patients with different educational backgrounds and ages, so I must break medical jargon down into understandable ways. For example, whenever a doctor orders radiology for a patient, I make sure that I explain to the patient they are getting an X-ray. Also, I try to make sure the patient understands by asking them to repeat what they think they heard. That way, everybody is on the same page.

Sample Questions on Background and Personality

Your personality will play a huge role in how you fit into a healthcare environment. The interview is often the only chance that others have to gauge your personality fit into their team; therefore, general questions about you and your career path are fairly common.

1. Tell me about yourself.

This question gives you an opportunity to share. However, they aren’t looking for your life story. They are trying to ascertain how you could fit on their team. Sprinkle in a few of the job qualifications and you’re golden.

Sample answer:

I’m a driven nurse who enjoys providing patient-centered care. I have spent eight years working as a pediatric nurse. During that time, I learned that quality care involves empathy first, which helps you determine your treatment. Every patient is different. I am proud of my ability to juggle different patient loads. Helping my patients recover and regain health motivates me every day. Your company’s determination to ensure patient-centered and quality care fits my skill set and goals as a nurse.

2. What are your professional goals?

Hiring managers want to hire ambitious nurses who have a clear sense of what their professional goals are. It’s important to have a detailed and attainable set of goals. Clearly, ambition is good, but it might be a bit unwise to tell your hiring manager you’re planning to become the hospital president when you’re applying for a role as a first-year registered nurse.

Sample answer:

My professional goals are as follows: earn my MSN, join the Emergency Nurses Association and become an emergency room nurse practitioner. I hope to mentor nurses and share what I have learned. I am excited about the opportunity to fulfil my goals. Last, I would like to advance into a management role as well where I can oversee and train nurses. I feel drawn toward helping others grow and learn.

3. Why did you decide to be a nurse?

Here, the employer wants a nurse whose ambitions match the principles of the facility.

Sample answer:

My family had a pervasive medical background. I had a grandfather and uncle that were doctors. Many aunts and cousins are nurses, and it seemed like a natural progression. I was always intrigued by the medical field since I was a kid. Helping people in practical yet compassionate ways comes naturally to me.

4. How do you deal with cultural differences?

Nurses are well-trained to handle cultural differences, but it takes experience and respect for others to do it well. As always, specific stories and methods are essential. You can tell of your success with this issue or a time when you learned something valuable.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Every nurse has unique strengths and weaknesses. Honesty is important when answering this question. That said, you don’t want to express a weakness that makes you seem incompetent.

Sample answer:

My greatest strength comes from my ability to educate and empathize with patients. I can speak in their terms and help them understand what’s going on with their bodies. I strive to enter into their shoes and treat them as people first, not just patients. There was this one older woman who dearly missed her garden. I decided to bring in a small potted garden for the patient. She loved this gesture, and it made her feel better about her diagnosis. My greatest weakness is over-committing. I am so passionate about the job that I try and do too much at times. I need to slow down and trust my team.

6. Why do you want to work here (at this hospital/health system)? What interests you the most?

Don’t say because you want to make more money. Describe the health system and what you feel drawn toward.

Sample answer:

I’m inspired to work in a facility that champions patient-centred care. Your facility has received countless awards for its care including Quality Leadership Award for high-quality patient care. I am excited to work for such an institution. I find that I thrive in facilities dedicated to this goal. I would feel a great deal of pride to work at such a well-regarded hospital. 

Sample Interview Questions on Adaptability and Flexibility

1. Describe a situation where you were under a lot of pressure. How did you deal with it? What methods worked well for you?

Nursing is a stressful position. Sometimes nurses burn out. The hiring manager wants to find a nurse who can handle stress in a healthy and practical way.

Sample answer:

I experienced pressure every day as an ICU nurse. On one occasion, I had to cover more patients than usual because of a co-worker calling out sick. I decided to create a list and prioritize care. By organizing and paying attention to detail, I was able to manage my increased workload successfully.  After work, I often practice yoga so that I don’t take any of the stress with me.

2. What do you do when you don’t know the answer to something at work—whether it’s how to address a situation or answer a patient question—how do you go about getting more information?

Every nurse will experience a time when they don’t know the answer to a question. The hiring manager wants to hear about how you resolved this issue quickly.

Sample answer:

When I don’t understand something at work, I seek out help. I don’t let my pride get in the way of quality patient care. I generally ask someone who has more experience than me to help out and do it in a timely manner.