Nursing interview questions and answers
There are nearly three million nurses in the American workforce. Additionally, there are around 700,000 licensed practical nurses in the country. Nurses need to obtain a license in their state after completing the necessary academic education. In most states, a nurse’s career depends on whether they undertake the required courses to retain their license. The qualifications that nurses require vary widely and range from a one-year certificate to a Ph.D. However, most nurses start their careers with a science degree.
The training program to become a nurse can last from one to four years. The length of the training will depend on a nurse’s entry level into the profession. Because of the constant need for nurses, this profession has good job security and also offers a competitive salary. Due to the career progression opportunities in this section of the healthcare industry, nurses should always be prepared for interviews by reviewing sample questions and answers to secure their next role.
What do nurses do?
There is rarely a one-size-fits-all job description for a nurse because of the various fields in this profession. Nurses can decide to work in many different settings and choose from a wide range of specialties. For example, a nurse can decide to work in a medical practice, occupational health or a nursing home. Some of the specialties a nurse can choose include:
- Burn care.
- Diabetes care.
- Forensic nursing.
- Hospice care.
Nurses also have the option of performing specialized tasks within their area of expertise, for example:
- Providing health promotion and counseling.
- Administering medications and wound care.
- Performing physical exams.
In order for nurses to practice certain specialties, they will require particular qualifications, for example, an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Masters of Science in Nursing.
After taking the necessary educational and vocational courses, one of the most important aspects of preparing for starting or progressing in a career in nursing is to be fully prepared for job interviews. The following 17 questions and answers will help nurses to succeed at interviews to secure their dream jobs:
- Common nursing interview questions
- Nurse practitioner interview questions
- New grad nurse interview questions
- Nursing leadership interview questions
- Situational and behavioral interview questions
One of the most common registered nurse interview questions is “_**why do you want to be a nurse?**_” This is an opportunity for the nurse to provide the personal reasons behind their choice of career. The interviewer is also looking for skills and traits that the nurse possesses to make them proficient at their job. Here are some sample answers to the common question “why do you want to be a nurse?”
“I chose to be a nurse because it is interesting, challenging and makes a positive impact on people’s lives. I enjoy the variety that comes with dealing with various patients with different needs.”
“I find it rewarding helping patients and their families in tough circumstances. I am happy to know that my involvement with patients and their families can make a difference.”
“I am happy to be part of a growing and interesting career. I enjoy caring for patients and love being part of making their experience at the hospital a better one. I have experience in working in different medical settings and have learned valuable lessons in every role.”
In addition to the question about the motivation to become a nurse, here are some more common nursing interview questions and answers:
1. Do you think you are a good nurse? If so, how can you demonstrate this?
“My values of providing the highest care, treating patients with compassion and my commitment to communication make me a good nurse. I demonstrate this by challenging colleagues where necessary, to ensure that the whole team provides the highest standard of care.”
2. What does compassionate care mean to you?
“I am a naturally compassionate and caring person as I think that it is difficult to learn these character traits. I treat patients how I would want to be treated. Being kind when listening to patients and addressing their problems is one way to show compassion.”
3. How have you dealt with conflict?
“I do my best to de-escalate the situation. If the conflict involves a patient’s family members, I separate the parties by taking them out of the area. I then listen to both parties to find out about the issues and how they can be resolved. I will also escalate the problem to a senior staff member if necessary.”
4. How do you define a good shift?
“A successful shift for me is when I have delivered the best care to patients. It is also a shift where my team and I have the capacity to take the required breaks, which provides a less stressful environment.”
A nurse practitioner provides comprehensive patient care and works in a number of different areas. Nurse practitioners can give preventative and primary care, diagnose, and treat some conditions as well as prescribe some medication. The following nurse practitioner interview questions and answers will help to prepare job applicants to provide the best responses:
5. What is the hardest part of being a nurse practitioner?
“The specialist nature of a nurse practitioner means that we face unique challenges and it can be difficult to deal with these issues. It is difficult to know that a patient is suffering, despite everything being done for them. I deal with these situations by realizing that I have done everything I can to make the patient feel comfortable and to ease their discomfort.”
6. In what ways do you contribute to a patient’s experience?
“The patient experience is improved with great communication from the beginning. Showing compassion, empathy, and being responsive provide a better experience for patients.”
7. How did you handle a situation where you disagreed with a physician over a diagnosis or a course of treatment?
“I remember a time when I reviewed a patient’s notes because their physician was unavailable. I saw the course of treatment that was prescribed. From my experience, I would have prescribed a different medication. I discussed my observations with the physician and he thanked me for my input and re-evaluated the patient’s treatment plan.”
As a new grad, the nursing interview questions that you will be asked will be different from what is asked of experienced nurses. A new grad can expect the following questions and answers in an interview for their first nursing job:
8. Describe how clinical rotation prepared you for a career in nursing.
“I learned a great deal of invaluable information at my school. Rotations taught me intangible skills, such as bedside manner, by providing me with practical experience of dealing with patients.”
9. In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of nursing?
“In my opinion, one of the best things about being a nurse is helping a patient to get to good health after they have received the highest standard of care. The hardest thing is where a patient continues to suffer from pain, despite all interventions.”
10. How do you plan to deal with the difficulties that can result from working with medical professionals and doctors?
“I believe that all issues can be resolved with an open line of communication. Doing my best work and ensuring competence at all times will help to prevent issues from arising. I think it is also important to get a good work-life balance to reduce stress at work.”
11. How would you deal with a rude patient?
“Every patient is different with different needs, so I will try to reduce anxiety and pain, as this can be the reason for the hostile behavior. Where a patient is being rude, I will remain calm and compassionate to reassure the patient. If the rudeness escalates to abuse, I will escalate the situation to my senior.”
Being a nurse requires the use of leadership skills to provide the best patient care. Nursing leadership interview questions are formulated to find out whether a job candidate can use their own initiative and take charge of a situation, where necessary. The following are interview questions and sample answers in terms of nursing and leadership:
12. Would you be a doctor if the opportunity arose?
“I enjoy and get a great deal of fulfillment from my nursing career. I am very much about career development but I am very content with the caring aspect of being a nurse. I love my job and would not want to do anything else.”
13. Do you keep up to date with developments in the healthcare industry?
“I subscribe to many medical newsletters and journals, which provide updated information about the progress in different areas of medicine. For example, I am aware that there has been a breakthrough treatment for diabetes and also the advances in caring for children who are born prematurely.”
14. Which aspects of your nursing career have prepared you for this role?
“After I graduated, I have had some nursing jobs where I assisted medical professionals. These positions have given me practical experience in patient care, how to be effective while working long shifts and to deal with challenging patients.”
Behavioral and situational based questions are asked to assess how a job applicant copes in different circumstances. Behavioral and situational interviewing is where job candidates are asked to remember an experience, the actions taken or not taken and the impact of their actions. The following are situational and behavioral interview questions for nurses:
15. How do you deal with someone who is not satisfied with the level of care they have received?
“There was one situation where a patient complained to my supervisor about me, despite doing everything I could. I stepped back to evaluate what was happening and asked myself whether there was anything I could have done differently. I discussed the situation with my supervisor and informed her that the course of action I took was according to what the physician advised. The physician spoke to the patient in my presence. During this time, it became clear that the patient did not fully understand what the physician said and falsely believed that I had acted incorrectly.”
16. Describe an instance when you had to deal with a difficult patient.
“I have worked with elderly patients which presents unique challenges because some of them are not used to being reliant on people. One patient had a reputation for always being argumentative with other nurses. I studied his charts before working with him and found that his spouse had passed away recently and he had no family to visit him. I tried to connect with him on a human level by talking with him and listening to his stories. His attitude towards me became different and he was perfectly polite.”
17. Describe a time when you did not get on with your team member and how you resolved it.
“I used to have many disagreements with another nurse on the ward. Our personalities seemed to clash and there were arguments about nearly everything. I decided that this was not good for the work environment and invited her to lunch one day. We addressed our differences and began to communicate and get along much better.”
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