Whether you’re looking for your first nursing job or seeking a new challenge in a different specialty or hospital, landing the right job can feel daunting. During the interview, expect to be asked about various things, like:
Employers will likely ask many behavioral-based questions for nursing interviews so they can get a sense of how you perform under specific circumstances. If possible, answer these questions with actual stories and examples. Try answering behavioral questions, such as those beginning with phrases like “Tell me about a time when...” or “Give me an example of…”, with the “STAR” method outlined below. l.
STAR (S ituation, T ask, A ction, R esults)
1) present a situation,
2) explain the task involved,
3) describe what action you took, and
4) communicate the result that occurred.
To help you prepare for your next nursing interview, we’ve tried to take the guesswork out of those tough nursing interview questions for you. Here are 11 of the most common nursing interview questions along with tips and examples on how to answer them.
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This question is a bit disguised - remember, you’re not being asked for a list of your hobbies or your life story. Your interviewer wants to know what you think is important and how well that aligns with what they’re looking for. The question is really asking why you’re perfect for the job. So, do your research in advance to find out what they’re looking for and apply your experience to that. Focus on your strengths and how those strengths would positively impact your role within the organization.
I’m self-motivated and I really enjoy working with and helping people each day. Spending the past five years working directly with patients has shown me just how far active listening can go in helping make them feel comfortable. My most recent position included working in admissions, so I was often the first person patients would see when they came in and the last they would see on their way out, along with throughout the day. I learned that addressing their concerns and making sure they were heard was just as important to them as receiving quality care. Because of this experience, I helped establish a training program to help teach other nurses these skills.
Since nursing is a hands-on, specialized field, employers need to know why you want to be a part of it and how motivated you are to stick with it. They know nursing is hard and that fear, frustration, and hardship come with the territory. Hiring managers care about your passion for nursing, for quality patient care and safety, and for positively impacting people’s lives. Answering this question will show what’s truly driving you.
Explain what drew you to nursing and why it matters to you beyond getting paid. What do you love most about it? What gets you excited about the field? What about taking care of patients resonates with you most? Use a specific story to make it personal, such as something from your childhood or from a family or friend in the field.
I love comforting and educating those in need, and helping out in difficult situations. Last year I was tasked with handling a tough patient, and I did my best to listen and provide comfort. As she was leaving, she thanked me and told me I made a world of difference to her. I realized then that I was important to her. This is what makes nursing so meaningful to me. Every day, in small and large ways, my presence truly matters to those in my care.
Although many rewards come with most good jobs, such as the pay and benefits or a short commute, keep in mind when answering this question that it’s not actually about you! It’s about your prospective employer and meeting their need of finding the right candidate for the job. Many employers can offer high pay or generous benefits, so be clear about what you find so rewarding in the specific role they’re trying to fill. Explain to your interviewer how nursing ties into your life story. Employers will know you’re less likely to seek rewards in another job, and this is valuable to them.
Each day I learn and grow in ways I never imagined. I feel amazing when I see my patients improve and when I comfort their family members with emotional support during tragedy. Helping people feels better than anything else I’ve ever done, and I get paid for it! I feel very lucky to have found this career.
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This is a great example of a behavioral question. Tough patients regularly require a daily nursing routine, just like pleasant and easy patients do, and employers need to rely on nurses who can handle them. Doing so proves you’re comfortable in tough situations and that you take pride in working through problems others have given up on.
Give a concrete example of how you handled, or would handle, a situation. Tell a story from your past and how you dealt with a situation, or present a hypothetical situation if needed, so the interviewer can sense how you would behave in a similar situation in the future. Demonstrate that you actively listen to what the patient or family member is saying and can explain you understand their frustration and you’ll review their case and speak with other colleagues. Your answer will give insight to your patience, compassion, problem solving skills, and method of dealing with confrontation.
Though I constantly strive to do everything I can for my patients, there are times when that isn’t good enough and someone has an issue. One time, a patient complained to my supervisor about me by claiming I had denied them specific care. The first thing I did was step back and really assess what was going on. I asked myself if they were upset because of something I did or didn’t do and if it was something I could or should correct. I told my supervisor I was following strict doctor’s orders. We spoke with the attending physician about the situation and she came with me to speak to the patient. It turns out that the patient had misunderstood something the doctor told her, which led her to assume I was neglecting a step in her care process. Once the confusion was cleared up, we were able to work with the patient to come up with a satisfactory solution. I strive to ensure that I answer patients’ questions and when I can’t, I try to find the people who can. However, despite that, some people won’t be happy with what you’re doing. In those situations, I do my best to accommodate them without compromising their care. If it’s a situation where I really can’t fix the problem, I work with other nurses and doctors on my team to find a solution.
This nursing interview question gives you the chance to shine and shows how you stand out from the other applicants! The employer needs to know you’ll fit in with their team and organization. If their biggest need is better patient education and that’s your strongest skill, you’ll have an excellent chance of being considered. However, if the job requires someone who can manage EHR records and your strongest nursing skill is time management, don’t be afraid to say it. Honesty is always best.
Think of solid examples highlighting your strongest skills that align with the job and what the employer values most, and use real achievements that prove them. When discussing weaknesses, state a real flaw that’s manageable, understandable, and real, but that shows strong work ethic, too.
My biggest strengths are my compassion and my ability to solve tough problems. I once had a patient who would woke up screaming every few hours. I thought of how horrible he must feel and took some time to talk to him. I quickly found that he felt much better after just ten minutes of conversation, so I came in early for the next five nights to spend time with him. His night terrors disappeared and the other patients could sleep peacefully again. My biggest weakness is I get irritated when other nurses don’t pull their weight, and sometimes have a hard time hiding this.
Nursing can be a very high stress job, and you will often find yourself in crisis mode (especially if you’re an emergency nurse who has to quickly get patients in and out of the ER and change directions with almost no notice, all while maintaining compassion and quality of care). Employers need to know how well you handle that stress and work under pressure. Choose a real challenge and explain your solution. How did you react? You need to come across as someone who can handle anything calmly, strategically, and proactively.
By being extremely organized and detail oriented, I find I can manage the stress of the job. I make lists and prioritize what needs doing throughout the day, which makes tasks that seem overwhelming suddenly more manageable. I also communicate clearly and quickly with colleagues in the heat of a stressful moment, so we all understand what’s happening before us and who’s doing what. Practicing these techniques also allow me to stay calm and remain focused on what’s important when unexpected situations arise.
I also have a great self-care regime that I practice at home. This helps me unwind after each day and leave me feeling reenergized to come back the following day.
This nursing interview question is actually asking whether you would do something in a situation that calls for action to be taken, or let it slide. Everything comes down to patient safety. Those willing to confront or report another colleague, regardless of their position, to protect a patient have the integrity required of great nurses. You need to explain how you would talk to and collaborate with your colleague to actually change their behavior and not talk at or down to them - which would be ineffective and unproductive. Doing so proves you can influence and create positive change on a larger scale, and successfully giving feedback to others proves you can work with and lead a team.
Think about your past personal experience either dealing with this issue or a similar one where you had to confront a coworker. Explain the situation, what your role was, the action you took and why, and the result of that action. This will show that you would act again if needed, and that you would do so in such a way to encourage the person to listen to you, change their behavior, and be more thoughtful next time.
At my last job, I overheard another nurse’s patient in the adjacent room ask her for more pain medication. This patient sounded really desperate and weak and basically pleaded for it. I knew my colleague had a soft spot for this patient; he had been in the hospital for awhile and she was really invested in him. Rather than go through the normal protocol of checking when he last received the medicine and checking his vitals, she immediately agreed and went to get it. I casually followed her out and stopped her in the hallway. I gently told her I happened to overhear her patient’s request but that I saw him get the same medicine only an hour before and wondered if she forgot to go through regular protocol. I also indicated I know he’s not my patient and I wouldn’t normally intrude, but I needed to be sure since it’s a potential safety issue. Although my colleague initially looked taken aback, or even offended, she softened right away and said she understood. As it turned out, she was very tired and at the end of a 14-hour, intense shift and it had slipped her mind. She thanked me for the reminder and proceeded with proper procedure.
This nursing interview question gives you a great opportunity to really sell the hiring manager on why you’re the best candidate for the job without actually saying so. Answering this effectively actually depends on how well you know the job. Aside from reading the job description, talk to other nurses who work there to learn about challenges the facility faces. Consider how you’ve faced these things before and how your experience transfers to your prospective employer’s needs.
I’ve been a registered nurse for the past six years and love what I do. It truly is a passion. I stay informed on advancements, trends, and technology in the field, and I continue to further my education. I enjoy the challenges that come with the job and take every chance I can to learn and grow.
This is really asking if you’ll like the job enough to stick with it or if you’re just looking to fill a short-term gap. You need to speak to your career goals and vision for your future in health care and how those directly relate to what the job requires. Indicate that this job meets your long term goals. Explain you want to be great at the job in five years’ time and what you’ll do to ensure that happens. Make sure the employer knows you plan to stick around and improve your skills. Do your research in advance so you can speak knowledgeably about the role and organization.
I’d like to be the most valued nurse on your team in five years. To reach that goal, I would absorb every experience, note what I learn from them, and ask questions as I go. I would also take advantage of the education reimbursement you offer to expand my skills, including in budgeting and training. I think XYZ Hospital is a great place to develop my skills and become a better nurse.
Just like behavioural questions, sometimes you might be asked to answer specific case study or scenario-based questions.
For example, if the patient was post op surgery and had an unsteady gait but they wanted to go out for a smoke (and were refusing alterations, i.e. patch, etc.), what would you do?
Employers are looking to test your analytical thinking, your intuition, and your ability to ask questions. While these types of nursing interview questions are nerve-racking to answer, and really vary in difficulty depending on the employer, remember to analyze the question, ask questions if needed, and take a few seconds before putting together your answer. Remember that employers are not trying to trick you but that instead they just want to see how you react and what skills you can bring to the table.
Since the answer depends on what scenario they give you, the best way to prepare for this is to work with a colleague or fellow nurse to test you with a few case study questions. If you’re not sure who to ask, post in the Nurse Avenue networking community and ask for some example scenarios.
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To show your enthusiasm for the opportunity, you should always ask questions. Be sure you’ve carefully considered and planned out two or three intelligent questions for the hiring manager. You could ask about new hire training and orientation, a “day in the life” of the role, or the nurse-to-patient ratio. These may seem simple but, remember, not asking questions makes you appear uninterested and unmotivated. Plus, just as the employer needs to know if you’re right for them, it’s equally important that you determine whether the job is right for you!
We know that interviewing for and finding the right job can feel overwhelming, whether you’re entering the field of nursing or you’re looking for your next role in your health care career. By using these common nursing interview questions and answers as a guide to help you in the process, you can alleviate some of that stress and hard work. If you haven’t already, join our Facebook group to connect and network with other Canadian nurses. Good luck!
Emma Caplan writes and edits client-facing documents and takes pride in making them sales-ready and reader-friendly. She has additional experience in quality control and proofreading. She has written articles and podcast summaries for the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast, edited fiction and non-fiction books, and volunteers as a copy editor for Editors BC’s West Coast Editor and Students for High Impact Charities.
Emma has also earned a certificate in editing and a bachelor of management degree. In her free time, Emma enjoys hiking, travelling, and creating jewelry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.