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Common Nursing Interview Questions and What Answers to Expect

Published on May 1st, 2024

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If you are looking to hire a nursing staff, you should be prepared with the checklist for nursing interview questions. Doing your research, making the right first impression, and knowing what common interview questions to ask, can help set you up for success.

Another often-overlooked, nursing interview tip is that an interview works both ways. Choosing the right candidate is just as important as choosing the right job for the candidates — and in many cases, the candidate must need the right education to be competitive for the job you are hiring for, especially if the job is in an advanced nursing specialization.

In this blog post, let’s break down the most common interview questions interviewers can ask and what answers are to be expected. We hope that this blog will help you hire rockstar candidates for the role. 

Table of contents:

  • Common nursing interview questions and sample answers
  • Patient care questions
  • Teamwork questions
  • Adaptability questions
  • Other common nursing interview questions and answers
  • Common themes for nursing interview questions
  • Star method 

10 Common Nursing Interview Questions and Sample Answers

  1. Why did you choose nursing as a career?

Sample Answer: "I chose nursing because I have always had a passion for helping people. My interest in healthcare started when I volunteered at a local hospital during high school. Seeing the impact that compassionate care can have on patients inspired me to pursue nursing as a career."

  1. What are your strengths as a nurse?

Sample Answer: "One of my strengths is my ability to remain calm and composed under pressure. This skill has been crucial in emergency situations, where quick and accurate decision-making is essential. Additionally, I am highly empathetic, which helps me connect with patients and provide personalized care."

  1. How do you handle stress on the job?

Sample Answer: "I handle stress by staying organized and prioritizing tasks. When things get overwhelming, I take a few deep breaths and focus on one task at a time. I also make sure to take short breaks when possible to recharge and maintain my energy levels."

  1. Can you describe a time when you had to advocate for a patient?

Sample Answer: "Once, I had a patient who was in severe pain but had a high tolerance for pain medication. I noticed that the standard dosage wasn't effective, so I discussed the issue with the attending physician and advocated for an increased dosage. This led to the patient receiving adequate pain relief."

  1. How do you stay current with the latest healthcare practices and technologies?

Sample Answer: "I stay current by attending professional development courses, participating in webinars, and reading reputable healthcare journals. I am also a member of several nursing associations, which provide valuable resources and networking opportunities."

  1. Describe a time when you made a mistake. How did you handle it?

Sample Answer: "Early in my career, I administered the wrong dosage of medication to a patient. I immediately notified the supervising nurse and the physician, monitored the patient closely, and followed the corrective measures they advised. I learned the importance of double-checking medication orders and have not made a similar mistake since."

  1. What motivates you to be a nurse?

Sample Answer: "What motivates me the most is seeing the positive impact I can have on patients' lives. Knowing that my care can help someone recover and improve their quality of life gives me a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose."

  1. How do you handle difficult patients?

Sample Answer: "I handle difficult patients by remaining patient, listening to their concerns, and empathizing with their situation. I try to understand the root cause of their behavior and address it appropriately. Clear communication and setting boundaries are also essential."

  1. What is your approach to patient education?

Sample Answer: "My approach to patient education involves using simple, clear language and providing written materials for reference. I make sure to assess the patient’s understanding by asking them to repeat the information back to me and encourage them to ask questions."

  1. Why are you interested in this particular nursing position?

Sample Answer: "I am particularly interested in this position because it aligns with my skills and career goals. I am passionate about [specialty/department], and I believe that this role will allow me to further develop my expertise while making a meaningful contribution to patient care.

Patient Care Questions and Sample Answers

  1. How do you prioritize your tasks during a busy shift?

Sample Answer: "During a busy shift, I prioritize tasks based on patient acuity and the urgency of their needs. I use a triage system to assess which patients require immediate attention and which tasks can be delegated or delayed. Staying organized and communicating effectively with my team are key strategies."

  1. Describe a time when you had to provide care to a patient with a condition you were not familiar with.

Sample Answer: "I once cared for a patient with a rare metabolic disorder. I quickly educated myself about the condition using reputable resources and consulted with colleagues who had more experience. This allowed me to provide appropriate and informed care to the patient."

  1. How do you ensure patient safety?

Sample Answer: "I ensure patient safety by adhering to established protocols and guidelines, double-checking medication orders, maintaining a clean and organized environment, and using proper hand hygiene. I also stay vigilant and report any potential hazards or concerns immediately."

  1. How do you handle a situation where a patient refuses treatment?

Sample Answer: "When a patient refuses treatment, I take the time to listen to their concerns and provide them with all the necessary information about the benefits and risks. I respect their autonomy and involve their family members and the healthcare team to ensure that we explore all options and make the best decision for the patient’s health."

  1. Can you give an example of how you’ve dealt with a patient who was non-compliant with their care plan?

Sample Answer: "I had a patient with diabetes who was not following their dietary recommendations. I sat down with them to understand their challenges and provided education on the importance of diet in managing their condition. By involving a dietitian and setting achievable goals, we were able to improve their compliance."

Teamwork Questions and Sample Answers

  1. Can you describe a time when you had to work as part of a team to achieve a common goal?

Sample Answer: "During a hospital-wide emergency drill, our team worked together to simulate a mass casualty event. I coordinated with my colleagues to triage patients, manage resources, and communicate with other departments. Our collaboration ensured the drill was a success and highlighted areas for improvement."

  1. How do you handle conflicts with colleagues?

Sample Answer: "When conflicts arise, I address them directly and professionally. I prefer to have a private conversation with the colleague involved, listen to their perspective, and work together to find a solution. Maintaining open communication and mutual respect is essential."

  1. Describe a situation where teamwork improved patient care.

Sample Answer: "A patient with complex medical needs required coordinated care from multiple specialists. Our team held regular interdisciplinary meetings to discuss the patient’s progress and adjust the care plan as needed. This collaborative approach resulted in a comprehensive and effective treatment plan."

  1. How do you ensure effective communication within your team?

Sample Answer: "I ensure effective communication by participating in regular team meetings, using clear and concise language, and utilizing tools like SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) for handoffs. I also encourage team members to voice their concerns and suggestions."

  1. What role do you typically play in a team?

Sample Answer: "I often take on the role of coordinator in a team. I’m good at organizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, and ensuring that everyone is informed and on the same page. However, I am also flexible and can adapt to whatever role is needed to support the team."

Adaptability Questions and Sample Answers

  1. Describe a time when you had to adapt to a significant change at work. How did you handle it?

Sample Answer: "When our hospital implemented a new electronic health record system, I had to adapt quickly. I attended training sessions, asked questions, and practiced using the system. I also helped my colleagues who were struggling with the transition. Eventually, we all became proficient with the new system."

  1. How do you handle a situation where you don’t know the answer to a patient’s question?

Sample Answer: "If I don’t know the answer to a patient’s question, I am honest about it and let them know that I will find the information they need. I then consult reliable resources, ask colleagues, or contact the appropriate specialists to provide the correct information as soon as possible."

  1. Give an example of a time when you had to manage multiple priorities.

Sample Answer: "In the emergency department, I often manage multiple priorities. One time, I was caring for a patient with chest pain while also managing a patient with a broken limb. I prioritized the chest pain patient, ensured they were stable, and then delegated tasks to other team members to ensure both patients received appropriate care."

  1. How do you stay flexible when your shift doesn’t go as planned?

Sample Answer: "I stay flexible by being prepared for unexpected changes and maintaining a positive attitude. I focus on what can be done rather than what went wrong. During one shift, a sudden influx of patients required me to adjust my plans and priorities rapidly. I communicated with my team, redistributed tasks, and ensured all patients received timely care."

  1. Describe a situation where you had to learn something new quickly.

Sample Answer: "When I was transferred to a new unit specializing in cardiac care, I had to quickly learn about the specific protocols and treatments for cardiac patients. I spent extra hours studying, shadowing experienced nurses, and attending training sessions. This preparation allowed me to become competent and confident in providing cardiac care swiftly."

By using these questions and sample answers, you can effectively evaluate candidates' qualifications, experiences, and suitability for the nursing positions you are hiring for.

Common Themes for Nursing Interview Questions

When interviewing candidates for nursing positions, focusing on several common themes can help you assess their suitability for the role comprehensively. These themes are critical in evaluating a candidate’s qualifications, demeanor, and potential to contribute effectively to your healthcare team. 

Let's delve into these themes in more detail:

1. Clinical Knowledge and Skills: 

   - What to Look For: Assess the candidate's understanding of medical procedures, protocols, and their hands-on experience. This includes their knowledge of various medical conditions, familiarity with diagnostic tools, and proficiency in performing clinical tasks such as administering medications, wound care, and operating medical equipment.

   - Importance: Clinical knowledge and skills are foundational for any nursing role. A candidate's ability to demonstrate competence in these areas ensures they can provide high-quality care and respond appropriately to medical situations.

2. Patient Care: 

   - What to Look For: Evaluate how the candidate interacts with and cares for patients. This includes their approach to patient assessments, their ability to create and implement care plans, and their empathy and compassion in dealing with patients' physical and emotional needs.

   - Importance: Patient care is at the heart of nursing. A nurse who excels in this area can significantly improve patient outcomes and experiences, contributing to overall healthcare quality and patient satisfaction.

3. Teamwork: 

   - What to Look For: Determine the candidate’s ability to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, including doctors, fellow nurses, and support staff. Look for examples of past experiences where they have effectively contributed to a team environment.

   - Importance: Healthcare is a collaborative field. A nurse’s ability to function well within a team is crucial for ensuring coordinated and comprehensive patient care, minimizing errors, and creating a supportive work environment.

4. Adaptability and Problem Solving: 

   - What to Look For: Understand how the candidate handles stressful situations and unexpected challenges. This involves assessing their critical thinking skills, ability to stay calm under pressure, and their resourcefulness in finding solutions to problems that arise.

   - Importance: The healthcare environment is fast-paced and often unpredictable. A nurse who can adapt quickly and solve problems efficiently is invaluable in maintaining patient care standards and managing crises effectively.

5. Communication Skills: 

   - What to Look For: Gauge the candidate's ability to communicate effectively with patients, families, and colleagues. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening, and the ability to convey information clearly and compassionately.

   - Importance: Effective communication is essential in nursing for ensuring accurate information exchange, providing emotional support to patients and families, and fostering a cooperative team environment. Miscommunication can lead to errors and decreased patient satisfaction.

6. Professionalism and Ethics: 

   - What to Look For: Ensure the candidate adheres to the ethical standards and professional behavior expected in the healthcare environment. This involves their commitment to confidentiality, integrity, accountability, and respect for all individuals.

   - Importance: Professionalism and ethics are critical in maintaining trust in the healthcare system. A nurse who upholds these values contributes to a positive work culture and upholds the standards necessary for delivering safe and respectful patient care.

By focusing on these common themes during the interview process, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of each candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement. This holistic approach ensures you select candidates who are not only technically proficient but also possess the interpersonal skills and ethical grounding essential for excellence in nursing.

STAR Method

One effective way to assess candidates during an interview is by using the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This structured approach helps interviewers evaluate how candidates have handled specific situations in the past, providing insights into their problem-solving abilities, skills, and behavioral traits. Encouraging candidates to use the STAR method in their responses ensures that their answers are organized, comprehensive, and relevant.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the STAR method and how it can be applied in nursing interviews:

1. Situation:

This part of the response sets the context for the candidate’s example. It involves describing the specific event or situation they were involved in.

   - What to Look For: Listen for clear, concise descriptions that provide enough background to understand the context. The situation should be relevant to the nursing field and illustrate a significant challenge or opportunity.

   - Example Prompt: Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult patient.

2. Task:

This element focuses on the specific responsibilities or assignments the candidate had in that situation. It outlines what was required of them and what they needed to accomplish.

   - What to Look For: Look for clarity in the candidate's description of their role and responsibilities. The task should highlight their role in addressing the situation and what was expected of them.

   - Example Prompt: What was your responsibility in this situation?

3. Action:

This part of the response details the actions the candidate took to address the situation or complete the task. It involves explaining the steps they took, the decisions they made, and the strategies they implemented.

   - What to Look For: Focus on specific actions rather than generalizations. The candidate should explain their thought process, the skills they utilized, and how they handled any obstacles.

   - Example Prompt: What actions did you take to resolve the issue?

4. Result:

The final part of the STAR method describes the outcome of the candidate’s actions. It should include the impact of their actions, any changes or improvements that resulted, and what they learned from the experience.

   - What to Look For: Look for quantifiable results or specific positive outcomes. The candidate should demonstrate the effectiveness of their actions and reflect on the experience to show personal and professional growth.

   - Example Prompt: What was the outcome of your actions, and what did you learn from this experience?

Using the STAR Method in Nursing Interviews

Encouraging candidates to use the STAR method helps ensure their answers are well-organized and detailed. It also allows you to gain a deeper understanding of their past behaviors and how they might handle similar situations in the future. Here’s how you can integrate the STAR method into your interview process:

- Ask Behavioral Questions: Frame your questions to elicit STAR responses. For example, Can you tell me about a time when you had to handle an emergency situation in the hospital?

- Prompt for Detail: If a candidate’s response is too vague, ask follow-up questions to guide them through the STAR structure. For instance, What was the specific task you needed to accomplish in that situation?

- Evaluate Thoroughly: Listen carefully to each part of the STAR response. Assess the relevance and significance of the situation, the appropriateness of the task, the effectiveness of the actions, and the value of the results.

Example STAR Response

Situation: In my previous role as a nurse in the emergency department, we had an influx of patients one night due to a multi-vehicle accident.

Task: I was responsible for triaging patients, ensuring that those with the most critical injuries received immediate attention while also managing the flow of other patients.

Action: I quickly assessed each patient’s condition using our triage protocol, delegated tasks to the rest of the nursing team, and coordinated with the physicians to prioritize treatment. I also communicated with the patient’s families to keep them informed about the situation.

Result: Due to our efficient triage process, all patients received timely care. Our team managed to stabilize the most critical patients, and the overall patient flow was smooth. I received positive feedback from both the attending physicians and the patient’s families for my role in managing the situation effectively.

By using the STAR method, you can ensure that candidates provide comprehensive and insightful answers, allowing you to make more informed hiring decisions based on their past performance and potential future contributions.

Conclusion: Ultimately, remember to be truthful in your own responses

Being transparent about the role, expectations, and work environment helps ensure that you attract candidates who are not only qualified but also a good fit for your team. By preparing thoughtful questions and understanding the answers to expect, you can make informed decisions and hire outstanding nursing professionals who will contribute positively to your healthcare facility.


Authors

author

Soujanya

As a technical content writer and social media strategist, Soujanya develops and manages strategies at HireQuotient. With strong technical background and years of experience in content management, she looks for opportunities to flourish in the digital space. Soujanya is also a dance fanatic and believes in spreading light!

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