10 Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions (With Examples)

Updated March 10, 2023

Nursing behavioral interview questions test your knowledge of patient care, communication skills, motivation, teamwork and adaptability. Your answers should demonstrate these core skills and provide relevant stories to back up your knowledge and experience

In this article, we look at behavioral interview questions and answers for nurses to help you ace your next job interview.

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10 common nursing behavioral interview questions

When answering behavioral interview questions, consider using the STAR interview response technique, which outlines:

  • Situation: Discuss a specific event with enough detail for your interviewer to understand the circumstances. The situation could be from any relevant event, including school, volunteer experience or a previous job.

  • Task: What was your objective at the time?

  • Action: State what measures you took to address the situation. Make sure to detail your actions so your interviewer can understand your unique role.

  • Result: What happened as an outcome of your actions? You can describe your achievements in a way that highlights your strengths as a job candidate.

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Example questions for nursing interviews

Here are 10 behavioral questions you may be asked in a nursing interview:

1. How would you pacify an aggressive patient?

This question assesses your reaction to a difficult situation. Recruiters ask this question to test your conflict resolution and interpersonal skills. In your answer, provide an example of a situation where a patient didn’t cooperate with treatment or did not adhere to the prescription instructions.

A professional nurse needs to have excellent communication such as active listening skills and verbal persuasiveness. That way, you can easily understand the concerns of the patients and their families, influence their attitudes and explain treatment regimens in an accessible way to reduce resistance.

Example: “As an experienced nurse, I understand that no two patients are the same regarding treatment and adhering to instruction. I’ve had to deal with many difficult cases. I attempt to control the situation by being patient, showing empathy regarding their condition, trying to understand their concerns, and providing reassurances and a quick solution. Being compassionate and firm is part of the job, and it wins over most patients regardless of how uncooperative they want to be.”

2. How well do you respond to pressure at work?

Nursing requires dedication and a strong ability to work well under pressure. This question checks your perseverance, commitment and time management skills, among others. In your answer, demonstrate your ability to maintain emotional strength even when there is a lot of pressure on you to deliver peak performance.

Outline some stress management techniques you used to stay on top of the situation. Do you have a particular relaxation technique? Do you take short breaks to exercise to get endorphins flowing? Perhaps you maintain a journal where you write your feelings of gratitude for being able to help others in their times of need. Whatever you do to manage your stress, mention it with examples to buttress your points.

Example: “Being a CNA candidate with more than 8 years of experience, I understand the high-stress nature of my work and I can handle any challenges that come my way. Colleagues know I can keep my cool under pressure and multitasking isn’t a big deal for me. There was a time when the victims of a multiple-car accident were rushed to the ER ward of the hospital where I worked. It was at night and the hospital was not running at full capacity. As the most senior nurse present, I rallied everybody who knew how to manage trauma patients, and we were able to stabilize the victims until more experienced hands were available. It was a trying time for everybody, but we pulled through without losing any of the patients.”

3. How do you manage an uncooperative colleague?

With this interview question, the interviewer is trying to assess your presence of mind, interpersonal skills and conflict resolution skills. Demonstrate these skills with a relevant example.

Example: “As a nursing supervisor, I once worked with a colleague who always disputed any diagnosis I made in the presence of doctors. People who know me understand that I strive to maintain workplace cohesiveness and resolve any differences I have with others as soon as I learn of them. At first, I didn’t put much thought into it, but eventually, I realized the attacks were deliberate. I asked her to tell me the problem or I would have to report the issue to the HR department. She stated that she felt the senior doctors favored me more than her. She apologized, and our work continued without incident.”

4. Do you think you are organized? Can you provide an example?

Nursing is not only about administering medications and comforting the ill, but it also requires exceptional attention to detail and a lot of paperwork. You have to manage several patients simultaneously and maintain detailed information about their treatment, medication and more. These activities call for impeccable organization skills. As a nurse, you must have good time-management, communication and organizational skills to ensure all the vital information on your patients is readily available.

Example: “Working as a nurse requires keeping things in order. Over the years, I have acquired excellent organizational skills, including clinical analysis methods and other techniques for preparing information in an accessible format. Now, I can handle multiple patients simultaneously, missing no points regarding their treatment, medical history and the progress they are making.“

5. How do you respond to an unprofessional doctor?

Nurses do not have the same level of qualification as doctors, but they play a crucial role in caring for patients and administering the treatment doctors recommend. Sometimes, doctors can be challenging to work with or become uncooperative with nurses. In your answer, demonstrate maturity and problem-solving skills.

Example: “I work with several doctors and medical professionals every day. Some of them are excellent communicators and humble. A few don’t see nurses as important to their work. Where a doctor was unprofessional, I tried to be a mature person. However, there was an incident where I had to report a doctor to higher authorities. We disagreed over a patient who was terminally ill, and it almost became a serious issue. I reported the matter to HR to avoid any problems.”

6. How do you manage a patient’s relatives?

The patient’s relatives are the most affected by the plight of their loved ones. Some may challenge your input, but some may become attached to you. It’s important to know how to work with them in a way that highlights your commitment to caring for your patient and easing the process for their family and friends.

Example: “As an RN, I understand my role as a caregiver and do my best to keep the patient as comfortable as possible while reassuring their families. However, I remain honest and firm with the family to avoid raising their hopes. If one of my patients dies, I gently break the news to their family members and try to comfort them the best way I can.”

7. As a supervisor, how do you manage conflict between coworkers?

A medical establishment functions best when all employees work together peacefully, but there may sometimes be disagreements in your workplace. Your conflict resolution and leadership skills should help diffuse the situation and get everybody back to working as a team.

Example: “Nurses are human, so it’s normal for tensions to flare up sometimes. When that happens, I would meet the people involved and try to broker an acceptable solution. If they have concerns about a colleague’s conduct, I always make myself available to help mediate the situation. I may have to report the matter to senior management if they continue and the conflict is affecting patient care.”

8. Do you love working independently or as a team player?

A nurse’s job requires collaboration with a diverse number of medical professionals, including doctors, lab technicians, anesthesiologists, radiographers and others. This makes teamwork a desirable trait in the ideal nurse candidate, so make sure your answer demonstrates your ability to work as part of a team.

Example: “I love working on a team, as that’s the only way to make a difference in the nursing profession. Depending on the situation, I can take orders from doctors and also direct junior nurses on what to do at critical times to remedy a precarious situation.”

9. What precautions will you take when treating a chronic patient?

Recruiters ask this question to test your empathy and communication skills. Being honest while maintaining a cordial relationship with chronic patients is a great trait to have as a nurse.

Example: “Patients with chronic health problems can be challenging to deal with because there is no guarantee they will get better, but my job as a nurse goes beyond giving them medications and regular reports of their progress to doctors. I also cheer them up and make them optimistic about their condition. I would speak to them and listen to their concerns and help them solve their problems.”

10. What’s the best way to motivate a complacent nurse to become a top performer?

Nurses and other professionals in the medical industry go through a lot of work-related pressure and stress that can impact their productivity. This question assesses your leadership skills and whether you can motivate subordinates and colleagues to achieve peak performance.

Example: “If I discover a nurse is performing lower than they usually do, I would try to find the underlying cause of the problem. I understand that nurses and doctors experience tremendous pressure, so it’s normal for productivity to dip sometimes. However, I will do everything I can to help them through the difficult time so they can strive to be a higher performer at work.”

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