Top 10 Nursing Interview Questions (With Example Answers)
Updated July 27, 2023
If you're attending an interview for a nursing position, you can expect the hiring manager to ask you questions that relate to your education, knowledge, abilities and previous work experience. They may also ask situational questions to determine how you'd react in specific situations. Learning how to answer nursing interview questions can help you show your qualifications and increase your employability for an open role.
In this article, we list 10 nursing interview questions and provide example answers.
10 common nursing interview questions
Review 10 examples of common interview questions for nurses:
1. Do you work well with other nurses, doctors and staff members?
A hiring manager may ask this question to learn about your past experiences in a collaborative environment and determine if you recognize the benefits of working together when providing patient care. In your response, you can emphasize your interpersonal skills like teamwork, patience and active listening. You can also describe the positive outcomes you experience when you collaborate with others, including a safer and more efficient work environment.
Example: “During my clinical training at Northeast Hospital in the emergency room, I learned how important it is to communicate well with other nurses. One night, a patient approached me to say he had been waiting for his medication for 20 minutes. I was new to the hospital at the time, so I checked in with his nurse before deciding to provide it myself.
It turned out that the patient had Alzheimer's disease and his attending nurse had given him the medication already. This communication helped our team to ensure the patient's safety. I use this relevant experience to always remember to prioritize effective communication with nurses and other staff members to ensure my patients remain safe and healthy.”
Related: Learn About Being a Nurse
2. How would you handle a difficult patient?
A recruiter may ask this question to determine if you can remain compassionate and patient even when you're handling a patient who's dealing with challenging circumstances and exhibiting fear, confusion or anxiety. In your response, explain that you take steps to reassure them. You can also emphasize that you do everything possible to make them and their family members more comfortable, like taking time to explain treatment plans or the side effects of specific medications, which reflects a patient-centered approach to patient care.
Example: “While working overnight as a pediatric nurse, I had a 15-year-old patient under my care who we were treating for an infection. The patient called me into the room several times within an hour with various concerns. I sat down with them to ask how they were feeling.
It turned out that they were worried about their situation and not used to being away from home. I spent a few minutes asking about their pets at home and brought an extra snack before arranging a phone call with their family to help better reassure them. After that, they went to sleep and no longer called repeatedly during the remainder of their treatment. From this experience, I learned to look beyond patients' attitudes for underlying concerns.”
3. How do you handle workplace stress?
When you work in the medical field, you may experience fast-paced workflows and complex tasks. Because of the nature of this kind of work, a hiring manager may want to know how you handle the emotionally and physically challenging aspects of your job. To answer this question, describe the techniques you've developed for stress relief that highlight your self-awareness, time management and adaptability skills. You can discuss hobbies, support groups, exercise regimens and other ways you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Example: “During my nurse training, I attended a seminar where the speaker encouraged nurses to develop and maintain habits that support our health. The speaker recommended finding a physical activity or hobby to pursue as a way to reduce stress. I took their advice by performing volunteer work at an animal shelter and signing up for a gym that offers various classes. These two hobbies effectively relieve my stress and let me maintain a healthy work-life balance so I can focus on my patients when I'm at work.”
4. What do you do if your replacement doesn't arrive on time?
A hiring manager may ask this question to determine if they can rely on you to handle this kind of situation and prevent a lapse in the patient care that the nursing team provides. In your answer, offer a solution and emphasize that you always prioritize patient care while still following organizational policies.
Example: “In my last position in the ICU at City Hospital, I couldn't find my replacement one night. It was the end of a long shift, but I stayed until I was able to find someone to cover my responsibilities so I could go home and get enough rest before my next shift. Once this became a recurring issue, I spoke to my supervisor, who talked with the individual who was showing up late to ensure they are on time for future shifts."
5. How would you handle a disagreement with a doctor?
When you answer this question, emphasize your conflict resolution skills, professionalism and ability to maintain a collaborative working relationship with doctors. In your response, mention that you always work directly with the doctor first to resolve the discrepancy. If further assistance is necessary, you can state that you'd take the appropriate measures and talk to a supervisor.
Example: “I had a situation while working in the ER at a small hospital. One night, I looked over a patient's chart and the prescription didn't look right. First, I called the doctor to resolve the discrepancy.
The doctor confirmed the original prescription, but based on evidence-based practice and additional research, it still didn't look right to me. At that point, I decided to discuss it with my supervisor. When the three of us reviewed the prescription together, the doctor did eventually realize there was an error. We were able to correct the prescription and provide the patient with the right treatment.”
6. Describe how you manage a busy workload.
When you respond to this question, highlight your dedication to attending to your patients during a variety of conditions, while also emphasizing your ability to remain organized and aligned with your workload. In your response, you can provide a specific example of a time that you managed an increased number of tasks without compromising protocols or procedures.
Example: “I can recall an instance when we were understaffed on a weekend during the holiday season and also had more patients than usual. I worried that we would have long delays in attending to our patients because of the staffing situation. I offered to stay a couple of hours longer that day as did some of my colleagues to cover the remaining shifts.
Throughout the day, our team worked together and communicated with each other if we needed help or a break. Ultimately, we were able to take care of all the tasks while maintaining the hospital's high standards for quality care."
7. Do you have any professional affiliations?
Your response to this question is a chance for you to emphasize that you seek opportunities to advance your skills. This is a good opportunity to highlight any areas on your resume that list extra certifications you've gained through these organizations. You can also discuss the ways in which you participate in these organizations and explain specific areas of nursing about which you're passionate.
Example: “I'm a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Assisted Living Nurses Association. I'm passionate about geriatric care and I make sure to keep my knowledge current in areas that can benefit the geriatric patients in my care. I completed a class in February through the American Association of Diabetes Educators that enabled me to improve the care I provided to a patient who was struggling with their dietary requirements. I was able to provide them with resources to develop a better diet and healthier overall lifestyle."
8. How would you handle a crisis such as an outbreak?
Your response to this question can show your hard skills such as your knowledge of how to address and respond to specific medical situations and soft skills like teamwork and adaptability. For a strong answer, discuss your ability to collaborate, your in-depth knowledge of nursing procedures, your attention to detail and your willingness to stay current with outbreak management practices.
Example: "In my last role as a public health nurse in the city's health department, I noticed an unusually high number of patients coming in with similar symptoms. I lead a team to collect and analyze the data. It turned out that there was a small outbreak in our city.
Because our team reported the issue, the staff in our facility detected the symptoms and followed standard infection control precautions. Authorities were able to alert the public of symptoms of which to be aware. I feel our team did a great job observing our patients and reporting the incidents."
Related: How To Implement Crisis Management
9. How would you handle a patient who struggles with pain management?
Empathy is a vital skill for nurses to use when interacting with patients who may be dealing with pain. Express that you take your patient's concerns seriously and provide an example that shows you can help them through any situation with empathy and problem-solving.
Example: “During my time with obstetrics and gynecology at City Hospital, I remember a patient who was experiencing pain during pregnancy. I suggested different sleeping positions and stretches, but they didn't offer much relief. In that case, I reported the information to their doctor who was able to recommend further treatment.
The next time they came in, she was excited to report that the treatment was working and they experienced less severe symptoms. In other settings, I've been able to offer comfort measures to patients like extra pillows or help with the television while they wait for their doctor to arrive. I always take patients seriously when they tell me about discomfort.”
10. How do you respond when people ask for your personal diagnosis outside of a clinical setting?
A hiring manager may ask you this question to assess your professionalism and commitment to patient safety. In your response, explain that you tell people in your personal life to seek medical advice in a clinical setting from medical employees who have access to the results from diagnostic testing and evaluations.
Example: “I have a family friend who would ask me about symptoms they were having and how to address them. After I told them that I couldn't give him a diagnosis outside of the clinic where I worked, they made an appointment to see the doctor there. While it would've been convenient for them to get feedback from me, it's always best to treat patients in a holistic, professional manner in a clinical setting, so we have all the right information to do what's best for them.”
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