11 Psych RN Interview Questions and Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 23, 2021 | Published March 15, 2021

Updated July 23, 2021

Published March 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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Psych registered nurse (RN) interview questions are designed to assess a candidate's nursing, interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills. Your answers should demonstrate these important skills, while also highlighting your nursing experience. You can use these interview questions to demonstrate why you are a good fit for the open position. In this article, we discuss a few of the most common psych RN interview questions you are likely to receive.

General questions

General questions provide the interviewer with more information about your interests in the position. Here are a few general questions you may receive:

  • What was your favorite part of nursing school?

  • What career would you have pursued if you didn't go into nursing?

  • What is your greatest skill as a nurse?

  • What specializations interest you most in the nursing industry?

  • What makes you proud about your career?

  • What makes you a good nurse?

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Tell me about your most memorable day working as a nurse.

  • Would you consider yourself a good team member?

  • Do you have any questions for us?

  • How do you handle constructive criticism?

Questions about experience and background

These questions give the interviewer an idea of your educational and experiential background. Here are a few questions regarding experience and background that you may receive:

  • What did you like most about your previous position?

  • What did you like least about your previous position?

  • What did you find to be the most challenging part of your internship?

  • How would you rate your abilities to work with other medical care team members?

  • How do you find a way to connect with patients with who you have little in common with?

  • What makes you the right candidate for the position?

  • What made you switch jobs?

  • What made you pursue a career with us?

  • Have you ever had to deal with a difficult coworker?

  • What do you do with difficult family members?

  • How do you continue your training and ensure you are always up-to-date?

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In-depth questions

In-depth questions usually require you to think further, developing an answer that goes beyond your degree or experience. Here are a few in-depth questions that you might receive:

  • What is the most challenging part of being a psychiatric nurse for you?

  • Have you ever had to work with a challenging doctor or supervisor?

  • If you could change one thing about your previous work environment, what would it be?

  • What is your greatest challenge when it comes to nursing?

  • What would you do if you were presented with a patient and you have no idea what to do?

  • What impression do you leave your patients with?

  • What made you want to work specifically as a psychiatric nurse?

  • What skills do you feel you have developed since beginning nursing school?

  • How would you handle a request for working overtime following a stressful day?

  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?

  • How would you deal with a patient who is afraid to share symptoms because of a family member?

Interview questions with sample answers

Here are a few of the most common questions you may receive during a psychiatric RN interview:

1. How do you handle a patient when there are concerns about your own safety?

Psychiatric nurses may have to make decisions based on the safety of themselves and their patients. This question measures a candidate's awareness of these potential safety concerns as well as how fast they can make important decisions.

Example: "I recognize that some situations can become risky and being aware of the situation at all times is important. If I believe that a patient may be a threat to myself or themselves, I request help from my team. I try not to sedate a patient unless it is absolutely needed. Instead, I try to understand their concerns and only call for help when needed, while making the safety of myself and others a priority at all times."

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2. How do you practice self-care?

Self-care is an important part of working in the mental health industry. This question measures whether a candidate has a self-care protocol in place that will help them deal with the stressful parts of the job.

Example: "I have found that the best self-care for myself is to disconnect after my shift and talk a walk outdoors. Being able to smell the fresh air and gather my thoughts has become crucial to my well-being."

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3. Tell me how you stay motivated in a sometimes stressful career.

This question measures your ability to stay motivated despite a sometimes stressful position. The interviewer is often asking to find out more about your problem-solving and interpersonal skills, which are both important to the position. It is important to have a strategy in place to overcome the stress of working in a high-paced department. It is also important to draw on the reason why you pursued a career as a psychiatric nurse.

Example: "My motivation comes from my passion to help patients, regardless of where they are at mentally. I know that sometimes things can get difficult before they get better. I continue to remind myself of this when I get stressed, using it to draw on motivation."

4. How do your organizational skills influence your position?

Working as a psychiatric RN is about much more than directly dealing with patients. Nurses also require exceptional organizational skills, and this question is your chance to share how you stay organized.

Example: "I have recognized that being organized in my position ensures that everything is done efficiently and timely. When I focus on organization throughout the day, I find that I have more time to spend with patients, which is important to me."

Related: How to Stay Organized at Work

5. What made you want to work in the mental health industry?

This question measures your goals and aspirations in the mental health care industry. Rather than turning to previous experiences, such as your recent graduation, it is always good to share your upcoming goals. Use this opportunity to showcase your passion for the field. You might also use this question to demonstrate your understanding of the increasing demand for mental health care.

Example: "I have always felt deep compassion for those with a mental health disorder. I look forward to getting to know each of my patients, learning from them, and finding what helps them feel better. I believe that if I can make a difference in one person's life, then I have chosen the right career."

6. How important is teamwork to you?

Teamwork is an important skill when working as a psychiatric nurse. Not only do psychiatric RNs work with other nurses, but they also often coordinate care with medical doctors and physician assistants. This question is your chance to demonstrate the importance of teamwork to you, while also sharing your own teamwork skills that will help.

Example: "Teamwork is crucial in most work environments, but especially so in a hospital setting. Because a patient works with so many different medical providers, they receive the best care when each of them collaborates with one another. I recognize that my strengths may accommodate other team members, just as their strengths can help me. I have found that communication and good record keeping is important to teamwork in this capacity."

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7. How do you handle longer-than-average work shifts?

It is not uncommon for psychiatric RN nurses to work 12-hour or longer shifts. This question measures a candidate's willingness to complete these longer-than-average shifts. When answering, it is important to recognize how difficult these shifts can be, including the skills or motivations that can help you deal with them.

Example: "I know that the work schedule with a psychiatric RN can be demanding. However, I also understand that these long shifts are designed to give the best care to the patients. I handle longer shifts by preparing ahead of each shift with self-care and then taking breaks when needed throughout the workday to ensure that I am able to give each of my patients the best possible care."

8. What would you consider to be the most difficult part of this career?

This question requests more information regarding your expectations of the position. When answering, it is important to be honest. Include strengths or skills that you have that will help you overcome the more challenging parts of the position.

Example: "I believe that the most difficult part of this career, for me, is that patient progress is not always linear. Patients may do better, only to have setbacks, before then improving again. My strong interpersonal and empathy skills help me connect with patients who may find themselves in this back and forth pattern."

9. How do you influence change outside of the psychological department?

This question tests a candidate's outward view of mental health. When considering your answer, think about the duties you complete in a day, and how they can impact the local community.

Example: "When patients come to our department, whether voluntarily or not, they are often in a very difficult place, and this can make them a danger to others. Problems with alcoholism and drugs can impact the patient's family. By receiving the help they need here, and sometimes, just having someone who listens, can have external effects on their family and their community as a whole. I strongly believe that the work we do is important to the community."

10. Tell me how you gather important details during intake.

Working as a psychiatric RN, one of your job duties will be to complete intakes. This question assesses your understanding of this important process, while also giving you the chance to demonstrate communication and problem-solving skills.

Example: "I use open-ended questions to gather as many important details about the patient. If I am unable to gather enough information, then I may turn to their family members for additional data. I try to develop good rapport and allow the patient to share what they are comfortable sharing."

11. How do you respond to feedback from supervisors?

This question tests your ability to implement constructive criticism. It also measures your willingness to accept feedback from your supervisor. When answering, it is important to not only highlight your willingness for feedback but also how you use it.

Example: "I always welcome feedback from my supervisors because it helps me develop as a psychiatric nurse. I think I have a good grasp on my strengths and weaknesses, but a supervisor's feedback can help me further pinpoint these and take steps to improve."

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