Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Woman interviewing a nursing candidate

Whether you’re a new nurse or a seasoned pro, interviewing for a new job can be stressful. It can help to think of the probable nursing interview questions and answers that will make you shine during the interview. Of course, every interview is different, but there are common themes that most employers touch on:

  • Patient care
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Communication skills
  • Background
  • Personality
  • Motivation

We’ve compiled a list of interview questions and answers for nurses that can help you prepare for your interview. The top questions are:

  1. When did you first know you wanted to be a nurse, and what about the career appealed to you?
  2. What one skill or trait is most important to be a good nurse?
  3. What would your coworkers say if I asked them if you were a good team member?
  4. Tell me about a challenging time during your shift and how you dealt with it.
  5. Tell me about a time you disagreed with your nurse manager’s or doctor’s recommendation and how you handled it.
  6. What makes a patient difficult? How well do you deal with difficult patients?
  7. What is the next step in your career?

7 Common Interview Questions and Answers for Nurses

These nursing interview questions and answers touch on the various themes an interviewer will want to cover. They also show examples of the types of questions you may be asked, including behavioral questions and storytelling questions.

Question 1: When did you first know you wanted to be a nurse, and what about the career appealed to you?

This question is a good ice-breaker that gives the interviewer a glimpse into your personality and enthusiasm for nursing.

  1. Use the storytelling method to answer.
  2. Focus on patient care (and your role in it!).
  3. Inspire them with your genuine satisfaction in being a nurse.

How You Could Answer

“I’ve known that I wanted to be a nurse since I was a child and I witnessed firsthand how empathetic nursing can have a real impact on a person. I had to go to the ER when I was 10 when I fell and hit my head at a family picnic. It hurt, but it felt worse that we had to leave early, and I was worried my parents would be mad. When I told the ER nurse what happened, she empathized with me and said she imagined leaving the picnic was disappointing. I was so excited that she listened to me and understood.

Getting stitches was no fun, but that nurse made the experience positive. I thought she had superpowers. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse. Being able to connect with patients while providing care is something that motivates me to come to work every day and continue in this impactful career.”

Question 2: What skill or trait is most important to be a good nurse?

This question helps determine your values and understanding of a nurse’s role. Pro tip: Be sure to make it clear how you embody these values in your work.

  1. Focus your answer on caring for a patient.
  2. Admit that there are many essential traits.
  3. Pick a trait and explain why it is most important.

How You Could Answer

“Nurses need a long list of traits and skills to be effective and give the best care. But one stands above the rest for me. It is critical thinking. Once while working in the intensive care unit, I noticed a new patient was admitted with orders for two units of blood. Her labs showed stable hemoglobin and hematocrit, the patient was asymptomatic, and had no indicators in her presentation or history of active or chronic blood loss.

I called the physician who entered the orders, described my concerns, and asked for clarification on the order. The physician had selected the wrong order set and did not notice that it included two units of blood. By using critical thinking, I was able to catch this order error and prevent administering something potentially harmful and unnecessary for this patient.”

Question 3: What would your coworkers say if I asked them if you were a good team member?

Some nursing interview questions and answers ask you to reflect on how coworkers see you. You must believe in teamwork to be an effective nurse. The interviewer wants to know if you understand that, and if you can point to examples of teamwork in your experience.

  1. Be a cheerleader for teamwork.
  2. Talk about how it affects patient outcomes.
  3. Recognize that sometimes you need to work independently.

How You Could Answer

“My coworkers would smile when you asked them about my teamwork skills because I do the teamwork cheer whenever we’ve gotten through a challenge together. I always want to be there for other nurses when they need help and be open to letting someone help me if I’m struggling. They would tell you that I always make my rounds, asking if anyone needs help before I clock out. It’s a way to support others in the unit. Of course, there are times when you must take the initiative and dive into a task yourself, especially if it’s an urgent patient matter.”

Question 4: Tell me about a challenging time during your shift and how you dealt with it.

This behavioral question lets the interviewer know how you handled a situation in the past, which could predict how you might perform in a similar situation in the future. Challenges and stress are realities in nursing. Through these types of nursing interview questions and answers, the interviewer wants to know that you take problems in stride and learn how to approach resolution.

  1. Tell a story with a professional tone. Avoid, “OMG, this one day was awful!”
  2. Describe the technique you use to deal with stress.
  3. Talk about the positive outcome in your example due to your technique.

How You Could Answer

“Stress and challenging situations are part of the job as a nurse, so I am rarely surprised by anything that happens. One time when we were short-staffed, one nurse called to say they had an emergency, and another didn’t show up for their shift. Our problem-solving skills quickly led us to utilizing resources.

We told our nursing supervisor about the call-outs. They checked with other units to see if a nurse was available to float to us until they could find a PRN nurse. We had another nurse in the unit immediately, and within an hour a PRN nurse arrived for the remainder of the shift. We got through the shift smoothly and felt good about being able to take care of our patients despite the challenge.”

Question 5: Tell me about a time you disagreed with your nurse manager’s or doctor’s recommendation and how you handled it.

Some nursing interview questions and answers are meant to address more than one thing. This question assesses your communication and interpersonal skills and tells the interviewer if you understand the chain of command and its importance in a healthcare setting.

  1. Emphasize the importance of seeking clarification from a senior professional’s instructions.
  2. In your story, explain how you questioned the recommendation professionally and respectfully.
  3. Say how it ended successfully.

How You Could Answer

“We had a patient complaining about pain after getting the dose of medication prescribed by her doctor. I questioned why she couldn’t have her dose increased. The doctor was adamant that she was fine with the dose as prescribed.

As a nurse, I am the doctor’s eyes when they aren’t able to observe a patient in person. I checked the patient again and charted 7/10 pain despite medication, rest, and heat. I consulted with our charge and we agreed I should call the doctor with the latest observations and ask for a PRN medication or alternative to alleviate the patient’s pain. After hearing the update, the doctor changed the order to an alternative medication. The patient’s pain subsided soon after.”

Question 6: What makes a patient difficult? How do you deal with difficult patients?

Dealing with difficult patients is a given in nursing. Nursing interview questions and answers often seek to gauge your level of compassion, as well as how you handle situations with difficult patients.

  1. Don’t use any names or other info that would violate HIPAA.
  2. Communicate that it’s not unusual to have an unhappy or uncooperative patient.
  3. Talk about techniques you’ve used to calm agitated patients.

How You Could Answer

“I’ve found it is important to understand why a patient is unhappy or uncooperative. Being hospitalized can be frightening for some people, especially if they don’t understand the need for a procedure. I always make sure every patient I work with feels seen and heard. Eye contact and listening for an opportunity to answer a question that’s troubling them is important.”

7. What is the next step in your career?

Companies invest time and money when they hire a new employee. They want to know that you’re planning to stick around. They also want to see if you are ambitious and want to further your career or education. Nursing interview questions and answers like this one help the interviewer know if you fit into the organization.

  1. Emphasize your interest in the facility and position.
  2. Talk about your commitment to the job.
  3. Be honest about your plans. If you have no interest in pursuing another degree, don’t say it just to sound good.

How You Could Answer

“My next step is to work in a facility like this one where I can learn and grow. Right now, I know I want to be an APRN. Working here would allow me to learn about different areas of nursing and see what interests me the most.”

Find Your Next Job on IntelyCare

Navigating nurse interview questions and answers can be intimidating, but you’ve got this. Ready to take the next step and find a great new opportunity? Check out all the nursing jobs available right now on IntelyCare and apply today.