VA RN Interview Questions and Answers: How to Prepare

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse prepares her VA RN interview questions and answers.

Do you want to work in a government nursing position in which you’ll care for patients who sorely need you? You might want to consider working in a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. If you choose this path, you can expect the hiring process to be thorough, so it’s important to prepare yourself before the big day. Below, we give you an idea of what to expect and provide some VA RN interview questions and answers.

Learn About Veterans and the VA

Educating yourself about your new employer shows that you’re serious about your prospective position and can help you include important nuances in interview answers. Plus, it’s necessary for you to truly know whether or not the job is right for you.

The official website is a great place to start because you will learn about the VA organization through their own words. You can also read reviews written by nurses, but take these with a grain of salt. Their personal experiences may differ from your own — seek out overarching patterns in these responses rather than internalizing each individual’s feedback.

You must also learn about your patient population. Veterans are a unique group. They had to undergo specific training to join the military, and are more likely to have been exposed to levels of violence most people don’t see. Learn about conflicts faced by the generations of veterans who are still living, military culture, and what it’s like for them to transition back into civilian life.

It’s important to note that PTSD and suicide are more common among this population. Ensure you’re well versed in these issues, their treatments, and other forms of mental illness that can stem from trauma. Prior knowledge will go a long way in the interview, and most importantly, in your practice.

VA Interview Format

The way in which employers conduct job interviews may share similarities, but they’re not the same. During the VA interview process, they use the performance based interview (PBI) format. Applicants must respond to questions about situations they could encounter on the job. They are assessed on a scale ranging from 0 to 5. A 0 rating means the applicant’s response was wrong or unacceptable, while a 5 is ideal.

Applicants are assessed on both correctness and completeness. Here’s a pro tip: Don’t hesitate to go above and beyond. Applicants who exceed the expectation for completeness impress employers. Facilities can also alter the questions to evolve with the changing healthcare landscape. Feel free to seek out past PBI interview questions and answers for nurses, but know that they likely won’t be the same for you.

5 Practice VA RN Interview Questions and Answers

Below are some examples of questions you may be asked during the interview. When creating your answers, remember correctness is only a part of the equation. Make sure your answers feel complete.

1. Could you describe a time that you navigated a complex patient situation without the intervention of your supervisors?

Sample answer: One morning, a patient with whom I normally have a great rapport was being verbally abusive to me. First, I excused myself from the room to soothe my emotions and process the situation. When I returned, I acknowledged that he was having a tough morning, and that his emotions were valid.

I offered to allow him a moment to speak about his feelings, to which he refused. Although he apologized, he didn’t wish to elaborate further. I told him I would listen to him when he was ready, and asked if he would like to speak to the therapist. He refused again.

When I checked on him later that day, I repeated the offer to give him a chance to express himself, and for the therapist visit. He still declined, so I encouraged him to let me know when he was ready for either option. I paid close attention to his behavior for the rest of the shift, documented the encounter, and described the incident to the following nurse during shift report.

2. How do you ensure timeliness and accuracy in your patient charting and documentation?

Sample answer: I use every available opportunity to chart. I try to do so after each patient interaction, and when I can’t, I do as soon as possible. If there’s anything especially important, I make charting a priority unless another patient has an urgent need.

On busy days, I have a small notepad in which I jot down the room number and related keywords to refresh my memory by the time I’m able to chart. I throw the paper in the shred bin as soon as I’m finished with it.

3. Could you describe a situation when you had to work collaboratively with a larger healthcare team?

Sample answer: I had a patient who was diagnosed with HIV before she began using VA services. She already had a dedicated team from a community clinic near her home. She was adamant about their remaining an active part of her healthcare because they already earned her trust, and wanted regular communication between the VA and clinic.

I had weekly calls with the clinic to inform them of any medication and status changes. I communicated their recommendations and comments to the VA healthcare team. In the event of any health emergency, I made sure to inform them by the end of the shift. If I didn’t have time, I’d do so the next day or inform the oncoming nurse that communicating the incident was a priority.

4. How would you handle a situation in which a patient is experiencing a mental health crisis?

Sample answer: During mental health crises, I encouraged patients to express themselves and use their coping skills. If that wasn’t effective, I’d administer applicable PRN medications. When necessary, I ensured I had support by calling a psychiatric code.

Throughout this process, I would sift through my knowledge of the patient’s history and inform other team members of how those aspects of the patient’s experience could be affecting the present moment.

I’d be mindful of my being potentially incorrect because there could have been elements of the patient’s history that they didn’t share. Either way, this exercise helped me remain compassionate and eased my ability to maintain a holistic view of the situation.

5. How do you stay up to date on advancements in nursing, particularly in areas related to veterans health?

Sample answers:

  • I read newsletters focusing on industry news, especially when it relates to veterans.
  • I pay attention to current events related to the U.S. military, and brainstorm with colleagues about how that could impact veterans’ healthcare in the near future.
  • I prioritize continuing education related to mental health, especially PTSD, suicide, and the impacts of trauma stemming from violence.
  • I eagerly take opportunities to learn how to use new healthcare technologies, and seek advice from colleagues with previous experiences using them with veterans.
  • I ask patients for feedback when I use new technology, pay attention to overarching patterns, and make adjustments based on their responses.

How to Dress for a VA Interview

We can’t overstate the importance of reviewing VA RN interview questions and answers, but there are other details to keep in mind. Make sure you’re dressed to impress.

It’s understandable for you to wonder if a government nursing job will have more specific dress code requirements. To be on the safe side, you can call the facility and ask about their dress code expectations. If you’re unable to check, know that business casual is usually a safe bet for staff nurses. Business formal is more appropriate for nurses seeking management positions.

Tips to Mentally Prepare for a VA Interview

Are butterflies having a field day in your stomach? That’s totally normal, and means you’re eager to make a difference in the lives of people who need your expertise and compassion. Below are some examples of steps you can take for your sake:

  • Practice your responses out loud.
  • Receive feedback on your responses from your nursing friends.
  • Get enough sleep the night before.
  • Eat a filling breakfast the morning of the interview .
  • Take deep belly breaths when you begin to feel anxious.
  • Remind yourself of past career accomplishments no matter how large or small.
  • Meditate to calm your mind at a time that works for you.

VA RN Salary

So how much does a VA nurse make? Salaries for these nurses range from $11,657 to $310,840, with an average salary of $60,408. VA nurse salaries can vary based on your level of experience and location.

Are You Ready for VA RN Interview Questions and Answers?

Preparing yourself before an interview raises your chances of performing well, so you’re already on the right track. In the meantime, you can search for VA nurse jobs on IntelyCare.