Top 9 Travel Nurse Interview Questions to Ask

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A travel nurse unpacks her bags from the trunk of a rented car.

Keeping a nursing unit fully staffed often seems like an impossible task. Whether core staff is retiring, burning out, or leaving to travel, your unit may feel like a revolving door.

Once you’ve received approval to hire travel nurses to fill urgent staffing needs, the next step is to determine which nurses are the best fit for the unit. In this guide, we’ll tell you which travel nurse interview questions to ask so you can get the help you need fast.

Why Hire Travel Nurses?

A travel nurse is a short-term contract worker hired for urgent staffing needs. Their contracts are typically 13 weeks long, give or take. This allows the unit to be fully staffed during the time it takes to train new staff nurses. Managers may also hire travelers for anticipated needs like:

To hire a travel nurse, you may consider working with a third party such as a staffing agency. They vet candidates by confirming nurses’ credentials, certifications, and experience.

What Is a Travel Nurse Interview Like?

Whether you’ve captured a candidate’s interest through an intriguing job description for travel nurses or with the help of an agency, the next step is an interview. This is a crucial opportunity to gauge the applicant’s temperament and readiness for the role.

Since you could potentially hire a nurse from thousands of miles away, the interview will most likely take place over the phone or virtual meeting space. Reserve an hour to conduct the interview, and account for the time needed for additional conversations, such as a peer interview.

Most candidates go through some sort of pre-screening process before speaking to a facility manager. As a hiring manager, the interview is your chance to get a better sense of the nurse’s clinical skills and how they align with the role. Asking strategic clinical nurse interview questions will help you make this determination.

Travel Nurse Interview Questions and What the Answers Mean

During a travel nurse interview, you want to know if a nurse has the clinical and non-clinical skills to join your team. After a brief orientation (typically three days), the nurse should be equipped to:

  • navigate a new city, facility, and unit
  • collaborate with a team of care providers
  • take care of any patient on the unit (and other units, if floating is expected)

Here are 10 travel nursing interview questions to help you determine whether the candidate is the right fit.

1. Tell me about your nursing background.

The nurse’s response to this question tells you how long they’ve been a nurse and the diversity of their experiences. It’s a good sign if a travel nurse has a range of experience — it indicates they are capable of adapting to new environments.

2. What is your experience with this patient population?

For travel nurses, there’s little time for on-the-job training. Unlike staff nurses, whose training periods range anywhere from three to six months, travelers get just a few days to orient with a preceptor.

Nurses should have a minimum of one year of experience in a given specialty before traveling. As a hiring manager, it’s up to you to determine if their experience is enough. Ask this travel nurse interview question to determine whether the candidate is competent to care for the unit’s patient population.

Tip: Feel free to ask questions relevant to your unit, such as their experience with specific types of devices, surgical procedures, etc.

3. Can you think of a time when you had to respond to multiple requests at once? What did you do?

In a busy healthcare setting, nurses may be pulled in every direction at once. This question measures their ability to handle the demands of a fast-paced healthcare setting. It gives you an idea of the nurse’s time management and patient prioritization skills.

4. Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem with little guidance. What was the outcome?

Travel nurses frequently make independent decisions that impact patient care. This question challenges the candidate to demonstrate critical thinking, a nursing skill that comes with time and experience. You want to know that the traveler is capable of thinking independently and using their resources wisely.

Tip: Asking about the outcome gives the nurse a chance to reflect further. How did their decision impact the situation?

5. Tell me about a time when a coworker disagreed with your decision. How did you respond?

Disagreement in the workplace is common — and 34% of workplace conflict occurs among frontline workers. This question gives you insight into the candidate’s sense of teamwork and conflict management. Ask the travel nurse how they would manage conflict and come to a resolution if they joined your team.

Tip: To get more mileage from this travel nurse interview question, consider asking about their strategies to prevent interpersonal conflict at work.

6. What would you do if you disagreed with your patient assignment?

While this question addresses conflict management, it also has the candidate reflect on their standards of patient safety. Is the nurse willing to advocate for patient safety if they were given an unsafe assignment?

Tip: This is a good opportunity to assure the nurse that their assignments will be safe. Share your facility’s standard nurse-to-patient ratios and what type of assignment to expect on a typical shift.

7. What is the best work environment you’ve experienced? What made it such a good experience?

Travelers see everything — from healthcare facilities with minimal resources to leading medical centers. This travel nurse interview question allows them to reflect on their personal workplace standards, wherever they practice. You want to know that even in a short-term contract, they have the integrity to provide best-practice care.

Tip: Policies and practice standards vary by state and facility, so give the traveler resources to quickly look yours up.

8. How do you feel about floating?

Most travel nurses are aware they’re first to float, but it’s important to be transparent about floating requirements in the interview. Let the travel nurse know which units (or facilities) they may be expected to staff in addition to yours. If they aren’t up for the challenge, they may not be a good fit for the role.

9. Are there any barriers to you completing your contract?

Before investing in a travel nurse, you want to be sure they can commit to the terms of the contract. Avoid confusion by being clear about scheduling expectations like:

  • shift and weekend requirements
  • requested time off
  • contract start and end days

Tip: This question also helps identify challenges, such as finding housing, that could prevent a timely start date.

Fill Your Urgent Staffing Needs Today

Are you struggling to keep a consistent nursing staff? Invest in a long-term staffing solution with IntelyCare, a staffing partner that brings you competent, qualified nurses fast. We ask the tough travel nurse interview questions so you don’t have to.