5 Best Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

Nursing interview questions

Whether you are an experienced nurse or a recently licensed RN, here is a guide to:

  • what your potential employers are looking for in an applicant,
  • the most common nursing interview questions,
  • and how to answer in a way that will highlight your strengths as a candidate. 

While it’s impossible to know exactly what questions your interviewers will ask, this article will outline some of the most common nursing interview questions.

Also, the article provides some sample answers that will help showcase your strengths and demonstrate your ability to provide the best quality of care to your patients. 

The five most common nursing interview questions are as follows:

  1. Why do you want to work as a nurse?
  2. Do you work well as part of a team?
  3. How would you handle a difficult patient?
  4. How do you handle workplace stress?
  5. Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. 

What Are Interviewers Looking for in a Candidate?

Nursing interview questions are designed to gauge your proficiency in the following areas: 

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Patient care
  • Motivation
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability

Common Nursing Interview Questions and Answers

Nursing interview questions and answers

1. Why do you want to work as a nurse?

Regardless of the specific field of medicine in which you are working, all nurses share similar responsibilities and qualities. 

This question allows you to share what drove you to healthcare in the first place.

They want to see if you have the qualities needed to provide high-quality care to your patients and whether your ambitions match those in the company. 

Example answer:

I have always had an interest in the medical field, which was fostered by my family’s medical background.

My grandfather was a doctor, and my mother was a nurse, so the career choice seemed natural.

I have always had the desire to help people, and being a nurse allows me to make a real difference in people’s lives.

2. Do you work well as part of a team?

Teamwork is an essential part of nursing.

You will be part of a large team of doctors, fellow nurses, and various staff, all of whom have an important role to play in each patient’s care.

For this nursing interview question, it’s important to communicate to your interviewee how much you recognize the importance of teamwork and communication.

Your answer should demonstrate your communication skills, as well as your abilities to cooperate and be flexible.

If you can, draw on a situation from past relevant experience in your answer. 

Example answer:

During my clinical training as the ER nurse at [insert name of hospital], I learned how important it was to communicate with my fellow nurses regarding patient care.

See also: ER Nurse Interview Questions

One night, an elderly patient approached me and reported that she had been waiting more than half an hour for her medication.

Instead of immediately giving this patient her dosage, I first decided to speak with the nurse in charge of administering medication.

It turned out that this patient had Alzheimer’s and didn’t remember that she’d already been given her medication.

3. How would you handle a difficult patient?

Patience and compassion are essential to have as a nurse.

Regardless of the setting in which you work, patients are away from home and dealing with difficult situations and feelings that sometimes affect their attitudes.

It’s important to administer their medications on time and answer their questions, while also reassuring them and providing them with extra resources they can benefit from.

If possible, draw on past relevant experience for this nursing interview question and describe a time when you successfully de-escalated a situation with a difficult patient.

Example answer: 

When I worked as a pediatric nurse at [insert name of facility/hospital here], there was an 8-year-old girl who was uncooperative when it came time to take her medication.

See also: Pediatric Nurse Interview Questions

She would always throw a huge fit and refuse to take it.

One day, I asked her what her favorite flavor of the pudding was. She said chocolate.

The next day, when it came time to take her medication, I brought a cup of chocolate pudding she could take with her medicine.

This worked, and she no longer threw a tantrum when it came time to take her medicine.

In my past experiences with difficult patients, I have found it is always best to practice patience and empathy when a patient is struggling.

I strive to de-escalate when necessary and to always try and find the underlying issue behind their behavior.

See also: Dialysis Nurse Interview Questions

4. How do you handle workplace stress?

Careers in the medical field are fast-paced with high stakes, and caregiver burnout is a real condition that especially affects those in the medical field.

Nursing is a stressful job with many competing demands. 

With this nursing interview question, your potential employer is gauging how you handle yourself with the more physically and emotionally taxing aspects of being a nurse.

Self-care is essential, and your employer wants to see if you prioritize taking care of yourself so you can provide high-quality care to your patients.

See also: Quality Assurance Nurse Interview Questions

In your answer, describe what hobbies, support groups, exercise regimens, and other ways you practice stress relief. 

Example answer:

I regularly go to the gym to stay in shape, and I make sure to mix up my workout so I don’t get bored with the routine.

I am an active member of my church and volunteer my time in various church service projects, such as volunteering at local homeless shelters.

I find that these activities relieve my stress.

See also: Registered Nurse Interview Questions

5. Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult coworker.

In nursing, as in any career field, you may inevitably have to eventually deal with a difficult or unprofessional coworker.

This could be a doctor, a fellow nurse, or another staff member.

In your answer, it’s important that you don’t talk down about anyone, but rather highlight your conflict resolution skills and emotional maturity.

See also: Nursing Conflict Scenario Examples Interview

Your interviewer is asking you to draw on past relevant experience for this nursing interview question, which can be from school, clinical training, or a previous job. 

 Example answer:

When I was working an evening shift at [insert name of hospital or facility here], the nurse who was supposed to relieve me was consistently late.

Since I couldn’t leave until she replaced me, I ended up staying well past my shift’s scheduled end time.

When I spoke to her about it, I asked if changing shifts would help her arrive on time.

She was grateful and agreed to the shift swap, admitting that the start time of her scheduled shift was difficult for her.

See also: PCU Nurse Interview Questions

How to Answer Nursing Interview Questions?

The STAR method is the best way to answer behavior-based nursing interview questions in which the potential employer can best gauge your reactions in unpredictable and/or stressful situations. 

S – Situation

Describe a particular event from your past relevant experience, which can be from school, volunteer experience, or a previous job.

Make sure to include enough detail for your interviewer to understand the circumstances.

T – Task

What was your objective at the time of the situation?

A – Action

What did you do to address the situation?

Describe what steps you took and be sure to highlight your actions so your interviewer can understand your unique role.

R – Result

What was the outcome of your actions?

Be sure to describe your achievements in a way that highlights your strengths as a candidate.

What Questions to Ask in a Nursing Interview?

Job interviews aren’t only for the employer.

They are also a valuable opportunity for you, the candidate, to gauge whether the employer is right for you.

By preparing a few questions for your potential employer, you are also communicating to the company that you have a genuine interest in them.

Nurses are in high demand, so you hold the valuable position of being able to be choosy with where you work.

If a company doesn’t seem the right fit for you, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll land an interview with another potential employer.

The following questions are just a few examples of what you should ask your employer during the interview:

  • What does a typical day look like for this position?
  • What growth opportunities are available to nurses?
  • How is performance measured?

Conclusion: Interview Questions for Nurses

Answer each nursing interview question honestly and transparently.

Be open and honest, and with questions regarding past employers or difficult patients or coworkers, it’s important not to trash talk.

If you were unhappy with your salary in your last position, tell your interviewer.

If you want leadership opportunities, describe your aspirations, and ask about available growth opportunities.

The same applies to any mistakes you made.

If you made an error in judgment in one of your past positions, describe what steps you’ve taken to ensure you won’t make the same mistake.

Be sure to express your passion for nursing and your eagerness to provide your patients with high-quality care.

Good luck with your upcoming nursing interview!

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