Interview Questions for Nurses
After spending days or even weeks perfecting the curriculum vitae and filling out online applications, nothing will get you more excited than to receive a call to interview for your desired nursing position.
An amazing CV is not enough – it’s critical to devote your time to prepare for the nursing interview questions and answers, both mentally and physically.
Having the appropriate interview mindset, practicing your answers to common interview questions, and dressing appropriately are all essential aspects to consider to achieve a successful nursing job interview.
We’ve prepared a guide below using common nursing interview questions to help you feel more confident and comfortable during the interview. Also please see our article, “Interview Tips for Nurses.”
Using the STAR Method
The STAR method is a widely used technique for answering behavioral interview questions. The
STAR acronym describes how you must format your response and describe your story:
- Situation. Consider a similar situation that resulted in a positive outcome.
- Task. In the given situation, what is your task or problem at hand? Make your point straightforward.
- Action. What was your course of action? This is the best time to emphasize your best attributes and nursing abilities.
- Result. What was the outcome of the action? What specific contribution did you make to the overall result? You may elaborate on the things that you learned from the experience.
By using this technique, you’ll be able to fully express how you’ve dealt with a real-life
circumstance in the past and how you can efficiently handle future ones. Even if you’re just starting
in your professional nursing life, STAR is an excellent strategy when answering nursing interview questions by means of using your experiences when you were a student nurse.
Nursing Scenario Interview Questions and Answers Examples
- “Tell me about a moment when you had to deal with a difficult situation involving your patient (whether as an experienced nurse or as a student nurse).”
Explain your experience to the interviewer but be sure not to talk negatively about the patient. Instead, tell them how you showed empathy toward the patient and how you attempted to resolve the problem.
“I’ve encountered a lot of difficult situations with patients in my nursing career. However, the ability to handle these situations is a necessary part of the job. One time, a patient was shouting and swearing at everyone, even for minor issues such as bringing his breakfast 5 minutes late. I sat down and spoke with him and discovered he was upset about his diagnosis. He had no friends or family with him. I informed the hospitalist, and she arranged for a therapist to meet with him. He was extremely pleasant after that. All the other patients and employees on the ward appeared more at ease. After that incident, I realized that there is always a reason why someone is being difficult. Treating people with dignity and giving them time to express themselves can have unexpected results.”
- “As a nurse, please state your strengths and weaknesses.”
This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your greatest strength and how it benefits you in your profession. When it comes to weaknesses, tell the interviewer how you overcome them.
“My compassion and ability to solve complex problems are my greatest strengths. One time, there was this one patient who suffered from night terrors. Every several hours, he’d scream as he awoke. I imagined how I would react if it were me instead of him. I talked to him for a while. The patient expressed that giving ten minutes of my time for that conversation helped ease his fear. I arrived early for the next five nights to spend time with him. His night terrors had subsided, allowing the other patients on the ward to sleep soundly at night. Moreover, my biggest weakness is that I quickly get irritated when my co-nurses don’t work as hard as others. But I’m getting better as time passes by.”
- “How can you explain to patients their medication, diagnosis, and treatment without using many medical terms?”
This is your time to demonstrate your knowledge of therapeutic communication and patient education. Summarize what you said, the terminology or language you used, and how you assured the patient comprehended your explanations.
“Most patients have different understandings and knowledge regarding healthcare and medical terms. Many patients did not understand specific medical terms when I worked as a home healthcare nurse. Thus, I used terminology they were most likely familiar with. I used swelling instead of edema. I used high blood pressure to describe hypertension. I also used acid reflux instead of gastroesophageal reflux. I double-checked that they understood what I was saying by asking them to repeat what they had heard until they could do so accurately and in a way that made sense to them.”
- “What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a nurse? How do you conquer this difficulty?”
Tell a story about some situation that makes your nursing profession a challenging one. On the other hand, share a story that shows how you try to overcome that challenging phase in your job.
“The most challenging part of my job as a nurse is witnessing a patient die, particularly one I cared for while they were healthy. It’s painful to see the patient’s family grieving the loss of their loved ones. One time, one of my cancer patients died, and I sat in the bathroom and cried. I contemplated and paused to commemorate the moments I spent with my patient. To console myself, I keep in mind that death is inevitable and a natural aspect of life, and at least it marks the end of my patient’s suffering.”
- “Tell me about a moment when you worked in a fast-paced environment. How do you balance task prioritization while providing quality patient care?”
Give examples of a moment when you had to prioritize your tasks carefully. Summarize your thought process, and why you opted to perform the tasks in the sequence you did.
“Being assigned to an ICU is incredibly fast-paced, and it is critical to prioritize your daily tasks. I make a to-do list with everything that needs to be done at the start of each shift. The essential things that must be done are at the top of the list, and the ones that I would want to do are at the bottom. Medication administration should be on top of the list, whereas washing a patient’s hair is further down. While I wish I could do everything, it simply isn’t possible. Therefore, time management is necessary for nurses in a fast-paced setting.”
- “Discuss an occasion when a patient or their family member was delighted and grateful for your care.”
Tell a story to the interviewer about a family who was pleased with your service and summarize the things that you did in particular that they appreciated. Explain how you found out they were satisfied and the results of this situation.
“Working in pediatrics may be both tough and fulfilling. Because of workload, other children, or other obligations, parents sometimes cannot stay by the bedside 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During a particular shift, I was responsible for a 6-month-old twin. Since the father had to work and the mother was at home with the twin sister and the other children, the family could not be at the bedside. I spent my shift interacting with age-appropriate toys with the infant, and when the mother called me to check in, I placed the phone next to the infant. The mother could hear her baby laughing as she sang to her. This drew them closer together and moved the mother to tears. The mother mentioned that no other nurse had done anything like that during her stay and that she would be eternally thankful.”
- “Describe an instance when you dealt with a patient who refused to communicate or give vital information. What was the consequence of your approach to the situation?”
Share a story about a patient with whom you worked in a comparable situation, the steps you took to obtain information from the patient, and the outcomes of your actions.
“A parent once omitted to disclose that the child’s father was not her current partner. Knowing who the father is, was significant because the patient would require consent forms to be signed; legally, his partner could not sign the consent forms. In addition, a man called the unit, claiming to be the child’s father. The nurse manager and social service were notified about the father’s true identity in an open discussion. While I have yet to discover the information, it is critical to be aware of the resources available to you and to use them to the greatest extent possible.”
- “Tell me about a situation when you were under extreme pressure. What happened, and how did you deal with it?”
Tell a story of a period when you were under stress and pressure to perform. Describe the situation and why you were under pressure. Describe the steps you followed to go through the circumstance step by step. Inform them of the outcome and the lessons you’ve learned from the incident.
“I was the most veteran nurse on the unit by more than a decade. I had to manage my patient assignment and serve as a reference for the unit’s other rookie nurses. I had to ensure that my time management skills were excellent and my capacity to drop everything and help someone else. I needed to be organized, or I wouldn’t have been able to help others.”
- “Describe a moment when the hospital you’re working with has started transforming and evolving. How did that affect you, and how did you respond?”
Tell the interviewer about a time when the hospital facility transformed. Perhaps they were purchased by another facility. They may have switched to a new computer system. Describe the shift and the steps you took to adjust to it.
“I worked for a healthcare system that transitioned from manual data entry to electronic medical records and computerized charting. This adjustment was perplexing and frequently overwhelming. I was able to adapt fast by doing some research about the changes.”
- “Tell me about a time when you messed up or failed. How did you handle this situation?”
Tell a story about a time when you failed. Discuss your sentiments and why you believe you failed. Discuss any beneficial outcomes from this failure and the lessons you learned.
“Failure is one of the most unpleasant feelings, whether professionally or personally. Patients die while working in the intensive care unit. When this happens, it means that we fail them. Following each death, there is a debriefing to review what went well and what could have been done better. I used that time to think about my involvement in the event and whether there was anything I could have done differently. Failure does not imply weakness. It’s simply something we need to work out.”
- “Tell me about an instance when you didn’t know what to do about something at work. What did you do to come up with a solution?”
Share a story about when you needed clarification about something at work. Describe the actions you took to find the information step by step. Discuss the outcome of your actions.
“As nurses, we will never be able to know everything. Knowing where to turn for assistance is the first step. At the start of each shift, I identify a nurse who can serve as a resource for me, such as the head nurse, nurse educator, or unit resource nurse. These nurses are usually more experienced and have a more advanced skill set. If I cannot obtain an answer from them or if they are unavailable, I consult the healthcare system’s policy and procedure manager. If I need clarification or am unfamiliar with therapeutic medication dosages or interactions, I read medical books or browse the internet for credible sources.”
- “Discuss a conflict with your healthcare team. What was the source of the conflict, and how did you resolve it?”
Describe the situation’s conflict and who was involved. Explain your role in the situation to the interviewer and what you’ve learned.
“Conflict is expected in the hospital setting, especially between newly hired nurses and more experienced staff, as well as between physicians and nurses. On one of my shifts, a parent expressed concern that her child’s nurse was not carefully monitoring the patient’s postoperative respiration as she should. I covered the nurse’s duty since she was on her lunch break when the mother approached me with her complaints. I talked with her and validated her concerns. I spoke with the nurse after she returned from lunch about the mother’s concerns. The nurse was frustrated, and I felt it was not my place to speak to her. However, concerns raised by a parent or a patient should never be ignored. So I approached the unit’s nurse educator about using the opportunity to educate all the staff nurses.”
- “Think of a time when you were incredibly proud that you are a nurse. What role did you play in this situation?”
Explain the circumstances and demonstrate why you are proud of being a nurse. Share what you learned from the experience.
“Numerous moments in the ICU make me feel honored to be a nurse and part of this incredible community. As a nurse, the moments I want to be a part of are those when a patient survives a code, takes their first steps on artificial limbs, or the patient is told they will receive a new heart. Even if I am not personally conveying the news or caring for my patient, the information they receive has a great impact on me.”
- “Describe a circumstance in which you demonstrated teamwork.”
This is where you can demonstrate your ability to work well with others. Consider a time when you stepped in to assist a coworker. Tell the interviewer about the result and how the healthcare team reacted to your action.
“As a nurse, your day can be highly stressful if you are in charge of medication passes, wound first aid, patient admissions, and discharges. This one time, another nurse at work was having a bad day. He was dealing with a patient’s chart, a new admission, a discharge, and a massive medication pass. Aside from that, he still had to complete his electronic medical records. I noticed he was having difficulty and offered to finish his admission and begin working on his discharge documents. He was extremely grateful because he could complete his task and leave on time.”
- “Tell me about a moment you took a leadership role in a particular situation.”
This does not have to be official. Consider when you decided to step up and take control of a situation. Explain how you took the initiative and who was involved in the scenario. Inform the interviewer if any opportunities arise as a result of this situation.
“I have served as a charge nurse numerous times throughout my career. I’ve had to direct code teams, respond to emergencies, and make tough personnel decisions. As a charge nurse, I make patient assignments to ensure they are equally distributed. In addition, I must ensure that the nurses’ skill set is adequate for the task.”
- “Can you provide an example of a mistake you’ve made at work? How did you deal with it?”
It is highly crucial to admit your mistakes and accept responsibility for them. Discuss your role in the error and what you learned from it. Explain what you did to rectify the mistake.
“Mistakes are unavoidable in nursing, whether we prefer to admit it or not. It’s essential to learn from your mistakes and grow as a nurse. I’ll never forget leaving the gastronomy tube unclamped during medication administration. Since it was unclamped, the previous medication and formula were expelled when I opened the port to administer the following medication. I couldn’t clamp it fast enough, and the medications I’d already given were spilling onto the bed. I had to consult with the healthcare staff and the pharmacy about replacing them. From then, I always ensure that the gastronomy tube is clamped correctly before leaving the patient’s room.”
- “Give me an example of an uncomfortable workplace circumstance. How did you get yourself out of the situation?”
Tell a story about an awkward situation. Please explain what the circumstance was and why it felt unpleasant. List the steps you took to escape the situation and discuss what you learned.
“A teenage male patient once made very improper comments to me. I ignored them at first, assuming it was a one-time occurrence. I informed him the second time that the statements were inappropriate and that I did not want him to say them to me again. The third time, I left the patient’s room and went straight to the head nurse. I discussed the issue and how uneasy I was in that particular situation while caring for the patient. She gathered the healthcare team to speak with the patient. My assignment was changed for the rest of the shift. That event taught me there is nothing wrong with speaking up, especially when you’re uncomfortable with the circumstance.”
- “Provide an example of when you effectively persuaded a patient to agree to something. How did you convince this individual?”
Share a story about when you struggled to get a patient to agree to something at work. Explain the problem and discuss your actions that convince them to comply.
“We never want to force a patient to do anything. We prefer the patient to agree to it voluntarily. However, I made a deal with a kid that I would play video games with him later if he ate his breakfast. Using a bargaining mechanism is sometimes advantageous, particularly for pediatric patients. Fortunately, this strategy worked effectively, and I convinced the patient to eat his meal.”
- “Give an instance when you went above and beyond the call of duty. What compelled you to go the extra mile?”
Discuss a specific incident when you went above and beyond for your career or a patient. Explain the conditions and why you decided to do it. Share with the interviewer what you gained from the situation.
“I give 110% to all of my patients every shift, but there was one in particular to whom I became extremely attached. A family member had abandoned the patient for some reason, and no one had visited to see the kid in months. The patient was missing critical developmental milestones and becoming increasingly lonely and discouraged. I asked to be the patient’s primary nurse, which meant he would be handed to me every time I worked. I worked with him for several months to potty train him and expand his vocabulary. I’m not sure why I felt more driven, but the patient and I needed each other at that point.”
- “Describe an occasion when you and a teammate did not communicate effectively. How did you deal with it?”
Miscommunications are unavoidable in a team environment, and it is necessary to understand how to resolve conflict. Convey a conflict or miscommunication that you did not cause but that you played a critical role in resolving the situation.
“During the handover period to begin her shift, one of my coworkers struggled to communicate well with me. She would frequently give me only minor details about a patient’s condition. This resulted in chaos and confusion. During endorsement after duty, I politely informed her that she needed to provide me with accurate information. She changed her ways and even started making notes for the hand-off. At that point, I realized the value of speaking openly and being straightforward.”
The STAR approach has the advantage of assisting you in providing concise and straightforward answers. Remember to be comprehensive during the interview. You can prepare to employ the STAR approach by considering past achievements and experiences relevant to the position you’re applying for.