Show off your awesomeness by nailing your nursing interview with impressive answers, following our 30 nursing scenario interview question and answer examples.
You're a compassionate, caring professional with a genuine desire to help and so much to give all the time. Now it's your time to shine during your nursing interview and we want to help you by sharing the following nursing interview questions and answers.
Nurse interview questions and answers
Set out below are 30 nursing interview questions with sample answers. These questions cover the major topics you're likely to be asked during the interview and range from teamwork questions to communication and management ones. Some are trickier than others, so it's worth your while going through all of them as you never know what might come up at an interview.
1. Why should we hire you as a nurse?
This is often one of the classic opening questions to ask a nurse, as it gives you the opportunity to showcase your key skills and sets a positive tone for the rest of the nursing interview. It's your time to show them your merits along with your enthusiasm as to why you want the job.
I've honed my nursing skills over the past six months / years, pursuing my CPD along the way, and continually reflecting on my performance so that I can improve my nursing practice. I give the highest standard of care to patients in a consistent manner, but I'm realistic about goals and dwindling resources so I'm a pragmatist with optimism. I love being a nurse, it was a childhood dream of mine, and I know I can make a major contribution here.
2. Why do you want to work at this particular hospital?
One of the most common nursing interview questions, the interviewer is analyzing your motivations and probing your expectations as to why you've chosen to apply for this particular role, so make sure you've done a heap of research on the hospital beforehand. If you want to bring your research in note form into the interview room, this is seen as perfectly acceptable, though it might be polite to double check with the interviewer that this is okay.
I'm very attracted to the progressiveness of the hospital and the clinical trial work that's being carried out here. Your quality of patient care record is off the scale, an aspect of nursing that I prize highly. With the shift in healthcare ever evolving, I'm excited to work for a hospital that's forward-thinking and constantly developing.
3. Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult colleague. What was the situation and how did you win them over?
Pulling together as a team is vital in any clinical setting, so when asking this teamwork question, interviewers are on the lookout for how you can prove your ability to communicate effectively, recognise and understand others' viewpoints, and appreciate the contribution you're supposed to be making.
I was promoted over a nursing colleague who'd been at the hospital longer than me. She thought she should have secured the higher level role, so was cold towards me and really quite mean at times. But I didn't take it to heart; I knew I deserved the promotion. I got on with my new post, taking care to involve the colleague at every turn, so she knew that she was valued in her position. I totally understood where she was coming from, but didn't let personal issues affect how I was performing. Over time, our communication became easier and she could see that I was thriving. Now we even socialize together and she's become quite a good friend outside the workplace.
4. How do you handle conflict?
Here, the interviewer is probing you on how well you cope under pressure in a difficult situation, so think of a time when you handled, and overcame, conflict.
I remain calm and professional during emergencies and difficult circumstances, capitalizing on my decisive nature by taking control of the situation when necessary. My recent CPD training in Conflict Resolution has really helped me to de-escalate tricky occurrences.
5. Tell me about a time when you had a difficult / upset / uncooperative patient. What did you do? How did you resolve it?
Similar to above, this nursing interview question is designed to illustrate how you react when things aren't going your way.
I had a patient who wouldn't take his meds. He kept flinging them out of my hands when I brought them over. He was an elderly gentleman and I could see he was afraid of what was happening to him. I talked gently and empathetically to him, explaining how the medication would make him feel so much better. Fortunately, I was able to spend a bit more time with him than usual to get this across. My articulate manner and empathetic approach worked, and in the end he took the medication on a regular basis without any fuss or bother.
6. What has been your greatest challenge so far?
This could be an overall operational challenge or one which ended in success or failure. Choose your particular challenge wisely though, as you don't want to give a negative answer and be seen as not able to cope when faced with an obstacle.
It all centers around time. I want to give more of it to my patients but we're so busy that sometimes it's impossible to afford the time that each patient needs. I try to resolve this by prioritizing my duties better so that my time management skills are improved.
7. What is your approach to explaining medical terminology in layman's terms?
Explaining medical jargon in a simple way is an everyday part of a nurse's role. This is another top nursing interview question where you can demonstrate your expertise in communication.
A patient had suffered an avulsion of pulp of her index finger but without exposed deep structures. I explained what had happened using common terminology but not hiding the fact that this was a major injury. I said, “You've suffered a partial amputation of your finger, but the bone isn't fractured or exposed so surgery won't be necessary. The finger will heal by itself with care and attention. I will clean and dress it.”
8. Talk about a positive experience with a patient
A chance to really show off your expertise and caring side, this nursing interview question is just made for highlighting your key skills and compassion as a nurse.
This same patient came into the hospital every week for five weeks to have her dressing changed. I tried to organize it so that I'd be the one treating her, for consistency of care. By week three, the wound had over granulated. She was really upset and shocked by the look of it. I was able to calm her down, talk through the reasons, and reassure her that the wound would heal. She was incredibly grateful that I'd taken the time to explain everything and went away feeling more encouraged.
9. Explain your team work approach and methods
This is a more open-ended teamwork nursing interview question, giving you the space to talk through your philosophy on this subject. They're asking you in what ways you're a team player, but ask yourself in what ways they want you to be a team player, and tailor your answer to that aspect.
I really enjoy working with others, the camaraderie in a hospital makes the job worthwhile, and I'm very understanding when it comes to listening to the needs of others. I often take on duties of peers who are stretched, and I'm seen as the go-to person if any conflict between colleagues arises. I'm able to dissipate heated situations and prevent them from getting too out of hand.
10. How do you react when you don't know the answer to a patient's question?
You can't know everything! New methods of how to dress a wound or rehabilitation practices, for example, are constantly evolving. The interviewer is looking for your reactions, so explain the action you took and the step-by-step way in which you resolved it.
I go over all the relevant notes before seeing a patient to cover all eventualities, but I would be totally honest and say, “I don't know, but I know exactly where I can find out this information for you. I will then relay it to you once I have it”.
11. What is your weakness as a nurse?
One of the top nurse interview questions, here the interviewer is assessing how you react to a difficult question but also how self-aware you are and how you define weakness. The two options are either to relay a weakness that isn't really a weakness at all, such as working too hard or being a perfectionist, or the more preferable answer of talking about a weakness that you can turn into a strength.
I was struggling with managing the insertion and removal of a Foley catheter, so I booked myself on a training course which set me on the right track. Now I am able to manage this task competently.
12. What is your strongest nursing skill?
One of the interview questions for a registered nurse that is most welcome, here is another chance to impress during the nursing interview process. Note how the below example actually sneaks in more than one strength for an even better response!
I am adept at combining a high level of patient care with a positive approach to all tasks. I've been told my bedside manner is very natural, and I'm always cheery with patients and colleagues while remaining professional.
13. How do your family / friends describe you?
Having a few well-chosen adjectives up your sleeve will hold you in good stead for this nursing interview question as it's all about the perception you have of yourself.
I'm told how caring I am generally, with a kind nature, but not a pushover. My friends say I'm fun to be around, but I also listen to their problems and try to help them out when I can. My mom calls me her “ray of sunshine” as I don't often get down or moody.
14. Tell me about your nursing journey and why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place
A very personal answer is required here, one to pull at the heartstrings, and to really illustrate your long-term dedication to the profession.
It was always a childhood dream of mine to look after people, but my true vocation was realized when my mother was admitted to the ER. Once we were allowed to visit, I noticed first-hand the caring and dedicated way the nurses looked after her. I admired them so much and knew then that this was my calling.
15. How do you handle stress / pressure at work?
Dealing with stress is a daily part of a nurse's role, so how you answer this interview question will speak volumes to the clinician interviewing you.
As a trainee nurse, I was allocated to a new ward with a different team. It takes me time to adjust to new ways of working and, initially, I found it tough going. But I know that about myself, so I gave myself time to become accustomed to new ways of doing certain procedures. Taking a moment, deep breathing, and calming myself down really helps, as well as remaining focused on the task in hand and not getting overwhelmed. I'm thrilled to say that at the end of my tenure, the staff nurse asked if I could stay on.
16. What do you do to unwind after a long shift?
It's encouraging for the interviewer to know you have a life outside of work, so talk about your hobbies while emphasizing any skills you've acquired that can directly be related to nursing.
I play hockey on a regular basis for a local club, as vice captain of the second team. I love the physicality of it, as it's a place where I can let off steam and also be part of an awesome crowd of people.
17. How do you manage when there's a change in shift patterns / assignments / schedules?
This is enquiring about your reaction to change and how you cope, as no two days are ever the same in the nursing world. The interviewer wants to see how you can adapt to ever-shifting plans.
I'm fully aware of the tricks of the trade when it comes to altering my mind-set, arriving at work fully prepared for one set of tasks, only to find that the agenda has changed. This is because I've recently been on a change management course which has given me strategies to employ when this happens.
18. Why do you want to leave your current nursing role?
This is one of those nursing interview questions where the interviewer is keen to find out your motivation for changing jobs and how committed you are. It's not advised to bad mouth your current employer or state other negative reasons, such as being overworked or underpaid… or both! Look for a positive approach, like seeking further advancement or more diversity within your role.
This role offers such a promising opportunity to me that I didn't want to miss the boat by not applying. The small hospital where I currently work is great, but it's too small for my ambitions and I've outgrown it. I'm keen to take on a new challenge in a much bigger hospital where I feel my expertise can be put to better use and to a wider audience.
19. What did you learn in your last job?
The meaning behind this interview question for registered nurses is to search for evidence of how you fit into the whole scheme of things and that you learn as you progress. Aim to cite examples that directly correlate to the new role.
As it was my first placement, I learned the ability to treat everyone in my care with dignity and humanity while working within the framework of the hospital and its ethos.
20. What do you find the most difficult aspect of being a nurse?
This is territory that can be difficult to navigate. While not wanting to be a downer on the nursing profession, you still have to answer the question. Just remember that there are difficult aspects to all sorts of jobs so just be truthful.
While I remain fit and healthy, the physical stamina required to be on my feet all the time during a 12-hour shift can be exhausting. I try to eat nutritiously during my breaks, food that will keep me going, but it's often coffee that is my main source of energy as I can drink that in snatches while carrying out my duties.
21. How are you able to prioritize your duties while still giving high quality care to each patient?
Another time management-related nursing interview question where you can showcase your multitasking attributes.
My strategy is to make a to-do list at the beginning of each shift, with the most important tasks at the top, such as administering medication accurately and keeping up-to-date with patient notes. Extras I'd like to be able to do are at the bottom, and when I do occasionally achieve them, it gives me an extra special feeling of achievement.
22. Describe a time when you felt overwhelmed. What were your coping mechanisms?
This is creating another scenario to show how you cope in difficult circumstances and your strategies for resolving them.
One time, I was inundated with a huge caseload of patients, more than my normal amount. I knew that I literally wouldn't be able to get around to administering the care that each one of them needed. So I asked for help. I felt no shame in that, in fact it was the perfect time to do it. I know, given the reverse situation, I'd do the same to help out a colleague.
23. What about negative feedback from a patient? How did you handle it?
Hearing how you handle patient criticism will tell the interviewer a lot about you as a nurse and the sort of person you are to work with. Ensure you choose an example where you can show you learned from the experience.
I think you can only grow and learn from feedback, be that negative or positive. I had a patient who complained that I didn't know what I was doing. At the time, I was working in a new setting and wasn't sure where everything was stored, so it took me longer than usual to locate dressings and other resources. I explained the situation fully, realizing I should have told him right from the start that this was the case.
24. When have you displayed leadership qualities in a clinical setting?
With this tough nursing leadership interview question, you need to prove you possess clear leadership qualities even if you've never had a management role, so a real-life example would be good here.
As Charge Nurse, I stepped up as Ward Manager for five months. I oversaw 20 ward and staff members, leading by example, modeling best practice and delegating fairly to the strengths of each individual nurse. Additionally, I allocated shifts and annual leave and assessed and provided constructive feedback to our student nurses.
25. What nursing accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Another chance to show off, this nursing interview question is asked to find evidence of achievement during your working life. If you can, pick something that is fairly recent, or elaborate on the key achievements section in your resume if you have one.
I was so pumped to be awarded the Early Career Nurse Leader Award from the American Nurses' Association. This was due to my outstanding performance and dedication to patients, as well as receiving excellent feedback from discharged patients.
26. Have you ever felt undervalued or dissatisfied at work? What did you do to address this?
There are always going to be times when you're disgruntled or not happy at work. Again, the interviewer is trying to ascertain how you cope when things don't go your way.
I felt I was being sidelined over a period of time in a past job by being given easy patients, the care of which wasn't stretching my abilities, and frankly, I was quite bored. I was frustrated and annoyed by the delegation of patients so I brought this to the attention of the nurse manager. She was unaware of the situation so had a word with the rest of the team. Following on from that, delegation of patients was carried out in a fairer way.
27. Give an example of when you made a mistake? What did you do to resolve it?
How you handle adversity says a lot about you, so the interviewer wants to know you can deal with situations when it's tough going and you're at fault. No one is perfect, so cite a mistake you made, what you did to rectify it, and how you learned from it.
Rushed off my feet, I mistakenly gave a patient's medication to the wrong patient. I was so ashamed and embarrassed, but knew if I didn't say anything, it could be so much worse. I called the pharmacy and the doctor, explaining what had happened. It meant I could look out for any adverse reactions, and the doctor would know if any adjustments had to be made to the care plan. I realized I'd been rushing around that morning, so now I take the time to stop, think, and double check before administering any medication.
28. Where do you see yourself in five years?
One of the classic interview questions for nurses, here the interviewer is looking to get a better understanding of your motivations and ambitions. While they want employees to learn and develop, they also want to ensure that the person they eventually recruit for the role is committed, so try not to be too specific but talk about the level you want to achieve.
I imagine I'll have progressed quite significantly in my career five years from now, contributing even more, and proving my value to whichever hospital I'm working in. I hope to have more responsibilities and challenges. If the opportunity arises, I'd love to be at a higher level at your hospital, where I can deliver the very best of myself as a nurse.
29. What can you bring to this nursing role that sets you apart from the other applicants?
Basically, this is the USP (Unique Selling Point) question, so really go for it by detailing what you have to offer and by promoting your key skills. It's vital to have prepared for this in advance, tailoring your answer to what you can specifically offer this particular post. Aim to be bold and forthright without coming across as arrogant.
I give 100% every shift, often going above and beyond to make a patient more comfortable and being aware of what is happening to them. I communicate articulately within a team environment, liaising well with doctors by assimilating and relaying important information quickly and accurately.
30. How would you describe yourself on both a professional and personal level?
Another one of the classic nurse interview questions to ask, this is a "tell me about yourself" question that warrants a comprehensive answer.
I'm extremely professional all the time at work, never letting things get me down or on top of me. I think my high levels of prioritization help with this. I've always been a caring person, so becoming a nurse seemed like an extension of who I was growing up, anyway. I listen to patients, having to read between the lines sometimes to really understand what they need or want. But I like a laugh at the end of the day, and a sense of humor, seeing the funny side, certainly gets me through an exhausting shift!
It can't be stressed enough before going to an interview - prep, prep, and more prep. There's nothing worse than turning up at an interview to be totally stumped by a question. But by following the above scenarios and customizing your answers, you'll be well on your way to sealing the deal for that new position.
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