Nursing is one of the most challenging but rewarding professions there is.
Nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare system, providing vital care and support to both patients and their families alike.
If you’re thinking about a career in nursing, or if you’re already a nurse looking to take the next step, you will need to go through an interview process.
As with any job interview, it’s important to be well prepared so that you can deliver your best performance. Being aware of some common interview questions, and having answered prepared for them, will boost your chances of success.
In this article we cover 15 of the most common interview questions for nurses, and provide example answers.
The questions are designed to assess your skills, experience, and knowledge of the nursing profession, along with your suitability for the role.
You should look to put your own spin on the example responses provided to make them authentic and unique to you.
Before we dive into some of the specific questions, here are some general tips for answering nursing interview questions:
- Be as specific as you can with your answers and provide real-life examples. Don’t simply say that you’re a “good communicator” or that you are “passionate about patient care”. Give specific examples of when you have demonstrated these qualities.
- Always be honest and genuine – don’t try to be someone you’re not. The interviewer will be able to tell if you’re being authentic or not.
- Stay positive and enthusiastic throughout. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re excited about nursing and this role in particular.
Now that’s covered, time to get into some specific nursing interview question and answer examples…
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is a fairly typical interview question to open up the conversation. It’s important to give a response focusing on your skills and experience that are relevant to the nursing position you’re interviewing for.
Talk about your education, training, and work experience, as well as your passion for nursing and your commitment to providing compassionate care to patients.
“I am a registered nurse with 5 years of experience in the medical-surgical unit.
I originally got into nursing because I am passionate about providing the best care possible to patients, and I’m still driven by this passion today.
I am also a strong team player, always willing to go above and beyond for my patients, their families, and for my colleagues.”
2. Why do you want to work as a nurse?
This question aims to assess your motivation for becoming a nurse. Give a genuine answer that reflects your personal values and goals, and brings to life your commitment to providing quality care.
You could talk about your desire to help others, to make a difference in people’s lives, or to learn more about the human body and types of care.
“I want to work as a nurse because I want to make a genuine and positive difference to people’s lives.
I am passionate about helping others and I believe that nursing is one of the best ways to to do that.
I find the challenge of nursing very rewarding, and relish the opportunity to learn and grow every single day.”
3. What are your greatest strengths as a nurse?
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to be honest about yours in a job interview. When talking about your strengths, be specific and provide examples.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) identified in-demand skills for nursing which you may want to try and demonstrate in your answer:
- The ability to use specialized equipment, such as dialysis machines.
- Computer skills, including EMR skills.
- Quality assurance knowledge.
- Critical thinking.
“My primary strength as a nurse is my experience across multiple disciplines, which means I am a competent user of most common equipment during treatment.
I am very compassionate, can effectively communicate with both patients and families, and have a very strong work ethic.
In addition, I also speak fluent Spanish which is a great asset when dealing with patients who don’t speak English, but do speak Spanish.“
4. And what are your weaknesses as a nurse?
When talking about your weaknesses, be honest about areas that you’re looking to continuously improve. You could say, for example, that you’re actively working on being more organized and delegating tasks to team members more effectively.
“One thing I’m looking to improve is that I can sometimes be too hard on myself. I am always striving to better my skills and knowledge, and sometimes I get frustrated with myself if I don’t meet my own high expectations.”
5. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult patient.
This question is designed to assess how you handle challenging situations.
To begin, outline the situation to set the scene. Then explain why that situation was challenging, what you did to handle it, and what the outcome was.
This is a great chance to showcase your problem-solving skills and your ability to remain cool, calm and professional in a difficult situation.
“I recall an instance where I was caring for a patient who was in a lot of pain. They were very frustrated, which sometimes spilled over into anger, and they were refusing to take their medication.
I remained calm and professional, listening to the patient’s concerns so I could understand their point of view. I explained the importance of taking their medication, and how it would benefit them by helping to reduce the pain they were feeling.
After constructive dialogue, the patient understood the medication was going to help, they calmed down and agreed to take it.”
6. Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult team member.
With this question your interviewer is trying to assess your ability to work effectively with others in the team, even when faced with challenges.
When answering, explain how you build positive relationships with your colleagues and explain how you go about managing conflict situations.
For example, you could talk about a time when you had to work with a team member who had a different work style or who was not meeting deadlines.
“In a previous role I worked with a colleague who was not communicating with the team about what they were, or were not, doing. This was causing problems for the rest of the team and was delaying patient care.
I talked to the team member about the situation and explained the impact it was having on the rest of us. I also offered to support with their workload so they could have the capacity to pay more attention to how and when they communicated with the rest of us.
Once the colleague saw the advantages of communicating more effectively with the rest of us they adopted that approach as the norm, benefiting the whole team.”
7. What are your career goals for the next five years?
This question is designed to assess your ambition and your commitment to your career. Be sure to give a specific answer that reflects your interests and goals.
For example, you could say that you’re interested in pursuing a specialty in nursing, such as oncology or pediatrics, or that you’re interested in moving into a leadership role.
Take a look at the diverse range of nursing career pathways available to you to get some inspiration.
“In the next five years, I hope to become a charge nurse. I am also interested in pursuing a specialty in nursing, such as oncology or pediatrics.
I am also committed to my professional development and I plan to continue taking courses and attending conferences to stay up-to-date on the latest nursing practices and research.”
You can also see our more in-depth article on this question: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years’ Time?
8. How do you prioritize your workload when caring for multiple patients?
This question is designed to assess your time management skills and your ability to prioritize your workload. Be sure to talk about the methods you use to assess your patients’ needs and the factors you consider when prioritizing their care.
“When caring for multiple patients, I prioritize my workload by assessing the needs of each patient and the urgency of their care.
I also consider the factors that could potentially delay patient care, such as the patient’s family situation and the availability of resources.
I work closely with my colleagues to ensure that all patients receive the care they need in a timely manner.”
9. Describe a time when you had to provide support to a patient’s family.
This question is designed to assess your ability to provide compassionate care to patients and their families.
Be sure to give a specific example of a time when you provided support to a patient’s family and the impact it had on them.
“One time, I was caring for a patient who was terminally ill. The patient’s family was very upset and they were struggling to cope with the situation. I provided support to the family by listening to their concerns and offering them information and resources.
I also helped them to understand the patient’s condition and the prognosis. I also stayed with the family during the patient’s final moments and provided them with emotional support.”
10. How do you stay up-to-date on the latest nursing practices and research?
This question is designed to assess your commitment to professional development and your ability to provide evidence-based care. Be sure to talk about the resources you use to stay up-to-date on the latest nursing practices and research, and how you apply this knowledge to your work.
“I stay up-to-date on the latest nursing practices and research by reading nursing journals, attending conferences, and taking online courses.
I also follow nursing experts on social media and subscribe to nursing blogs and podcasts. I am also involved in research projects at my hospital.”
11. What are your thoughts on the ethical challenges that nurses face?
This question is designed to assess your understanding of the ethical challenges that nurses face and your ability to make ethical decisions. Be sure to talk about some of the ethical challenges that nurses face and how you would address them.
“Nurses face a variety of ethical challenges in their work. Some common ethical challenges include confidentiality, informed consent, and end-of-life care.
I believe that it is important for nurses to be aware of the ethical challenges they face and to be prepared to make ethical decisions.
I also believe that it is important for nurses to work together to develop and implement ethical policies and procedures.”
12. How do you handle stress in the workplace?
This question is designed to assess your ability to cope with stress in a demanding work environment. Be sure to talk about the healthy coping mechanisms you use to manage stress and how you maintain a positive work-life balance.
“I handle stress in the workplace by taking breaks, exercising, and talking to my colleagues and friends.
I also have a few stress-relieving activities that I enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, and spending time with my family and friends.”
13. What are your thoughts on the role of patient education in nursing?
This question is designed to assess your understanding of the importance of patient education and your ability to educate patients about their care. Be sure to talk about the benefits of patient education and how you incorporate it into your practice.
“Patient education is an essential part of nursing. Nurses need to educate their patients about their condition and their care so that they can make informed decisions about their health.
I am committed to patient education and I believe that it is important to empower patients to take charge of their own health.”
14. Why do you want to work for our hospital?
This question is designed to assess your fit for the hospital culture and your motivation for working there.
Be sure to give a genuine answer that reflects your personal values and goals.
For example, you could talk about the hospital’s reputation for excellence, its commitment to patient care, or its opportunities for professional development.
“I want to work for your hospital because I am impressed by your commitment to patient care and your opportunities for professional development. I am also excited about the opportunity to work with your experienced and knowledgeable nursing staff.
I know that your hospital is a leading provider of healthcare in the community. You are known for your excellent reputation, your commitment to patient care, and your opportunities for professional development.
I am particularly interested in your hospital because of your strong focus on nursing education and research.”
15. Why are you interested in this specific nursing position?
This question is designed to assess your interest in the position and the hospital. Be sure to give a specific answer that reflects your skills, experience, and career goals.
I am interested in this specific nursing position because it is a great opportunity for me to use my skills and experience to provide care to patients.
I am also excited about the opportunity to learn from and work with the experienced nursing staff at your hospital.”
Interview Questions for Nurses Summary
- Prepare to talk about your skills, experience, and knowledge of the nursing profession.
- Be honest and genuine in your answers.
- Be specific and provide examples.
- Be positive and enthusiastic.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your career goals, your interest in the position, and the hospital.
Interview Questions for Nurses Key Takeaways
- Teamwork is essential in nursing.
- Nurses need to be able to prioritize their workload and manage stress.
- Nurses need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families.
- Nurses need to be able to make ethical decisions.
- Nurses need to be committed to patient education.
- Nurses need to be able to stay up-to-date on the latest nursing practices and research.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to acing your nursing job interview.