EDUCATION
February 15, 2018

31 Sample Nursing Interview Questions With Answer Guide

By Angelina Gibson

Healthcare employers tend to lean towards asking behavioral based interview questions. Behavioral based questions are asked to get a sense of how the interviewee performs or behaves under specific circumstances. It is best to answer these questions with real-life stories and examples. 

Nursing Behavioral Interview Questions - Themes

Most behavioral interview questions asked to nurses are based around the following themes: 

  • Teamwork
  • Patient-care
  • Adaptability
  • Time management
  • Communication style
  • Motivation and core values

Sample Questions: Teamwork

Interviewers are wanting to envision how you will fit in with their team and how you work well with various personalities. We suggest telling a story about a time you dealt with a co-worker who had a conflicting personality, a disagreement within your healthcare team or a challenging patient case involving your team. Always remember to talk about what you learned from the situation and if anything positive came from it. 

1. Describe a situation when you had to work closely with a difficult coworker. How did you handle the situation? Were you able to build a relationship with this person?

How to answer:

Never talk bad about anyone during an interview. Explain the situation and why the individual was difficult. Share how you handled the situation. Try to turn anything negative into a positive. What did you learn from the situation? What might you do differently now? What was the “silver lining”? Were you able to talk through your differences? Did you become friends? 

2. Talk about a conflict within your healthcare team. What was the conflict and how did you handle it?

How to answer:

Explain the conflict surrounding the situation. Who was involved? What was your role? Did anything positive come from this? What did you learn? 

3. Describe a time when you were particularly proud of your healthcare team? What was your role in this situation? 

How to answer:

Describe the circumstances and actions step-by-step. What happened to make you feel proud? What was your role? Who was involved? What was the result? 

4. Tell me about a time you stepped into a leadership role.

How to answer:

This doesn’t need to be anything official. Think about a time when you stepped up to the plate and took charge of a situation. What was the circumstance? What made you take the lead? Who was involved? Did any opportunities arise from this situation? 

Sample Questions: Patient Care 

Healthcare hiring professionals want to hire nurses who provide excellent patient care. Education is of utmost importance to healthcare employers. We suggest telling stories about times you provided top-notch patient care or went out of your way to educate patients and/or their family. 

1. Tell me about a time when a patient’s family was dissatisfied with your care. How did you handle that situation?

How to answer:

Make sure to explain the situation in detail including both perspectives (the patient’s family and yours). Never talk bad about patients or their family. Take ownership if you indeed did something wrong. Share any positives that came from this - what did you learn? What would you do differently now? How did you turn this into a positive? 

2. What approach do you take in communicating with people who do not know medical jargon? Give an example of a time you explained medical terminology to someone who is not medically trained.

How to answer:

Explain step-by-step how you’ve performed in a similar situation. What specific words and terminology did you use? How did you know that the individual understood your explanation? 

3. Describe a time you provided effective patient or family education.

How to answer:

Tell a story about a time when you knew your patient or family retained your teachings. How did you know that you effectively communicated the piece of education? 

4. Talk about a time a patient or their family were particularly pleased and appreciative of your care.

How to answer: 

Tell a story about a family who was happy with your care. What did you do in particular that they were pleased with? How did you know they were happy? What were the results of this situation?

5. Give an example of a time you had to interact with a hostile patient. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome? 

How to answer: 

Tell a story about a hostile patient and your step-by-step actions. What was the patient doing that was hostile? How did you react? How did you feel? What procedures did you follow to interact with the patient? What was the result of your actions? 

6. Describe a time you were faced with a patient who chose not to communicate or disclose important information. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome? 

How to answer:

Tell a story about a patient you worked within a similar situation. What step-by-step actions did you take to obtain the information from the patient? What were the results of your actions? 

Sample Questions: Adaptability

The nursing profession is one of constant urgency, crisis, and uncertainty. Tell stories of challenges and follow up with key takeaways and learned lessons. 

1. Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it? 

How to answer:

Tell a story about a time you were stressed and under pressure to perform. Explain the situation and why you felt pressured. Describe step-by-step the actions you took to make it through the situation. What was the result? What did you learn? What might you do differently now? 

2. Describe a time when your facility was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt? 

How to answer:

Talk about a time your facility changed. Maybe they were acquired by another facility. Perhaps they transitioned to a new computer system. Describe the change and the steps you took to adapt to such change. 

3. Tell me about a time when you didn’t know the answer to something at work? How did you go about finding the information? 

How to answer:

Tell a story about a time when you did not know the answer. Explain step-by-step the action you took to find the information. Talk about the result of your actions. 

4. Give me an example of an awkward situation at work. How did you remove yourself from the situation?  

How to answer:

Tell a story about the uncomfortable situation. What was the situation and why did it feel awkward. Explain the steps you took to leave the situation. What were the results of your actions? What did you learn? 

5. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?

How to answer:

Share a story about when you experience failure. Talk about your feeling and why you felt that you failed. Discuss anything positive that came from this failure? What did you learn from failing? What might you do differently now? 

6. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems with a patient and initiated preventative measures. 

How to answer: 

Share a specific story about a patient. Explain how you assessed the pending problems. Describe step-by-step the actions you took to prevent the problem. What was the result of your actions? 

Sample Questions: Time Management 

Nurses are masters at multitasking - for example, managing multiple patients, administering medication on time while maintaining detailed notes. Tell stories about your punctuality, ability to meet deadlines and how you remain organized through it all. 

1. Talk about a time you worked in a fast-paced setting. How do you prioritize tasks while maintaining excellent patient care? 

How to answer: 

Give an example of a time you had to prioritize your tasks quickly. Explain your thought process in details and why you chose to complete the duties in such order. 

2. Describe your experience with a very ill patient who required a lot of your time. How did you manage this patient’s care while ensuring your other patients were adequately cared for? 

How to answer: 

Talk about the patient’s care and why they needed much of your time. What was the illness, trauma or injury? How did you ensure that this patient received quality care? How did you manage your other patients? 

3. Talk about a time when you felt overwhelmed with your work or patient-load. What did you do? 

How to answer:

Give a specific example of a time you were overwhelmed. Explain step-by-step the actions you took to overcome this feeling and to focus on the task at hand. 

4. Give an example of an important goal you set for yourself. Did you accomplish that goal? How did you ensure that you accomplished it? 

How to answer:

Make sure the goal you share is related to your career. Explain the steps you took to accomplish your goal. What challenges did you face? How did you feel once you accomplished your goal? 

Sample Questions: Communication Style

It is important to convey your particular communication style and techniques. Tell stories about specific times you either had difficulty communicating or times you communicated well. If you can, walk through your step-by-step thought process and give example. 

1. Give an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade a patient to agree to something. How did your persuade this person? 

How to answer: 

Tell a story about a specific time when you had a difficult time getting a patient to agree to something at work. What was the situation and what did they need to agree to? What specific actions did you take to get them to agree? What was the result? 

2. Describe a time when you were the resident medical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you?

How to answer:

Tell a story about a time when others were relying on your medical expertise. Talk about the specific circumstances and words you used to ensure that they understood the language. What did you talk about? What was the result? 

3. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to explain yourself to your team or to a patient. 

How to answer: 

Talk about a time when you successfully relied on written (or typed) communication. What were the circumstances? What was being discussed? How did you ensure success? 

4. Talk about a time when you had not communicated well. How did you correct the situation? 

How to answer: 

No one is perfect, we all have flaws. Discuss a time when you experienced miscommunication at work. What were the circumstances? How did you know you did not communicate well? What did you learn? What were the results? 

5. Describe a time when you received negative feedback and turned it into something positive. 

How to answer:

Discuss a time at work when you received negative feedback. What was the feedback and circumstances surrounding the feedback? Who gave you the negative feedback? How did it make you feel? What did you do as a result of the feedback? 

Sample Questions: Motivation and Core Values

With these questions, interviewers are trying to get to the root of your motivation and personal values. When answering such questions you should tell motivational stories from your life that convey your core values. 

1. What is one professional accomplishment that you are most proud of and why? 

How to answer:

Tell a story about one of your most noteworthy accomplishments at work. What was the accomplishment? What steps did you take to achieve it? Who else was involved in this accomplishment? What happened as a result of the accomplishment? 

2. Talk about a challenging situation or problem where you took the lead to correct it instead of waiting for someone else to do it. 

How to answer: 

Talk about a time when you decided to take the initiative to complete a task or make an important decision. What was your motivator? What action steps did you take? What were the results of your actions? 

3. Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your work as a Nurse? What could have been done to make it better? 

How to answer: 

Most nurses encounter difficulties while working. Talk about a time when you felt dissatisfied with your work. What were the circumstances and what happened? What was your role? Why did you feel dissatisfied? What would you do differently now? What did you learn? 

4. Describe a time when you went over and above your job requirements. What motivated you to put forth the extra effort? 

How to answer:

Talk about a specific instance when you went out of your way for your job or for a patient. What were the circumstances? Why did you choose to take the action? What did you do? What were the results? 

5. Give an example of a mistake you’ve made? How did you handle it? 

How to answer: 

It is important to admit that you make mistakes and to own up to them. Talk about the specific mistake and why it happened. What was your role in the mistake? How did you know that you made a mistake? Who was involved? What did you learn? What have you done to improve? What were the results? 

6. What do you find most difficult about being a Nurse? How do you overcome this difficulty? 

How to answer: 

Be honest and talk about the most difficult component of nursing. Maybe it’s working with a specific patient population. Or, acting in a leadership role. Whatever it is to you, always make sure to talk about the steps and actions you’ve taken to cope with the difficulty.

Key To Answering Behavioral-Based Questions

When telling stories during interviews, we suggest using the S-T-A-R format - this will ensure your story is direct, concise and to the point. So, what does the acronym S-T-A-R stand for?

Situation

Task

Action-steps

Results

You can learn more about answering interview questions by using the S-T-A-R format by reading our complete guide to nursing interviews. 

NEXT UP: Complete Guide To Nursing Job Interviews.

Angelina Gibson is a former Nurse Recruitment Manager with 9 total years experience in recruiting. She has hired both staff and agency nurses throughout her career. In addition to her professional experience, Angelina also works as a consultant to travel nursing companies.

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