Nurse helping an old lady to walk with her walker

How to Ace a First Nursing

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 01, 2020

You’re fresh from nursing school and can’t wait to get started in a hospital or clinic, using your skills to help people overcome illnesses or injuries. You love to help people and you’ve spent all those years studying and made it through, so now your first job awaits. But as with any job, you’ll need to pass through the interview process first. Are nursing interview questions all that different from typical interview questions you’d encounter when vying for any other type of job? Not necessarily, but how you answer them will, of course, make all the difference in the world. Let’s explore some nursing interview tips to help you get through this question-and-answer session and on to fulfilling your desire to be the best nurse you can be.

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Answering Some Common Interview Questions for Nurses

In most cases, a job interview is a job interview: You’ll be asked such questions as “Why should we hire you?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” It’s how you answer that makes all the difference.

For instance, you might be asked about being a team player. An important question in any job interview, for sure, but it’s extremely important to possess this skill in a healthcare setting where, literally, lives can hang in the balance. You must be able to work with fellow nurses, doctors and hospital administrators, as well as patients when you are in the nursing field. And if you’re going to be a surgical nurse, team work is critical to your skill set.

When answering, use examples to show when and how you have successfully worked in a team setting. It’s also helpful to mention that you are also comfortable working independently, as this is also an important ability for nurses.

You might also be asked why you chose nursing as a career. This might be used to gauge your sincerity and level of interest in this career choice. Be truthful. You might have been inspired by a family member who worked as a nurse, or volunteered at a local hospital or clinic, or you might have experienced a loved one go through a lengthy rehabilitation or treatment process that led you to this career. Give this plenty of thought before going on an interview.

Other common interview questions for nurses include:

Why do you want to work in this facility?

For this one, researching the facility prior to your interview will pay off. Show that you know how successful or dedicated this facility is. If applicable, you might add that you were impressed with a specific department that focuses on your specialty area of nursing.

How would you deal with an irate patient or patient’s family members?

People who do not feel well might lash out at a nurse, or a family member might become argumentative about the care, or perceived lack thereof. Explain how you would educate the patient and his/her family on the care the patient is getting and detail how you would show empathy and sincerity in this instance.

How do you work in stressful situations?

Nursing can be a stressful job; interviewers genuinely want to see if you are up to the task. Explain how you would seek the support of other health care professionals such as doctors and other nurses to help you through difficult situations. Use an example of how you successfully dealt with a stressful situation at a past job or in another area of your life.

Nursing Interview Tips: What to Ask

Of course, you’re going to have your own questions during a job interview. Once all the nursing interview questions have been asked, you’ll likely hear, “Do you have any questions for us?”

In many cases, interviewees can draw a blank when it comes to this part of the interview. To avoid that, it’s best to be prepared. Here are some examples of questions you might ask:

  • What is the nurse/patient ratio?
  • What type of support staff is available to nurses in this facility?
  • What are the top qualities of the most successful nurses working here?
  • Is there a mentoring program for new nurses?
  • How is patient satisfaction monitored and measured?

In addition, ask your potential employer if they have conferences, workshops or other professional development opportunities for nurses.

“Be prepared to prove that you are a continuous learner,” states Deirdre A. Hume, human resource manager for Norwell Visiting Nurse Association (NVNA) and Hospice in Massachusetts. “Healthcare is constantly changing and it is important for employers to be able to see that you not only fulfill your obligatory RN Continuing Education Units (CEUs) but also take initiative and responsibility to stay up to date on best clinical practice.”

A Final Word on Interviewing for a Nursing Job

In most cases, those seeking to work in the health care field must meet specific pre-employment requirements. Don’t let a paperwork issue derail your efforts.

“One of the biggest challenges for [healthcare recruiters] is making sure the nurses have all the required paperwork and documentation to be hired,” says Rafael Landeiro, marketing manager for New York-based MobileHealth. “Many times an applicant will make it through the final stages of recruitment only to find out that they are missing a medical clearance form, or their immunization records are not complete. This may cause several days or weeks delay until all the records are in order.”

Show that you’re fully prepared when you go out on your nursing interview and you just might make yourself stand out from the rest of those nursing school graduates.