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Critical Care Nurse Interview
Questions

29 Questions and Answers by Heather Douglass
Updated November 21st, 2018 | Heather has over 20 years experience recruiting and hiring candidates,
specifically in the health care industry.
Job Interviews     Careers     Nurse    

Question 1 of 29

What is your greatest fear about being a critical care nurse?

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Interview Questions

1.

What is your greatest fear about being a critical care nurse?

We all have things that make us feel afraid from time to time. Recognizing them is the first step in overcoming them. This question is an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you on a personal level. Being willing to talk openly to someone about things like this shows your softer side, which is important when you are trying to build a good rapport during an interview.

Heather's Answer #1

"My greatest fear about being a critical care nurse is that I am not learning and growing fast enough to save more people. I know that we can't heal or save everyone, but as a nurse, I want to give everything that I can to those who trust me with their care."

Darby's Answer #2

"Entry Level: "I think we all fear something on one level or another. For me, I fear that I may miss something when I am caring for a patient. I always want to go home at the end of my day knowing that I gave everything I could to improve the life of someone else."

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Anonymous Answer

"My biggest fear is feeling inadequate alongside my colleagues and failing as a new nurse—the last thing I would ever want to happen is to harm a patient. I always want to leave, knowing that I did everything in my scope of practice to improve my patient's condition."

Rachelle's Answer

Failing in a new career is a legitimate fear, and you show a lot of realness in your response. What will you do in your first year, for instance, to overcome this fear?

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2.

Do you have experience working with peers from diverse backgrounds?

In an industry as large as healthcare, diversity among peers is inevitable. To be successful, it is crucial to learn how to work with a diverse group of people. Some people are intimidated when faced with learning new cultures and beliefs, but in the healthcare industry, it is crucial to provide effective care. The interviewer wants to know that you are open to meeting and learning about new people and becoming an integral part of the team. Be positive with your response.

Heather's Answer #1

"The diversity of specialty areas is something I love about the healthcare field. I like the idea of being in a career that challenges me to learn and grow. I believe we all have something that we can contribute to others and I like to embrace the diversity among those that I work with."

Darby's Answer #2

"The largest diverse group I worked with was probably when I did my clinical rotation at University Medical Center. I was afforded the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, religions, and professional backgrounds. It gave me an eye-opening experience of how many wonderful people there are!"

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3.

Tell me about a time you were trusted with confidential information regarding a patient's care.

Working within the medical career field you are trusted with sensitive information each day. Don't fall into this trap and answer this question with a story containing confidential information, people will view your answer negatively and view you as not being trustworthy. If you choose to tell about a situation be sure to be vague and not use names or too many details.

Heather's Answer #1

"I'm trusted with confidential information every day. I make a point to leave my work at work and not discuss patients outside of the office. By not discussing confidential information about the patients I'm ensuring that I'm not breaking any rules and giving information to those that are not on a need to know basis."

Darby's Answer #2

"I am expected to keep all information confidential every day, so there is not just one instance that I can refer to. I believe in practicing within legal and ethical bounds and keeping patient's confidence is one way I do that."

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Anonymous Answer

"As a technical partner, I am responsible for keeping all information about the patient confidential. I need to stay within the bounds of HIPAA to protect patients' privacy."

Rachelle's Answer

Respecting patients' privacy is of critical importance, and it's great that you mention HIPAA as well. Since this question is asking for a specific 'time when...' do you have a story to share with the interviewer, related to work experience/internship/education?

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4.

Do you participate in any outreach or volunteer work?

Although being a community volunteer is not a requirement for employment, willingness to give of your time and resources to others without compensation shows the interviewer that you have a sincere desire to serve others. If you have volunteered, share a positive experience you had as a volunteer. If you have not volunteered, it is not necessary to embellish your answer. Stating that you have not volunteered previously is not going to disqualify you from employment.

Heather's Answer #1

"I love to volunteer! A group of ladies from my church volunteer at a soup kitchen close to my home once a month. There is nothing like the feeling of giving to someone that you know cannot give back to you! Are there opportunities for employees to volunteer through the hospital?"

Darby's Answer #2

"I have volunteered at MedCamps for kids a few summers. I do think community involvement is important."

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Anonymous Answer

"Yes, I love to give back to the community. I volunteer through my school community and my temple. Collecting money to support childhood cancer and within soup kitchens. There is no greater pleasure than give to individuals that you know appreciate your efforts, and you don't expect anything in return."

Rachelle's Answer

Wonderful answer! Hiring authorities are much more likely to choose candidates who have a background of volunteer work so, all of this involvement should give you an excellent edge.

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5.

What about your job as a critical care nurse gives you the most satisfaction?

We all have things that give us a feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction. The interviewer uses questions like this to get to know you, not just as a nurse, but as a person. Often the things that bring us satisfaction at work have a parallel in our personal lives that affect us in much the same way.

Heather's Answer #1

"As a critical care nurse one thing that really satisfies me is when I see a patient's health improve over the critical care days. As such I have a very extroverted nature and I make it a point to make ICU patients who are suffering from pain and trauma smile or laugh."

Darby's Answer #2

"I think one of the most satisfying feelings is when I see a patient who has
Been in a critical state who begins to improve and smiles at me. Sometimes words aren't needed. A smile or a nod from someone to show that they are aware that I am there and are glad about it is a great feeling."

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6.

What would you say is your greatest strength as a critical care nurse?

Understanding one's own strengths and weaknesses is critical. It is always a good idea to read over the job description of the job for which you are applying while preparing for an interview. Compare your strengths to the required skills listed in the job overview highlight those when the interviewer asks this question.

Heather's Answer #1

"I believe being a critical care nurse requires several strengths. For me, personally, I am a very patient person and I feel like this is a skill that anyone providing critical care should practice."

Darby's Answer #2

"One of my strengths is definitely being able to multitask. Working critical care often means having several patients with multiple needs from medications to treatments. Being able to handle multiple tasks effectively, I believe, is essential as a critical care nurse."

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Anonymous Answer

"I would say that my greatest strength would be my communication skills. It is crucial to be able to communicate effectively with patients, families, and others within the interdisciplinary healthcare team."

Rachelle's Answer

Communication skills are very important, indeed! I recommend speaking further about your communication style, really breaking it down for the interviewer.

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7.

Why do you think critical care nurses often report experiencing 'burn out' and what do you do to help try to prevent that?

Being a healthcare provider is a great responsibility. Unfortunately, because of the great responsibility, many providers do report experiencing the need to take a break. The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of handling stress and that you know when to ask for help.

Heather's Answer #1

"I understand how some healthcare providers can experience burn out. It has nothing to do with wanting to change professions or leave a job. Sometimes it's just hard to lose patients or to feel like we can't save them all. I try to schedule myself some personal time, whether its a few days away when I am off work or going hiking. Anything to help create some balance in my life."

Darby's Answer #2

"I had a great mentor when I was in nursing school. She told me if I didn't remember anything else she told me, that I should always remember to take care of myself. I have grown to understand what she meant. If we are bogged down physically and emotionally, it is easy to become overwhelmed and experience feeling burned out."

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8.

Have you ever considered relocation? If so, what area would you be willing to travel to?

While relocation may not be a determining factor for employment, larger companies almost always ask this question. The important thing to remember is, if you are 100% confident that you are willing to relocate, answer yes. However, if there is any hesitation, there are ways to answer this question without an emphatic NO.

Heather's Answer #1

"I have never really thought about relocating. However, I think it would be something I would consider within reason."

Darby's Answer #2

"I love to travel, so I am definitely open to the idea of traveling for work. My goal is to find a position within a company where I can grow. So, if I am offered a position with your company, I would be happy to discuss what area I would be most valuable to the company."

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9.

Working in the ICU can be very stressful. What are some ways you manage stress on the job?

Providing care for critically ill patients is inherently stressful. Each shift presents what could be a life or death situation. A hiring official needs to know that you can handle stress. Moreover, how you handle it, speaks volume. In a critical care nursing interview, be prepared to provide examples of how stress impacts you.

Heather's Answer #1

"As a critical care nurse, I realize my care is crucial in patient outcomes. This is stressful, but I always try to compartmentalize my stress and channel it, in a healthy way. I have a strong support network and yoga is my 'go to' stress reliever, after a shift."

Darby's Answer #2

"I have always taken time to examine how I feel after a shift and deal with my emotions in a healthy way. I like to write, so I use that as an outlet for any feelings that need to be resolved."

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10.

Do you anticipate any significant changes in your life within the next 2-3 years that may prevent you from continuing employment here if you are offered a position here?

Knowing what goals you have and any changes you anticipate in your life will give the interviewer an opportunity to evaluate two things: 1. what positions are available that won't disrupt your plans and, 2. are you interested in having a long-term relationship within the company? Either way, being upfront and honest is always appreciated.

Heather's Answer #1

"I recently became engaged. Although we have not set a date yet, we have agreed to wait twelve months before the marriage. My fiance' just passed the Bar exam here and has been offered an opportunity to join an existing law firm. Presently, our plans are to stay where we are and build a career, not just work a job. Also, we do not plan on having children for at least two years after our marriage. We both feel that being able to become established in our careers and save for our future would be the responsible thing to do before starting a family."

Darby's Answer #2

"My goal is to find a position that will allow me to work long term. I do not anticipate any significant changes that would affect that. I have family that live nearby and close ties to the community."

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Anonymous Answer

"No, I do not anticipate any significant changes. My family lives here, and I plan on staying in the area while I work on my BSN."

Rachelle's Answer

Straightforward and genuine. Good answer!

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11.

Has there ever been a time when you received negative feedback, and how did you handle it?

Receiving negative feedback can be discouraging, but it doesn't have to be something that leaves you feeling incapable of doing your job. The important thing to remember when answering this question is don't talk negatively about the person who gave you the feedback. Rather state what was said and how you grew from the event.

Heather's Answer #1

"I remember when I first began my nursing career, I thought I had to do everything for everyone. I ended up taking on too many tasks and falling behind with my assignments. One of my supervisors told me that a patient had complained because I seemed too rushed and asked for a new nurse to be assigned to her. I was so embarrassed because I didn't want anyone to feel like I couldn't do my job. I apologized to the supervisor and to my patient and explained that I had taken on some extra assignments, but that I didn't mean to make her feel neglected. When I apologized, the patient agreed to let me continue caring for her. I learned from that experience that it's ok to want to give more, but that I should not stretch myself too thin and risk
compromising patient care."

Darby's Answer #2

"I once received negative feedback when I was working the ER. One of my patient's mother was very upset that her child was not being treated as quickly as she thought and she complained to my supervisor that I was not doing my job. After talking with the supervisor, I asked if I could spend some extra time with the patient and his mother so that she could experience the good care that we give. Fear and uncertainty is often a reason that people lash out. Sometimes a gentle word is all that one needs to help relieve a stressful situation."

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12.

Nurses at our facility often work on rotation. Are you willing to work, nights, weekends, holidays, or overtime if needed?

Being flexible with the schedule you are willing to work is always a plus. However, many people work more than one job or have a one parent home which requires them to have a flexible schedule. Others simply prefer to work one shift rather than another. Being upfront with the interviewer about what schedule suits your preference could help prevent conflict later on. It is easier to plan a schedule you can agree on than it is to fix problems that arise due to fear of being rejected. Be honest and direct.

Heather's Answer #1

"I am not married and have no children at this time. So, I am pretty flexible with my schedule. If I had a choice, I would prefer the late shift, as I am a bit of a night owl. However, I am excited about the opportunity to become a part of this team and am willing to work where I'm needed."

Darby's Answer #2

"While I am not unopposed to working overtime or extended schedules such as holidays, I would like to have the opportunity to spend time with small children, as well."

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13.

What are your primary interests outside of work?

No matter what profession a person chooses, everyone needs some time to unwind and relax. Psychologists today say that a healthy balance in life allows a person to recharge and refocus which can result in better productivity at work. The interviewer simply wants to know what you do for you. Maybe you have a favorite pastime or hobby. This is yet another way for the interviewer to get to know you as a person.

Heather's Answer #1

"One of my favorite pastimes is writing. After a busy day at work, I like to journal or write articles for a blog that I author. Both of these forms of writing allow me to release any feelings of frustration I may experience, especially after a stressful day or a difficult situation at work. The writings in my journal are private and my way of 'letting it all out.' The blog articles, on the other hand, are my way of using creative writing to share stories with my followers."

Darby's Answer #2

"I really enjoy working out at the gym and, I also take a kickboxing class twice weekly. After a good workout or class, I always feel like I can rest better and wake up energized and ready for the next day."

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14.

Have you ever been in a situation in which a co-worker put a patient in jeopardy? If so, how did you handle it?

If you have ever been faced with a situation that resulted in you having to make a judgment call that may have affected the job of a friend or co-worker, you know how disheartening it can be. However, nurses are bound by law to protect patients and other co-workers by reporting anything in appropriate or dangerous. The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of identifying and reporting a situation if needed.

Heather's Answer #1

"I actually have experienced a time that I had to report a co-worker to my supervisor. One of my peers had a diabetic patient who had insulin order per sliding scale. The nurse gave insulin to the patient without checking his blood sugar level first. She told me and asked me not to tell anyone. However, I knew that patient safety the responsibility of everyone. So, I did notify the supervisor."

Darby's Answer #2

"I have never been in a situation that required me to report a co-worker. Honestly, I hope I never experience a situation like that."

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15.

Do you feel comfortable working with clinical nursing students in the critical care setting?

While not every nurse is required to mentor students, most healthcare facilities have nursing and other healthcare students who rotate through different departments to achieve their required training hours. If you are comfortable mentoring or would like an opportunity, this is a good time to share that with the interviewer.

Heather's Answer #1

"I would love to mentor students! At my previous employment, clinical students were assigned only to those nurses in supervisory positions. I understand the reason for scheduling students with supervisors but always hoped to have an opportunity to precept students."

Darby's Answer #2

"I am new to critical care, and although I have every confidence in my skills, I think I would prefer to have a little more personal experience as a critical care nurse before I mentor students in that area."

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