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Nursing Interview
Questions

34 Questions and Answers by Heather Douglass

Updated June 5th, 2019 | Heather has over 20 years experience recruiting and hiring candidates,
specifically in the health care industry.
Question 1 of 34
Tell me about an experience when you had to use ACLS, BLS, or PALS protocols in your nursing practice.
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How to Answer
The interviewer is asking this question to assess the candidate's knowledge and skill level of Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) protocols. Every nurse, at a minimum, should be trained in ACLS and BLS, and depending on their work environment, they should also be trained in PALS. This training includes a set of clinical interventions for the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, stroke, and other life-threatening emergencies, as well as knowledge and skills to execute those interventions. The candidate's ability to effectively respond to a crisis using appropriate life support interventions directly correlates to patient outcomes. To effectively answer this question, the candidate should articulate their knowledge of life support protocols and describe how they have used them in the past.
34 Nursing Interview Questions
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  1. Tell me about an experience when you had to use ACLS, BLS, or PALS protocols in your nursing practice.
  2. How do you approach the documentation of patient records? Do you have specific strategies that you use?
  3. Tell me about a time that you had to deal with an unexpected emergency on the job. How did you handle that situation?
  4. Are you specialized in a particular area of nursing, i.e. neo-natal, pediatric, geriatric, or women's health?
  5. What was your least favorite patient? What was the situation.
  6. Tell me about your IV skills. Are you able to start an IV?
  7. How do you stay current on the latest health research?
  8. How many patients is a full workload for you?
  9. How do you prioritize when multiple patients and procedures demand your attention at once?
  10. What precautions do you take with a patient in poor health?
  11. Describe your typical relationship with physicians you work with.
  12. Tell me about a time in which you had to handle an irate physician, co-worker, or patient. How did you handle it and what were the results?
  13. Describe a recent issue you had with a doctor or co-worker's decision. How did you handle it?
  14. How do you make seamless transitions on shift changes?
  15. How have you responded when your supervisor asked you to work an additional shift to fill vacancies?
  16. Tell me about a time when you cared for a patient whose values or beliefs were different from your own. How did you handle the situation?
  17. What motivates you to provide top-of-the-line nursing care?
  18. Tell me about a time when you had to assist with an administrative project or task. What did the project/task entail and which software programs did you while completing the tasks?
  19. Why are you leaving your current position?
  20. Tell me about your education.
  21. Tell me about the greatest challenge you have faced in your nursing career? How did you overcome it?
  22. Tell me about a time when you committed a medical error in your nursing career. How did you handle it?
  23. Tell me about your experience and abilities in collecting lab samples, such as blood, tissue, and and other specimens. Elaborate on the entire end-to-end process of collection.
  24. How do you approach providing patient discharge instructions or patient education?
  25. Tell me about a time you had to communicate bad news to a patient. How did you effectively communicate that news and what was the outcome?
  26. Tell me about the most stressful situation you've had to deal with in the workplace.
  27. What is your work availability? Are you able to work nights? Weekends?
  28. Talk about a time you had to communicate a complicated medical issue to a patient or their family. How did you go about relaying the message?
  29. Talk about a time that you had to deal with a significant change in your work procedures or in your workplace. How did you handle that change?
  30. We are interviewing several candidates for this position. Why should we hire you?
  31. Do you have any questions about the specific requirements or responsibilities of the job?
  32. Are you able to handle the physical requirement of the job?
  33. Tell me about a time when you have recognized that a patient is in a difficult or dangerous situation. How did you respond and what was the outcome?
  34. Tell me about your experience supervising or mentoring other nurses.
15 Nursing Answer Examples with User Answers
1.
Tell me about an experience when you had to use ACLS, BLS, or PALS protocols in your nursing practice.
The interviewer is asking this question to assess the candidate's knowledge and skill level of Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) protocols. Every nurse, at a minimum, should be trained in ACLS and BLS, and depending on their work environment, they should also be trained in PALS. This training includes a set of clinical interventions for the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, stroke, and other life-threatening emergencies, as well as knowledge and skills to execute those interventions. The candidate's ability to effectively respond to a crisis using appropriate life support interventions directly correlates to patient outcomes. To effectively answer this question, the candidate should articulate their knowledge of life support protocols and describe how they have used them in the past.

Heather's Answer #1
"I am very familiar with all the life support protocols that you mentioned and have used all of them in my nursing career, but most recently, while working in pediatrics, I have used PALS most often. I actually had to initiate PALS protocols while working on my unit earlier this week, when a young patient unexpectedly coded. While we waited for our hospitalist physician to arrive on our unit to help us with the response, I led the nursing team in giving the patient CPR and determining which meds were needed to stabilize them until the physician arrived. If I had not taken action and properly followed PALS protocols, the patient would have died, but because of the appropriate action I did take, they are expected to be discharged later this week."
Kelly's Answer #2
"I am a relatively new nurse, as I have only had my license for two years. However, I am certified in BLS, ACLS, and PALS. Fortunately, I haven't had too many experiences in the outpatient clinic where I have had to administer life support to patients, but there was one situation where I had to utilize my PALS skills. A young couple with a newborn with pertussis, or whooping cough, had brought their baby to the clinic instead of the ER, and the baby stopped breathing and turned blue while in the waiting room. Once I was alerted of this, I had the front desk call a code and I immediately responded to the family and began resuscitation efforts on the newborn. By the time the paramedics arrived to take the baby to the hospital, he was breathing on his own again, so our efforts in the clinic likely prevented him from dying in our waiting room."
Anonymous Answer
"To start the nursing program at UTA, I became BLS certified through the American Heart Association. I am not ACLS or PALS certified but would like to be certified in both. I have not encountered a situation in clinical where I have had to use these skills; however, at the beginning of each semester, we have a refresher day at the smart hospital where we practice BLS on a medical manikin to ensure our skills are still up to par."
Rachelle's Answer
Very good answer! It's great that you are already BLS certified and that you show an interest in both ACLS and PALS.
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2.
How do you approach the documentation of patient records? Do you have specific strategies that you use?
Documentation of clinical encounters in patient records is extremely important and much of this responsibility rests on the shoulders of the nursing staff. If clinical encounters, medications, procedures, vital signs, and other information is not documented properly, unintended consequences could occur, some being dire. The interviewer is asking this question to determine how seriously the candidate takes documentation and to determine if they use any methods to improve efficiencies for documentation. To effectively answer this question, the candidate should talk about how they approach documentation, from beginning to end and give examples of any strategies they use to improve efficiency.

Heather's Answer #1
"I am new to nursing, as I just finished nursing school, but I understand how important clinical documentation is. During my clinical rotations, when I had the opportunity to document my clinical encounters, I made sure to document everything, and before signing the note, I would double-check to ensure everything was correct. Since I am new to this and have not had a chance to develop my own efficiencies, I cannot speak to that, but I can say that my background in IT project management will allow me to think outside the box, and I can see myself coming up with ideas for standardization that others may not ever think of."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Documentation can be hard, especially on the days when I am extremely busy and I feel like I hardly have time to give basic care to my patients. While I know that I have to fill out the clinic notes completely, I also do not always have time to complete the full note at the patient bedside. What I will do is fill out the basic information and save the note so I can go back and edit it later. Then, when I have time later in the day, I will go back and complete the note using the shorthand notes that I left myself in the medical record."
Anonymous Answer
"Since I am a new graduate, I haven't necessarily found specific strategies when it comes to documentation; however, I am well aware of just how important accurate and concise documentation is. In school, I've generally stuck to documenting everything, even normal findings, instead of documenting by exception like most systems use."
Rachelle's Answer
This is a great way to answer, considering you are a new graduate. You show an understanding of the importance of documentation and remaining organized. Good response!
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3.
Tell me about a time that you had to deal with an unexpected emergency on the job. How did you handle that situation?
On this question, the interviewer will be looking to learn how you deal with the unexpected things that arise when on a shift. For your answer, make sure to talk about how you are able to prioritize things in order of importance/need and you are able to pick up the pieces where you left off prior to the emergent situation.

Heather's Answer #1
"In my current position, I am on the hospital's trauma team. If a trauma emergency is called, I am pulled from my regular duties on my Med/Surg unit to attend to the emergency trauma. This happened a few weeks ago during a medication pass and I didn't have help to back me up. Upon hearing the call over the PA system, I let my leader know that I needed to be present when the trauma arrived at the hospital. I made a quick note to myself on where I left off with the patients on my unit. Upon returning to the unit an hour and a half later, I was able to pick up the medication pass where I had left off because I had taken a quick minute to jot some notes down to myself."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Becuase I have spent most of my career working as a nurse in an outpatient family practice clinic, many people think that I have never dealt with emergencies; however, this is not the case. Many times, patients who arrive at our clinic are very sick and are in need of emergency care. Just last week, I was on my way into the clinic, and I stopped at the public restroom in the building lobby before reporting to work. While I was at the sink washing my hands, one of our patients, called out from one of the stalls, told me she needed emergency assistance. I immediately used my cell phone to call the clinic and asked them to call a code blue, and I crawled under the stall, got the woman into the floor, and began administering care to her before our emergency team could reach her. The woman's vital signs were dangerously low, and she ended up leaving by ambulance, so my quick thinking likely saved her life."
4.
Are you specialized in a particular area of nursing, i.e. neo-natal, pediatric, geriatric, or women's health?
On this particular question, the interviewer is looking to hear from you where your passions fall in the nursing field. They can tell where your experience comes from in your resume and now it is time to showcase your passion for the job that you are interviewing for.

If you are interviewing for a specialty area within nursing that you have worked in the past, talk about your interests in that area and why the job is important to you. If you are interviewing for a new specialty area of care, look to point out similarities of your past duties and experiences and how they will translate to this potential new job. New graduates to the nursing field should talk about their clinical experiences and why they see this job as the best fit for their career.

Heather's Answer #1
"Having worked in Family Practice as a nurse for my entire career, I've had the joy of working with mothers and their newborn children for their care when they were sick. I've provided care for newborns that have had a wide array of sicknesses and have always loved that aspect of that of my job. With my career goal always being working on an obstetrics unit, my experience working with newborns will translate well."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Since I just recently graduated from my nursing program and obtained my nursing license, I don't consider myself specialized in a particular area of nursing yet. However, during my clinicals, I excelled the most in my emergency department and critical care rotations. I attribute my success in these rotations to the years I spent working as a technician in the emergency department at the local hospital. So, while I cannot honestly say I specialize in a particular area of nursing as of yet, I am most comfortable working with emergency and critical care patients."
Anonymous Answer
"As a new graduate, I don't currently have a specialty. I want to use my entry-level position as a way to cultivate my skills and knowledge to prepare me for the rest of my career. Part of the reason why I chose THR's Versant program is that we will be rotated through other specialties to gain the confidence needed to support our careers."
Rachelle's Answer
Great answer! Although you do not yet have a specialty, you make a clear case that this role will help guide you into one.
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5.
What was your least favorite patient? What was the situation.
Any experienced nurse has had to deal with a patient that was unruly, untruthful or just downright mean. For this question, be sure to provide a specific time where you had to handle a patient like this, how you handled the situation and what the final outcome was. The interviewer is looking for you to stay calm, cool and collected despite wanting to fight back.

Heather's Answer #1
"I had an elderly patient who was struggling to maintain their independence, but suffering from dementia while recovering from a broken hip. They were resistant at times when they needed to take medicine, so I learned how to talk to them and involve their family member in order to encourage them to do the things they needed for care."
Kelly's Answer #2
"To date, most of my experience has been working in outpatient family practice clinics, and the most frustrating patients for me are the ones who have no clinical experience or scientific education but question every recommendation the clinicians make because of 'research' they have conducted on the internet. I understand that everyone's opinions are valid and all patients are allowed to ask questions, but the patients who think they know more than the doctors I work with because of a blog they have read on the internet are very frustrating to me. Last flu season, when the virus was at epidemic levels, I had a patient who not only refused the vaccine but was telling me the vaccine caused the flu. I know this is clinically and scientifically impossible, but rather than becoming combative with her, I calmly presented her with the facts and allowed her to make her own decision, which ultimately was to deny herself the vaccine, but I did what I could."
Anonymous Answer
"My least favorite patient was an elderly man on one of my last critical care clinical days. He wasn't rude to me, nor did he have any problems with me, but the way he treated other nurses and techs really frustrated me. He was openly rude to any male that tried to care for him except for his primary physician and was inappropriate in the way he addressed anyone whose skin color was not to his liking."
Rachelle's Answer
Oh my - he sounds like a disaster! How did you cope? The interviewer would want to hear more about what you did and how you reacted in this situation.
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Anonymous Answer
"During my time as an ED nurse, I had seen several patients that were shouting with alcohol heavy drinking. It bothers me so much. Sometimes we don't know the patient nothing have medical problems or not. I have one patient, in particular, became very upset with me when the physician would not prescribe any pain medication. He said he had so much pain in his back at that time, but he's walking well we couldn't find any problems. He's a famous man with our ED. He's come by seeing ED nurses almost weekly with minor problems and alcoholic always."
Kristine's Answer
Great start! You described the situation with your least favorite patient well. I reworded for clarity. Now, show how you handled the case and the final outcome. Were you calm and reassuring? Did you show compassion? Did you help diffuse the situation?
"During my time as an Emergency Department or ED nurse, I had several patients who were in alcohol withdrawal and were shouting and demanding pain medication. In these unnerving situations, I had to do my best to assist the physician in finding out if the patient really had medical problems. I remember one patient who said he had a lot of pain in his back, but he was walking well, and we couldn’t find any evidence of back injuries or trauma so the physician would not prescribe pain medication. The patient became very upset with me. I found out that this man was well known in the ED because he would be in the emergency room nearly weekly with minor problems and always demanded pain medication."
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6.
Tell me about your IV skills. Are you able to start an IV?
One of the skills many nurses will be expected to have is starting intravenous lines (IVs). IVs can be used for many purposes including administering fluids, blood transfusions, and medications. Proper delivery of IV therapy is extremely important because if the therapy is delivered incorrectly, the patient's life could be put in danger. In order for IV therapy to be properly administered, the IV must be inserted into the vein properly, which requires a specific skill-set and the ability to follow protocols. To successfully answer this question, the candidate should elaborate on their ability and experience in starting and managing IVs. A more successful answer would include an example of when the candidate successfully handled a difficult circumstance while starting and/or managing and IV.

Heather's Answer #1
"The nursing position I held before my current job in pediatrics was at an infusion center, so I spent most of my days starting and managing patient IVs as they received their infusion medications. Because I worked in the infusion center for so long and started so many IVs, starting them is almost second nature to me. Many times, I find that patients are anxious about getting VIs, even in an infusion center environment, when they come in every so many weeks to get their medication; and since anxiety and stress can cause vasoconstriction, I do everything I can to explain the procedure and help the patient feel comfortable. I also take additional measures to make starting IVs easier on myself and the patient, such as placing a warm compress on the site to dilate the veins and, if possible, offering the patient water to help them hydrate. All these interventions help make the IV process easier for me but it also helps patients relax and become more comfortable."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Back in 2013, I spent nine months working in an urgent care department, and in this position, I did start IVs on the patients who were receiving intravenous fluids or medications. While I have not worked in a position where I had to start IVs since then, I was able to work through many difficult situations while working in that position. I remember one patient who was extremely dehydrated and needed IV fluids to rehydrate, and while I was searching for a vein in her arm, I could not find one because her veins were so deep and small, which was worse because of her condition. Rather than poking her multiple times or taking the risk of blowing a vein, I found a vein in her hand that I could use and was able to successfully start an IV in her hand."
Anonymous Answer
"I was trained to start IVs last Fall semester, and since that time, I have had the opportunity to practice this skill in my clinical rotations. I have successfully started 12 IVs since learning this skill and am confident in my ability to do so. I have also been placed in an ER for my capstone at the end of this semester and am excited to continue to practice my IV skills and learn many more to prepare me for a successful transition from student to nurse."
Rachelle's Answer
Very good! It's great that you offer up your specific number of successful IV's. You show a strong willingness to practice and learn.
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Anonymous Answer
"I am very comfortable starting and managings IVs, and, in fact, I start IVs daily at my job, and I have for many years. I have a reputation for being able to start IVs even in the most difficult veins or the most difficult locations, and I am often called to help my colleagues start difficult IVs when they are running into trouble."
Kristine's Answer
Good answer! Your interviewer will be impressed that you are the go-to person for starting IVs in difficult veins. To take your response to the next level, you can explain the method(s) used for finding veins, the types of difficult veins, catheter size, and an example of when you handled a difficult circumstance with starting an IV. I incorporated some of these elements your answer, though you can elaborate with details from your personal experience.
"I am very comfortable starting and managings IVs, and in fact, I start IVs daily at my job, and I have for many years. I have a reputation for being able to start IVs even in the most difficult veins, such as small, deep, fragile, or hidden veins and in the most challenging locations. I am often called to help my colleagues start difficult IVs when they are running into trouble. To find a vein in these challenging situations, I rely on palpation, gravity, and a tourniquet, vein finders, or vein lights, and then I use the smallest catheter available to reduce the possibility of damage to the vein."
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7.
How do you stay current on the latest health research?
The healthcare field is continually changing with new technology and research methods. Due to this, most healthcare organizations require nurses to attend continuing education courses. On top of required education, many nurses choose to stay up to speed in their field by attending training, reading publications or participating in workshops. To successfully answer this question, candidates should talk about one of the most recent training sessions they attended and expand on their particular interests in learning more in the nursing field and how they educate themselves.

Heather's Answer #1
"As part of my continuing education requirements, I recently attended a Child Maltreatment training. Working in a Family Practice clinic, this training was extremely useful as it educated me on how to spot potential child abuse on patients that I see. As well, I learned new changes in law about mandatory reporting if child abuse was suspected. On top of regular continuing education credits, my passion lies in the treatment of children that are diagnosed with cancer. I am a subscriber of the 'Journal of Pediatric Nursing' and enjoy reading and learning about new research in the field."
Kelly's Answer #2
"As a nurse with many years of experience, am well aware of how quickly medicine and nursing practices advance, so I understand the importance of keeping up with the latest health research. I subscribe to several nursing journals through my membership in the American Nurses Association, and I use the information in these journals to stay abreast on newly published research. Reading these journals as well as attending CME courses have helped me stay ahead and on the cutting-edge of nursing practice throughout my career."
Anonymous Answer
"As a nursing student, I stay current on the latest health research by listening to podcasts. I am also subscribed to the American Nurse Association, so I often keep up to date by reading American Nurse Today."
Rachelle's Answer
Fantastic! These resources are very reputable, which the interviewer will be happy to hear. Try offering up more specifics on the podcasts such as who the host is, what the topics are, or a great nugget of information you just learned.
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Anonymous Answer
"Continuing education courses I have attended throughout my career have helped me become a better nurse. As a nurse that has worked most of her career in the Emergency Department, I have had to adapt to changes in procedures and technology throughout my career. As part of my continuing education requirements, I recently took a course on the pediatric patient in the emergency room. Even having been a career Emergency Nurse, I learned new research and methods to help treat pediatric patients when they come to the Emergency Room."
Kristine's Answer
Great start! Your interviewer will be impressed that you recently took a course as part of your continuing education. I reworded slightly for clarity. You can elaborate by sharing something new you learned from the training, such as a method for treating pediatric patients in the ER. The interviewer would also be interested in hearing about areas in nursing in which you want to learn more and your future training plans.
"As a nurse who has worked most of my career in the Emergency Department, I have successfully adapted to changes in procedures and technologies throughout my career. I recently took a course on best practices in caring for pediatric patients in the emergency room. Even as a career Emergency Nurse, I learned new research and methods to help treat pediatric patients when they visit the Emergency Room."
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8.
How many patients is a full workload for you?
This is a question where you can open up and be honest with your past experiences and what you feel comfortable working with. Each facility/unit/department has different patients with different acuity levels, so the exact number of patients can vary from department to department. This is a good time to emphasize how you keep yourself organized in your work and let the interviewer know that you can take on any workload that comes your way.

Heather's Answer #1
"During my career as a nurse, I have found out that the number of patients that I'm comfortable handling is relative to the unit that I'm working on. In a highly acute ICU, I've worked with as a high as 8 patients on a shift and felt this was overwhelming. On a Med/Surg unit, 8 patients on a unit that I'm responsible for is low. No matter the unit that I work on, I have a great method in place for prioritizing the needs of my patients and make sure that all of my patient's needs are met in a timely manner."
Kelly's Answer #2
"This is a really good question, and it really depends on the situation and the acuity of the patients that I am caring for. However, for the position that I am applying for at your organization, where I would be caring for hospitalized geriatric patients, I would say my capacity would be ten patients, give or take, depending on patient acuity. I feel that one of my strongest skill sets is assessing the patients I am caring for and measuring my capacity, and when I do this if I feel that I am becoming overloaded, I will communicate this to the charge nurse so they can help redistribute or offer help of a CNA. I would not ask for help unless it was absolutely needed, and I only do so when I feel like I cannot properly care for patients who are in my care."
Anonymous Answer
"As a nursing student, the most patients I have been responsible for assessing and administering medications have been two. Since I haven't had the opportunity to experience a typical workload of what I assume to be four patients, I would say that my capacity to care for patients safely is currently two patients. As I move through the Versant program, I am sure my confidence and ability will continue to increase as well as the number of patients I feel I can handle as my workload."
Rachelle's Answer
Very well said! It's good that you are cautious and say that you can comfortably take on two patients; rather than putting unrealistic expectations on yourself.
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Anonymous Answer
"On these days, we often saw over 20 patients on an 8-hour shift, and I was comfortable on those days due to my ability to stay organized and prioritize what needed to be done first. As an emergency nurse for many years, I was able to successfully manage the shifts where we were bombarded with patients."
Kristine's Answer
Great answer! The interviewer will appreciate that you’ve shared a specific number of patients within a timeframe and that you can handle an even larger workload by staying organized. I reworded slightly for clarity.
"These days, we often see over 20 patients in an 8-hour shift. I am comfortable with seeing this number of patients due to my ability to stay organized and prioritize what needs to be done first. As an emergency nurse for many years, I have successfully managed shifts with a surge in patients."
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9.
How do you prioritize when multiple patients and procedures demand your attention at once?
Working in any patient unit or clinic comes with times where the patient load can be overwhelming. During these times, nurses are often the glue that holds everything together in the department to ensure that things run smoothly. The interviewer is asking this question to determine how the candidate manages such as situation and how they will be able to manage these types of situations at your organization. To successfully answer this question, the candidate should talk about a particular situation when they had to prioritize multiple patients at once, how they handled the situation, and what the outcome was.

Heather's Answer #1
"As a nurse in the emergency department, there are times when the action is crazy with patients coming in. During these times, I always remember that the needs of the patient come first so my triage skills come into use to prioritize which patients are the highest priority and which ones can wait. During these particular times, communication is extremely important for patients. If they are going to have a time period to wait, I communicate that to them and check in with them when I am able to. As well during these busy times, it is equally important for our team of nurses and physicians to stay in communication. From there, I stay calm and handle patients with quality care one at a time."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Working in the pediatric outpatient environment, I often am faced with competing priorities and situations where I have multiple patients who need my attention at once. Managing my patient load and these priorities are something I have struggled with since I began working as a nurse two years ago. At first, I would get extremely overwhelmed and because I was unsure of how to handle the situation, I would end up getting extremely behind in clinic. However, I have worked with my manager and my doctor to come up with new strategies to help me save time and improve efficiencies, which have helped me improve my practice. I also have been practicing strategies for being mindful and not getting overwhelmed, which has helped me focus on each task at hand, rather than getting overwhelmed by the whole."
Anonymous Answer
"When I was working as a triage nurse in the emergency department, I need to prioritize patients according to the highest priority and which one can wait. During those times, communication is extremely important for patients. If they need to wait a long time, I need to communicate that to them and check in with them when I'm able. Some times patients and families don't want to wait; they will ask many questions. Some would demand to see a doctor immediately. That time I stay calm and handle patients with quality care one at a time."
Rachelle's Answer
Good answer! It sounds like you have a great ability to prioritize and manage multiple demands coming at you from different sources.
"When I was working as a triage nurse in the emergency department, I need to prioritize patients according to the highest priority. During those times, communication is crucial for patients. If they need to wait a long time, I need to communicate that to them and check in with them when I'm able. Sometimes patients and families don't want to wait. They will ask many questions, and some will demand to see a doctor immediately. When this happens, I stay calm and handle patients with quality care one at a time."
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Anonymous Answer
"One day on my shift as an ED nurse, we had a couple of other trauma cases that were a high priority come in due to an auto accident. When this happened, we had to work as a team to communicate with current patients and family members in waiting that we had to push their times back in the day due to an emergent situation. An on-call surgeon came in later in the day to help cover the regularly scheduled cases and I had to communicate with the three surgeons on duty as to where I was needed and when I needed to be there. In the end, being able to prioritize the patients and my duties were crucial in helping the day in the ED run smoothly."
Kristine's Answer
Great answer! The interviewer will be convinced you can navigate competing priorities successfully. Before jumping into your example, go ahead and speak to how you handle this situation in general. In your updated response, I included a sample introductory sentence you can tailor.
"In the ER, we frequently face pressing multiple patients and procedures, and in these cases, I use my triage skills to prioritize what needs to be done first. One day on my shift as an ED nurse, we had a couple of trauma cases that were high priority come in due to an auto accident. When this happened, we had to work as a team to communicate with current patients and family members in waiting that we had to push their times back in the day due to an emergent situation. An on-call surgeon came in later in the day to help cover the regularly scheduled cases, and I communicated with the three surgeons on duty as to where I was needed and when I needed to be there. In the end, being able to prioritize the patients and my duties as well as communicate with patients and medical staff was crucial in helping the day in the ED run smoothly."
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10.
What precautions do you take with a patient in poor health?
This question gives you the opportunity to point out how you customize your approach to each patient on an individual basis. Nurses see patients with levels of sickness and poor health that span a wide degree of severity. It is important to talk about how you communicate with your patients and using specific examples from your past can be beneficial here as well.

Heather's Answer #1
"Any time I see a new patient, I take my time to get to know them both personally and what their health history looks like. Oftentimes, this can lead me to understand just how poor their health conditions are and I am able to customize my care to them."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Working in an adult medicine outpatient clinic, I help patients who are perfectly healthy and patients who have multiple comorbidities. While I strive to give great care to all my patients, I am extra cautious around our patients who have multiple conditions and spend extra time with them to be sure their questions are answered, they understand their medications, and that they understand their medical conditions. It is important to me that these patients are aware of their conditions and how they can self-manage them because helping keep these patients as healthy as possible is a priority."
Anonymous Answer
"Whenever I am assessing a new patient, it is important for me to get to know the patient and the entirety of their health history. This allows me to understand the severity of their health conditions fully and enables me to customize my care to their particular situation."
Rachelle's Answer
Your answer shows a nice amount of care and detail. Great response!
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11.
Describe your typical relationship with physicians you work with.
As a nurse, you have a working relationship with several physicians. This question will enable you to showcase your relationship with the physicians that you have worked with and what your communication style is. As a nurse, building trust with physicians is important as well so some examples of how you've built that trust can be beneficial.

Heather's Answer #1
"During my career, I've taken great pride in being able to communicate and relate to the physicians that I have worked with. Together, we ultimately work as a team to provide the best care that we can for each patient and our working relationship is key in accomplishing this goal."
Kelly's Answer #2
"I pride myself in the fact that I am able to develop and maintain very professional relationships with the physicians I work with. As I nurse, I am part of the care team, but I look to the physicians I work with for orders and for guidance. While there are times that I must bring various things to their attention and ask questions in a professional manner, I do not blatantly challenge the decisions physicians have made like I have seen some of my nursing colleagues do in the past. Also, when it comes to dealing with difficult physician personalities, I never take any difficult encounters personally. I recognize that physicians are typically under a significant amount of pressure and stress and if their emotions run high because of this, I do not need to add stress to their lives by complicating the situation."
Anonymous Answer
"As a nursing student, I have had the opportunity to work with many physicians in my clinical settings. The physicians I've communicated with have always been helpful, encouraging, and understanding."
Rachelle's Answer
It sounds as though you've had many harmonious workplace relationships. Way to go!
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12.
Tell me about a time in which you had to handle an irate physician, co-worker, or patient. How did you handle it and what were the results?
As a nurse, you deal with patients, family members, and co-workers during very stressful times. These stressful times can lead to emotional outbursts like rage or sadness. In dealing with someone who was angry, it is important to demonstrate your listening skills, problem-solving skills and your ability to remain calm and collected to not escalate the situation.

Heather's Answer #1
"As a nurse in the pain clinic, we had a patient in one day that was demanding more narcotics for her pain. She had walked into the clinic without an appointment to demand another prescription. As the only nurse in a small clinic that day, I sat the patient down to talk to them. I used a calm voice and listened to what they were asking for. After listening, I explained that I would need to check their records for their last prescription and speak with the attending physician in the clinic that day. After seeing that their last prescription was written many months ago and the patient had missed their last appointment, I was able to talk to the physician to get another prescription written. Once prescribed, I explained to the patient how it was important for them to keep their regularly scheduled appointments and she walked away happy."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Over the years that I have spent working as a nurse, I have dealt with many upset patients, family members, and physicians; however, the example that comes to mind most is when an attending physician became extremely angry with one of the floor nurses one day while I was working as charge nurse at the hospital. The charge nurse had made a minor mistake in documentation, and rather than handling it professionally when the physician brought it to her attention, she snapped back at him, which caused him to become extremely angry and start raising his voice. When I intervened, the physician directed his anger at me and was raising his voice at me in the hallway, where staff, patients, and family members could hear. Rather than becoming angry, I stayed calm and used various tactics to de-escalate the situation, and soon, the physician and I were able to have a reasonable conversation with one another. I knew that the physician was overreacting, but I also knew that it would not help the situation if I did not handle it professionally, so I chose to take the high road."
Anonymous Answer
"During my time as a nurse in the ED, we had a patient who was brought in with an amputated index finger from an accident. After seeing by a surgeon, we were waiting for a call from OR because surgery would be required, and sooner is better we think. When the family arrived, the patient's mother was extremely irate that her son wasn't rushed into surgery immediately. She was demanding that her son be rushed to surgery to anyone that would listen. I took it upon myself to sit down with her and explain he's not NPO status, so we have to wait a little bit, It won't be long. After that, the mother had a better understanding of the situation and was able to finally process what was happening in a calm and relaxed way."
Kristine's Answer
Great example! To ensure clarity, try showing in different words how you explained to the mother that it was necessary to wait longer. In all likelihood she probably wouldn’t understand the significance of NPO status, so try to explain this situation using some of the actual words you spoke to her. Then, the interviewer will be able to recognize you can translate medical terminology for the average person to facilitate understanding. I reworded your response slightly for clarity.
"“During my time as a nurse in the ED, we had a patient who was brought in with an amputated index finger from an accident. After being seen by a surgeon, we were waiting for a call from the OR because surgery would be required soon. When the family arrived, the patient’s mother was extremely irate that her son wasn’t rushed into surgery immediately. She was demanding that her son be rushed to surgery to anyone who would listen. I took it upon myself to sit down with her and explain he wasn’t NPO status, so we had to wait a little bit, but that it wouldn’t take long. After that, the mother had a better understanding of the situation and was able to finally process what was happening in a calm and relaxed way.”"
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13.
Describe a recent issue you had with a doctor or co-worker's decision. How did you handle it?
In the fast-paced nursing world, you won't always agree with the decisions that are made by your co-workers or physicians that you work with on a daily basis. When a disagreement happens, you have to make a decision whether it is something to bite your tongue about or if you need to step up and intervene due to a patient safety issue. Showing your interviewer that you trusted your final decision and the outcome of the situation was acceptable is important for this particular question.

Heather's Answer #1
"During my time working at a skilled nursing facility, we were short staffed one evening during medication passing. Our standard operating procedure was to pass medications to patients in teams of two to ensure that proper medications were being given to each resident. My co-worker told me to do two of the wings alone to save time and I immediately told her that I was uncomfortable going against policy for the safety of the patients. Another co-worker and I teamed up to complete the pass in the entire facility in a timely fashion with no incidents."
Kelly's Answer #2
"I actually recently dealt with this type of situation during one of my clinical shifts in the emergency department. We had a patient who presented with extreme muscle spasms and joint pain. The patient's joint pain was so bad that she could not move her joints, particularly her jaw. After the physician I was working with examined her, she diagnosed her with pain from an arthritis flare; however, I did not agree with the diagnosis because of the patient's symptoms. Using a professional approach, I urged the doctor to do exploratory testing, giving her clinical rationale of what I thought was wrong with the patient, and once we received the test results back we learned that the patient had a life-threatening infection that needed immediate medical attention."
Anonymous Answer
"Currently, I don't have any co-workers because I am a nanny, but at my previous job, I did disagree with my boss. It was the holiday season, and we were getting ready to shut down for the week to prepare the 800 pies that had been ordered. The week before prep week, she decided to stop taking orders because I hadn't baked for a holiday pick up by myself and was worried the both of us wouldn't be able to handle the load. I initially took this negatively. I was willing to pull extra hours and knew the shop needed the money from the orders we were missing out on. I discussed it with my boss, and she cleared it up that she didn't think that we couldn't do it but that she wanted us to enjoy the process as well. We still ended up accepting a few extra orders from our regulars, and the holiday season went off without a hitch."
Rachelle's Answer
It's great that you approached the situation and were willing to work extra hours to make sure the shop was profitable. This is a clear example of teamwork and good communication.
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Anonymous Answer
"In my current position working on an ED, communicating with co-workers and physicians is very important. One pt came to ED with very sleepy; I thought he's addicted to alcohol. While I didn't agree with the decision to check brain CT scan "stat," as a priority, at the time, trusting the physician's judgment was the best thing that I did, Seeing the gratification on the patient was well worth it."
Kristine's Answer
With any example you share, you want to share the outcome. In this particular example, the interviewer will wonder if the physician made the right decision in ordering a CT scan “stat.” If it turns out the CT scan was needed stat, then it will support your decision to trust the physician’s judgment. I suggest you incorporate these details into your story.
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14.
How do you make seamless transitions on shift changes?
In almost any nursing setting, handing off a unit at shift change time in a smooth fashion is extremely important. The interviewer is looking to see how you handle the hand offs to and from your colleagues during the shift changes. Here, it is important for you to showcase your communication and listening skills and how you take information and put it to work. Walking step by step through your previous employers' handoffs can be beneficial as well because it will reassure the interviewer that you are familiar with step by step processes in these situations.

Heather's Answer #1
"At my current position, we have a process for transitioning at shift change. To start, the nurses coming off shift and those coming on have a huddle that is led by the unit supervisor at each shift change. Here, any significant issues with patients are discussed. Next, if any work remains to be done with a patient, we communicate to each other one on one to ensure that the needs of our patients are met."
Kelly's Answer #2
"In my current role, I work twelve-hour shifts, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Many times, when the nurse for the evening shift arrives, I am still assisting a patient, and she immediately begins her nightly routine, so we do not get to talk face-to-face. So, to ensure everything is communicated appropriately during shift-change, I worked with our clinical applications department to develop a clinical handoff note that is built in the medical record. This is a communication tool that staff can use to communicate during shift changes or when they are going to be away for time off. I use this tool to document the pertinent information about each of my patients so that it is in one place for the next nurse to see when she arrives on shift. It has been extremely helpful in ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks and it allows the next nurse to get up-to-speed without having to read through every patients' notes upon first arriving on shift."
Anonymous Answer
"I haven't personally performed a shift change, but I have watched many nurses perform their shift changes at the beginning of clinical days. The best shift changes always included why the patient was admitted, what medications and diet they are on, as well as important things in their health history. Functional shift changes always had clean patient rooms, early morning medications were given, and specific preferences made by the patient."
Rachelle's Answer
You make some excellent observations on what makes a smooth shift change. Very well done!
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15.
How have you responded when your supervisor asked you to work an additional shift to fill vacancies?
Any nurse knows that one of the downsides to the career is the need for coverage on most units 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. There may be times when you are asked to alter your schedule or pick up additional shifts to fill for vacancies in the work schedule. Due to being shorthanded, you may also be asked to stay for longer hours on your current shift. Working as a cohesive team is important among fellow nurses in a department and they need to be willing to help each other out when needed. As well, it is important for you to be open and honest about your availability and for you to ensure that the job you are interviewing for fits your schedule.

Heather's Answer #1
"I know that working as an obstetrics nurse on 12-hour shifts that teamwork and helping cover for each other is important. In my current position, we have policies on notification for paid time off, shift swapping and calling in sick. I have been open to help cover extra shifts when needed and staying over for some extra time on shifts as long as I have some notice because I need to make childcare arrangements for our little one."
Kelly's Answer #2
"Since I am just now finishing my nursing program and am a newly licensed nurse, I have not yet encountered this situation; however, I am very eager to learn and am willing to cover extra shifts when needed. Before my career change into nursing, I worked in the business/IT industry, and I often had to pull long days with many hours, so I am used to going above and beyond the standard work week in order to get the job done. As a nurse, my priority will be caring for our patients, and I will pitch in and help however I can in order to ensure they are cared for."
Anonymous Answer
"As a new graduate, I will be more than willing to take on additional shifts while still being mindful of my level of mental exhaustion and will make a choice based on whether or not I can care for patients to the best of my ability at that time."
Rachelle's Answer
Your answer shows a firm level of responsibility while still balancing teamwork. Nice!
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