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How do you prioritize when multiple patients and procedures demand your attention at once?

Answer examples and advice for how to answer this interview question for a Nursing interview

How to Answer

Working in any patient unit or clinic comes with times where the patient load is crazy. During these times, nurses are often the glue that holds everything together in the department to ensure that things run smoothly. Try to talk about a particular situation where you had to prioritize multiple patients at one time, how you handled the situation and what the outcome was.

How do you prioritize when multiple patients and procedures demand your attention at once?
Answer example

"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 the 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."

Entry Level

"During my clinical rotation in an Urgent Care clinic, we had a very busy day where many patients were coming in due to a nasty flu bug that was being spread around. In working with my preceptor, I learned from him how to communicate to patients what their wait times would be and how to best triage patients based on their symptoms. His calmness in handling the situation was inspiring. Personally, during my final year of coursework in college, I was taking 18 credits each semester. During these semesters, I had to learn to prioritize my classwork by due dates and order of importance. By utilizing checklists and working through each thing one at a time, I learned invaluable skills that I can bring to my nursing career."


"One day on my shift as a nurse in the surgery center, we were booked full of cases throughout the day. As the day progressed, 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 to 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 was crucial in helping the day in the surgery center run smoothly."

View user-submitted Answers

How do you prioritize when multiple patients and procedures demand your attention at once?
The healthcare world is constantly evolving environment. Early in my nursing career I learned how a patients status can quickly change and therefore priorities change. Because I have had a lot of clinical experience, I am able to remain calm in emergent situations and adapt to high stress situations.
I welcome change and I can accommodate quickly to any situation. I understand by going into this field of nursing this could quite possibly happen on a daily basis.
If it does not affect how I can perform my duties I do not mind to help out. If it is going to put me behind on my schedule I will probably still do it even though I may be a annoyed.
IT does not affect my mood at all, It will encourage me to work harder and faster. It is okay, this is my job.
Well at times I may get upset, but I understand by now these things happen, especially in the medical field.
I became a nurse because of the fact that not every day will be the same. So I recognize that changes in priority are a normal daily occurance and that I must be able to provide my care based on priorities.

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