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Nursing Interview
Questions

48 Nursing Questions and Answers by Heather Douglass
| Heather has over 20 years experience recruiting and hiring candidates,
specifically in the health care industry.

Question 1 of 48

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?

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Nursing Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    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

      "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

      "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."

      Ryan's Answer

      "During my time in nursing school, there were several group projects that we had to work on. In one particular group, we had a team member that was continuously missing our agreed upon meetings and wasn't responding to our requests to help with the project. The lady who took the lead for our group became very frustrated when the group was meeting at this particular person. I let the lead know that I would reach out to the person missing the meetings as I had a previous relationship with her in a class before. This put the group leader at ease and after speaking about the concern directly to the person in-person, she attended all of our regular meetings the rest of the way and pitched in to help along the way as well. By calmly addressing this face to face, the person not pitching in was able to hear the concern in my voice and stepped up to help."

      Ryan's Answer

      "During my time as a nurse in the critical care unit, we had a patient who was brought in with a punctured lung from an accident. After being put on a ventilator, the physician was going to monitor the injury for a 24-hour period to see if surgery would be required. 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 the other families that were there to explain the injury that was sustained and to explain that the monitoring period for the injury was standard and that he was in stable condition at the time. By explaining why the doctor was taking the steps he was for her son, the mother had a better understanding of the situation and was able to finally process what was happening in a calm and relaxed way."

      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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      Anonymous Answer

      "I had to deal with an irate patient that was upset and yelling at her nurse. The patient did not want anything to do what the nurse asked, so I reassured her that I was there to help her and asked her to tell me what happened. The patient had soiled herself. I offered her a clean gown and new socks, and I changed her bedding. I helped her get back to bed, gave her the call light, and told her to use it if she needed anything else. The patient thanked me and apologized. I told her it was my honor to help her."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Overall, it sounds as though you handled this situation very well. I'm sure the patient really appreciated your assistance and kindness. As an aside, this example is very similar to Q#7, so I encourage you to draw up some more ideas of stories you can draw on during an interview :)

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