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Nursing Interview

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 you had to communicate bad news to a patient. How did you effectively communicate that news and what was the outcome?

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Nursing Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    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?

      As a nurse, the need to communicate effectively to a patient is vital and this is no more evident than when delivering bad news. The interviewer will be looking to see how you handled yourself in a particular instance by showing empathy and composure where most individuals wouldn't be able to. Think of a time when you had to do this and talk about an instance that had a great outcome.

      Heather's Answer

      "As a pediatric nurse early in my career, my physician received lab results from a young patient found to have a brain tumor. When the patient and family were called in for their consult, the physician and I were both in the room when the news was delivered. In that situation, it is hard not to break down with the family in tears but I knew that they were looking at me to be the person with strength and have answers to their questions. The physician and I were able to walk them through their next steps and options moving forward with their child's diagnosis and they truly appreciated that."

      Kelly's Answer

      "A few weeks ago, a patient came into our family practice clinic for a suspected eye infection, and unfortunately, upon examining her eye, the physician I work with found that it was not an infection but rather, it was inflammation of the eye, which could have been caused by an autoimmune disease. The patient was very upset by this, but the doctor told her not to worry until initial blood panels came back and we knew if the patient needed to see a rheumatologist for further testing. However, when the test results came back, it showed that the patient likely had Rheumatoid Arthritis, and she needed further testing by a rheumatologist to confirm. I had to call the patient to break this news to her, and she became very upset when I did so. Since the patient was scared and upset, I stayed on the phone with her, comforted her, and answered any questions that I could, and before the end of the phone call, she was calm and collected and told me she felt much better."

      Ryan's Answer

      "During my time in clinical rotations on a Med/Surg unit, I had been working with a patient throughout the day that was planning to be released back home by 4:00 pm that afternoon. As my day shift was ending, the physician notified us that due to the fact the patient's blood pressure hadn't dropped to an acceptable level, he would have to stay another night for observation. When I was in the room with my preceptor, she gave the news to the patient calmly and explained the reason why it was necessary. While certainly excited to be sent home, he fully understood the reasoning why and took the news well due to her simple delivery of the message."

      Ryan's Answer

      "As an urgent care nurse, I saw patients with varying degrees of sicknesses and illnesses. One weekend, a young boy came in with a foot injury from playing in a hockey tournament earlier that day. After the doctor examined him, he was sent to the lab for X-rays. In talking with the boy and his father, they were in town for a hockey tournament and his team had just reached the championship game which was to be played the next day. The boy was so excited and hopeful that he would have just a bruised foot and be able to play. Once the tests came back, it was revealed that he had fractured the outer metatarsal on his foot. I delivered the news to the boy that he had fractured his foot and that he would need to leave our clinic in a walking boot and not play the next day. He was devastated. I explained to him that playing further could damage his foot further down the road and by taking the time to explain why he had to take the course of action he did, but the boy and his father were grateful."

      Anonymous Answer

      "During my med/surge preceptorship, I had a patient that was NPO more than 24 hours. He was supposed to go down for a procedure that was pushed back throughout the day due to how busy the hospital was. I had to inform the patient that his procedure was going to be pushed until Monday. I knew the patient would be upset because he was hungry and wanted to go home. The nurse I was precepting with came in with me to deliver the news; I informed the patient of the situation and the importance of the procedure. He was not happy about having to wait until Monday for his procedure, but since I explained he could eat and offered him snacks until his food tray arrived, he was content. The positive outcome of this situation was due to effective and honest communication with the patient."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It must have been tough to tell this patient the news and see their disappointment. It seems that you handled the situation very professionally while also approaching the patient in a way that most people would want - with a solution (and snacks!) provided upfront.

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