Common Nursing Interview Questions and Best Answers

Nurse with medical record
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If you've landed an interview for a nursing or medical position, it's a good idea to review typical interview questions and answers. That way, you'll walk into the interview feeling prepared and confident.

In addition to practicing responses, get tips on how else to prepare for your nursing interview, as well as how to impress interviewers.

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Watch Now: How to Answer 5 Common Nursing Interview Questions

Typical Questions Asked in a Nurse Interview

1. What do you find difficult about being a nurse?

What They Want to Know: Many aspects of being a nurse are challenging—interviewers want to know which ones are hardest for you. Warning: Do not complain in your response. Instead, keep it positive, using your response to highlight positive attributes in your resume and personality.

I think the most difficult part of being a nurse is when I have a patient that is very unhappy, or in a lot of pain, and I can't comfort them to the degree I'd like to. I keep a dialog going with the attending physician so that she has as much information as possible regarding the patient’s pain level. Sometimes the patient doesn’t effectively communicate with the doctor, and I try to help bridge that communication gap.

2. Do you prefer to work alone, or as part of a team?

What They Want to Know: Nurses often need to do both—work independently and also collaboratively. Be honest in your response, but avoid being negative about either work style.

That depends on the circumstances. I enjoy being part of a treatment and support team, but I also like the autonomy of working alone.

3. How would you handle a patient who complains constantly of pain?

What They Want to Know: Interviewers want to know how you'd tackle this potentially tricky situation. Walk through the steps you'd take. You can use examples from past work experience if you'd like.

I would listen sympathetically to the patient's complaint, and reassure him that his concerns were being heard and that we were doing everything possible to help. If it seemed warranted, I'd confer with the attending doctor to make sure that the patient's pain was being managed in the most effective way.

4. What do you contribute to your patients as a nurse?

What They Want to Know: This is an opportunity to share your personal theory of how you help patients. You can focus on the medical or the interpersonal, depending on what type of role you are seeking.

I feel that my patients know that I am there to provide comfort and understanding, that I will listen to their concerns, and that I will act as their advocate if necessary.

5. How do you respond when family members ask for your personal diagnosis?

What They Want to Know: By asking this question, the interviewer wants to access your boundaries and to find out if you know how to respond appropriately.

Unless it's my role to diagnose, I wouldn't do so. But, I would try to dig in a bit and figure out why the patient's family member was inquiring. Does the person need some validation? Did the doctor not explain the prognosis clearly? I'd seek to be helpful and share important information (without stepping outside of my role).

What They Want to Know: Anytime interviewers ask this question, they are seeking to determine if you understand and value the healthcare institution. Essentially, interviewers want to know if you want this particular job or any job at all.

I'm impressed with the model here, and the collaborative spirit on the team. Just by sitting in the waiting room, it's clear to me that this practice has a patient-first priority. I’m eager to work with people who are passionate about providing care.

What They Want to Know: As you share what drew you to nursing, look for opportunities to highlight characteristics that make you a good fit for the field.

Nurses have such a powerful role in the hospital. I saw that first-hand when I was young and had a family member in the hospital, and it made me determined to pursue the career. Helping people during a difficult moment is tremendously meaningful to me.

What They Want to Know: Stressful moments are inevitable for healthcare professionals. Acknowledge the stress, but keep the focus of your response on your coping mechanisms. 

In the moment, I don't tend to feel the stress. I'm too intent on providing care for the patient, and offering support to the doctors and team around me. Later, though, sometimes it hits me. My strategy is to go for a hard workout when the stress doesn't dissipate over time.

What They Want to Know: This question can reveal if you're a complainer or have a bad attitude. Make sure to keep your response reasonable and positive (now's not the time to badmouth a colleague).

Everyone has bad days. If the rudeness is a one-time occurrence, I'd let it go. If something major happens, or if it's repeated, I'd reach out to my supervisor. My concern would be that perhaps the doctor was being rude not because of a bad day, but because of dissatisfaction with my work.

What They Want to Know: This is a lead-in for you to talk about your strengths as a nurse. Maybe it's about helping patients, keeping doctors on task, or working with a particular demographic.

As a maternity nurse, I'm there for the moment when people's family's grow. It's powerful and awe-inspiring to witness. And I'm so happy to be able to reassure and help women in this big moment, especially first-time moms.

Some other questions nurses may hear during interviews include:

Questions About Dealing with Family Members

Taking care of a patient often means a lot of time spent with the patient's family, so that’s often a focus during the interview. Here are more questions interviewers might have about how you handle those interactions.

  • Describe a situation with a family where you had issues with poor communication. How did you resolve it?
  • How would you deal with a family member who isn't happy with your care of the patient?
  • How do you deal with a family that isn't following care instructions?
  • What's your approach for communicating with a family that doesn't speak your language well?
  • How do you handle a family's questions that are outside of your purview?
  • What's your approach for dealing with families who want to talk about death?
  • Families sometimes want to know a timeline for a sick person. How do you handle that?
  • What are the HIPAA regulations in regards to phone calls from family members asking for patient information?
  • How do you deal with a family member that wants to blame you?
  • Family members want to make sure their loved one is getting the best quality care. How do you reassure them?
  • How do you handle personal gifts from a family member?
  • What kinds of questions from a family member do you refer to the patient's doctor?
  • How do you help family members deal with death?
  • Sometimes a patient might not want medical information given to family members. How do you handle that with them?
  • How do you handle family members that are disruptive on the unit? (e.g., loud, arguing)
  • How do you respond when family members ask for your personal diagnosis?
  • What do you do when family members usurp time you need to allocate to other patients?

How to Answer Nurse Interview Questions

Reflecting on questions, and devising ways to answer them, will help you arrive prepared and confident for your interview

Keep your answers focused on your assets and project a positive image. When giving your answer, use an example of when you encountered a similar situation that had a successful outcome.

If you can share a concrete example that shows you've got the qualifications the interviewer is seeking, you'll up your chances of getting a job offer.

How to Prepare for a Nurse Interview

Step one: practice answers to the questions on this page and other common interview questions.

You'll want to be very familiar with the healthcare organization where you're interviewing, and have a sense of what the interviewer will be looking for in candidates. That'll help you give strong, targeted responses.

Do your best to take care of practical matters beforehand so that you're not stressed on the day of the interview. Plan your interview outfit in advance, for instance, and plot out how you'll get to the interview destination. (Leave yourself extra time in case of traffic, bad weather, or getting lost.)

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Take advantage of the interview to ask questions that will help you know if the role is right for you. Also, it's always a good idea to have something prepared for when interviewers turn the tables and ask, "Do you have any questions for me?" Here are some options:

  1. What is the culture like in this organization?
  2. What kind of training is available? Do you have any mentorship programs?
  3. Do many nurses work overtime here?
  4. What are some of the big challenges nurses face in this organization? 
  5. Do you offer tuition reimbursement?

How to Make the Best Impression

Be sure to dress appropriately, know your worth, and understand the requirements of the position you are interested in.

Arrive at the interview a few minutes early. Greet people with a smile and make eye contact during the conversation. Speak confidently, and share relevant anecdotes from your career. Read the interviewer's body language—if the person seems unfocused, shorten your answers.

Be prepared for many different types of questions. Interviewers may ask technical questions, as well as questions about how you'd interact with colleagues and patients. With every question, interviewers want to determine what kind of employee you will make, and whether you would be a good fit for the company and the position.

After the interview, make sure to send a thank you note to everyone you spoke with. Not only is this polite, but it shows interviewers that you're interested in the position.