Nurse Job Interview Questions About Handling Stress

Nurse on computer with doctor looking over shoulder
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Nursing is not an easy job and can involve a lot of juggling communications with doctors, patients, and families, all while potentially dealing with life and death daily. Since nursing jobs can be difficult, it’s more than likely the hiring manager will ask job interview questions about stress, how it affects you, and how you handle it.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

No matter what nursing position you interview for, the interviewer will ask, probably in a number of different ways, how you handle stress. Work stress in nursing has been studied as an occupational hazard since the 1960s. It may help for you to understand why a job interviewer asks questions about stress. Essentially, the interviewer is looking for three things when he or she asks you about stress on the job as a nurse:

1.   Whether you acknowledge that stress is an actuality at work.

2.   If you have a good handle on how stress affects you personally.

3.   If you can rise to the challenge in dealing with stress.

How to Answer the Interview Questions about Nurse Job Interview Stress

When answering an interviewer’s questions about nursing and stress, first you must acknowledge that stress is an actuality in the nursing profession. An interviewer is not going to count you out as a candidate if you do this since it is common knowledge.

You need to think about, prior to the interview, how the stress associated with nursing affects you personally and how you rise to the challenge of dealing with it.

Make some notes about these issues prior to your interview. The sample answers below may help you. An answer depends on your personal situation.

 Examples of the Best Answers

These answers may help you develop your own answers to the questions specific to nursing as well as broader interview questions

I handle stress by focusing on the most important thing: the care of the patient. I feel I owe it to my patients to stay calm and focused on them.

Why It Works: This answer works because it addresses each of the three things the interviewer is looking for when addressing stress on the job as a nurse. Stress is acknowledged as an actuality. The candidate acknowledges how stress affects he or she on the job and how he or she rises to the challenge of dealing with stress.

I thrive on stress, and it enables me to do the best possible job. I just need to make sure that I balance positive and negative stress as the former keeps me motivated and productive.

Why It Works: This addresses the second thing the interviewer is looking for when asking about job stress – whether the candidate has an idea of how stress affects he or she personally.

I like a fast-paced, pressure-filled environment--it makes my job invigorating.

Why It Works: The candidate addresses the third thing the interviewer is looking for when asking about job stress – if he or she can rise to the challenge of coping with stress.

In the ER setting, there are often stressful situations that arise. I just make sure that the stresses of the job don't interfere with the care of the patient.

Why It Works: The interviewer would be pleased that this answer acknowledges that stressful situations are found in nursing.

I make sure to exercise every night, which helps me reduce stress.

Why It Works: The applicant addresses both the second and third issue that the interviewer is looking for by addressing his or her solution for stress relief.

 Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Solutions for Dealing with Stressful Situations. Describe an incident for the interviewer when you were under significant pressure and how you dealt with it successfully.

Problem-Solving. Give a few examples of your problem-solving abilities. Describe how you can identify a problem and address it when it's minor in order to prevent the problem from becoming large, unmanageable, and stressful.

Motivation. Describe how a stressful work environment motivates you and enables you to thrive.

Performance Under Pressure. Talk about how you perform under pressure and what abilities you draw on when the stress gets strong.

 Stressors on the Job. Talk about specific things at work that stress you and the reasons why.

Prioritizing Work. Discuss your strategies for prioritizing work so you don't become overwhelmed by too many things all at once.

Multitasking. Describe how you're able to deal with many tasks and responsibilities in a limited period of time.

 What Not to Say

Nervousness. Don’t exhibit nervousness during your interview and don’t talk about nervousness under pressure when you are on the job.

Don’t Use the Word “Can’t”. Don’t say things like you “can’t” multitask or you “can’t” prioritize.

 Possible Follow-Up Questions

 

Key Takeaways

  • The interviewer wants to know that you realize stress is an actuality on the job.
  • When thinking about your interview, realize you must show the interviewer that you realize how stress affects you and that you know how to deal with it.
  • Include the facts that you can multitask, prioritize your work, and perform well under pressure.
  • Give the interviewer examples of your problem-solving abilities.
  • Don’t exhibit nervousness.