Whether you’re applying for your first job out of school or you’re a seasoned professional looking for a new opportunity, the interview process for a registered nurse (RN) can be intimidating. You have a short amount of time to demonstrate the clinical knowledge, professional judgment, and personal skills necessary to succeed as a nurse.
Taking the time to practice beforehand gives you the best chance of acing your interview. Here are the top 10 RN interview questions you should be prepared to answer.
Top RN Interview Questions
Knowing what questions your potential employer might ask – and how you’d answer them – can boost your confidence going into the interview. We’ve provided sample responses to 10 frequently asked RN interview questions to help you prepare your own answers.
1. Why Did You Want to Be a Nurse?
Your interviewers want to know more about you and your motivations, but they also want to see which personal qualities make you a good nurse.
Sample Response: “When I was young, my dad was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack. I saw how hard the nurses worked to make them comfortable and how much they cared about not only my dad but also my mom and me. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to become a nurse, so I could also help others during what’s usually they’re worst experiences.”
2. Do You Prefer Working Alone or in a Team?
Nurses often must work alone as well as collaboratively. Be honest in your response without being negative toward either style.
Sample Response: “It really depends on the circumstances. I like the independence of working alone, so I can focus on my patients. But I also enjoy working with other professionals as part of a team. It’s great to know I have the support of other staff and that I can ask questions if I need to.”
3. What Do You Contribute to Your Patients as a Nurse?
Your interviewers want to understand your personal philosophy toward nursing – this can be professional, interpersonal, or both, depending on the position you’re applying for.
Sample Response: “I take the time to get to know my patients personally when I first meet them and as much as time allows. I feel like trust is earned, and it’s a very important part of patient care. I want my patients to know they can trust me to give them the best care I can give them and to advocate for them if they need me to.”
4. How Do You Handle Family Members of Patients?
As a nurse, you’ll interact with family members of patients on a regular basis. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills and professionalism.
Sample Response: “When I communicate with my patient’s family members, my goal is to always be calm, helpful, and compassionate. If they have concerns, I want to try to understand where they’re coming from enough that I can get them the information they need. If I don’t have the information, I will find out for them, so they don’t leave with questions unanswered.”
5. What Interests You About Working for Us?
Your interviewers are checking to see if you know what position you’re applying for and if you understand the company’s mission and values. Show that you are interested in this RN position, not just any RN position, by citing specifics that drew you to the job.
Sample Response: “I appreciate the facility’s approach to treating patients with traumatic brain injury. I’ve read about the different programs and support that you offer for both patients and their family members no matter where they are in their treatment.”
6. How Would You Handle a Difficult Patient?
Your patients are going through a difficult situation, which may impact how they interact with you and others. Highlight your interpersonal skills here by showing you can be compassionate while maintaining professionalism and composure.
Sample Response: “Once when I first started working as a nurse, I was told at my first facility about a difficult patient. She wouldn’t cooperate with a lot of the nurses’ hands-on care, like changing or bathing, and due to a medical illness, she wasn’t able to speak. They also told me a bit of her backstory and that she was originally from an Asian country I was familiar with.
When I first went into her room, I respectfully bowed to her, and politely asked her if it would be okay if I helped her change for dinner. Despite being partially paralyzed, she immediately tried to return the bow. I never considered her a difficult patient, and I encouraged the other staff to treat her with the same respect.”
7. How Do You Handle Stress in the Workplace?
Nursing is a stressful job, and both you and your interviewers know that. Acknowledge the stress, then focus on the techniques you use to manage it.
Sample Response: “I went to a seminar on self-care and stress management last semester, and the nurse leading it gave us some great in-the-moment and long-term strategies. In the moment, I’ve learned to focus on my breathing. If I have to take a moment and the situation allows it, I will take that moment to acknowledge that I feel stressed and let myself feel the emotion before letting myself move on. At the end of a long day, I find that taking yoga classes or taking a walk around my neighborhood helps to relieve stress.”
8. How Would You Handle a Disagreement With a Doctor?
You might not always agree with the other medical staff you work with. Emphasize your interpersonal skills, and be sure to mention that you’d bring it to a supervisor’s attention if necessary.
Sample Response: “I’ve handled this type of situation before when I was reviewing a patient’s chart because their physician wasn’t available. I didn’t agree with the treatment plan they had prescribed based on what I had seen during my interactions with the patient, and I first mentioned this to the charge nurse to discuss potential solutions. I then brought this up to the doctor when I could get a hold of her, listened to her point of view, and explained my experience and observations of the patient. Together, we came up with a treatment plan that was better for the patient’s needs.”
9. How Would You Handle a Crisis?
Nurses face crises on a regular basis. Sometimes the crisis is local, like a protest in the city, and sometimes it’s more widespread, like with a pandemic. Share your knowledge of nursing procedures (and the ability to follow them under pressure), as well as your teamwork and flexibility.
Sample Response: “In my previous position, I worked as an ER nurse during one of the initial COVID-19 outbreaks. Because we were learning new information about the coronavirus so quickly, our policies and guidelines sometimes changed several times a day. I made sure I stayed updated on each change in policy by checking in regularly with the charge nurse so I could accurately triage patients as best as I could while still using proper measures to protect myself and my coworkers.”
10. What Are Your Professional Affiliations?
Your interviewers want to see that you seek opportunities to advance your skills and knowledge. Highlight any organizations you’re involved with on your resume, especially if they relate to the job you’re applying for, as well as certifications you’ve obtained or courses you’ve completed. This question is likely to be asked after they look at your resume and would like to know more about what you have listed.
Sample Response: ”I am a member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, as well as their special interest group for developmental, behavioral, and mental health. I also chose to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse when I first started working in pediatrics, because I wanted to be more confident in giving the best care for pediatric patients.”
Using the STAR Technique
In any interview, you want to come off as authentic, personable, and professional as possible. This is especially true if you’re interviewing for a nursing position, as your job involves caring for people’s lives. Like with any job, interviewers not only want to know you have what it takes to do the job well, but they want to hire someone they like as a person.
When answering these interview questions, consider using the STAR technique to keep your responses organized:
Situation: Describe the situation or context you’re using to answer the question.
Task: Explain your role in the situation.
Action: State what you did to solve the problem or improve the situation.
Result: Share what happened because of your actions. Ideally, this will be either a positive outcome or a lesson learned.
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