10 Common Nursing Interview Questions to Help You Practice and Prepare

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Prepare for your nursing job interview with this collection of common nursing interview questions. Learn what an interviewer is looking for, and plan out your effective interview preparation with expert tips and guidance

[Featured Image]:  A female nurse, wearing a blue uniform and face covering, a stethoscope around her neck. She is checking her charts.

During your nursing interview, expect to be posed questions about patient care, your nursing skills and experience, crisis management, and more. The interviewer's goal is often to see your level of compassion, how you function in high-stress situations, and the critical skills you possess that will make you a successful patient care team member, such as adaptability, integrity, resilience, and accountability.

Active, thoughtful interview preparation is the key to showcasing why you are the best candidate for the job. This guide gets you started with a list of common interview questions for nurses, along with the kinds of answers the interviewer is looking for from you.

Read more: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications

1. Tell me about yourself.

To succinctly answer this question, focus on something about yourself that relates to the nursing role you’re interviewing. For instance, if the position requires meticulous attention to detail and close monitoring of patients, and you’re very detail-oriented, emphasize that quality and how it helps improve patient care. 

If the role is part of a complex care team needing integrated care with other professionals, describe an experience when your collaborative efforts helped positively impact patient care in a team setting. Remember that this isn’t an invitation to talk about your personal life or other unrelated experiences. Some of the nursing competencies that you might want to touch upon in your answer include the ability to:

  • Communicate effectively with patients and families

  • Advocate for patients and families

  • Collaborate with other members of the health care team

  • Provide culturally competent care

  • Promote health and wellness

  • Provide evidence-based care

  • Assess patient's needs and plan care accordingly

  • Provide emotional support to patients and families

  • Teach patients and families about a health condition

You can highlight any technical skills required in the nursing job role you are applying to and explain how you have built them through your career to date.

2. What do you love most about the nursing profession?

The interviewer wants to hear your passion for nursing, so let it shine. Focus on what makes your work meaningful, such as patient relationships or opportunities for growth. You’ll want to talk about why you chose a career in nursing too. That is an essential part of your career narrative. People relate best to information when it is part of a story. Tell your career story so that the rest of the interview is framed within it.

3. What is your most significant achievement as a nurse?

The interviewer is looking for insight into your work ethic and character with this question. The question is, really, “How do you define achievement?” Talk about something related to nursing that you have done which made a difference or positively impacted someone's life. Link your answer back to the competencies required in the job role.

4. What makes a great shift?

This question is designed to see if you understand what goes into the day-to-day duties of a nurse and how you feel about teamwork and collaboration in the workplace. Share your thoughts on what makes an effective team effort and why that makes a "great shift.” Give examples from your past shifts that were challenging, rewarding, and learning experiences.

Some of the competencies you might want to communicate in your answer include being able to:

  • Work well with others when under pressure

  • Communicate effectively to improve care

  • Stay organized when managing a heavy level of care

  • Provide safe care delivery in challenging circumstances

  • Stay calm under pressure

  • Troubleshoot problems

5. How would your colleagues and patients describe you?

This question aims to understand who you are and how you work. When answering this question, think about what makes you a good nurse. Focus on your nursing skills, such as being able to multitask, being adaptable, and having strong communication skills. Make sure that you remain positive. 

6. What do compassion and care mean for you?

Nursing is a job that requires compassion and care above all else. This question is asked to ensure that this is a part of your core personality. Make sure that you demonstrate empathy in your answer and discuss how being kind to others makes the job easier for everyone involved. Give examples of how you have shown compassion and care for patients.

7. Tell me about your working relationships with other nurses and doctors.

Nurses need to be able to work well with other medical staff members. When answering this question, discuss how patient care works best when everyone works together. You may also want to discuss how important it is for nurses and doctors to communicate with each other properly so they can provide the best patient care.

8. How do you manage working in a high-pressure environment?

An excellent way to answer this question may be to say: "I am very well organized, which helps me prioritize my workload and manage my time efficiently. I can identify potential problems early and resolve them quickly."

You can also recognize that the job can be challenging at times and describe how you maintain your health and wellness through getting enough rest and exercise and making time for hobbies and socializing.

9. Tell me about a time when you had to handle a difficult patient.

You could mention a case where you reconciled conflicting priorities with the patient or their family, or you needed to take extra time with an anxious or worried patient. The answer must show you empathize with patients and can think on your feet.

Demonstrate that you understand that patients may be behaving a certain way because they are in pain, are feeling anxious, or are struggling to deal with the uncertainty of the situation they find themselves in. The interviewer wants to hear how you dealt with a situation that most nurses would find hard to handle. Talk about your active listening skills, ability to probe with questions, capacity to reassure patients, and even use your sense of humor when appropriate.

10. How would you respond to a distressed relative?

The interviewer wants to know that you can deal with emotional situations and have experience doing so if you do. To be a part of a team, you need to be willing and able to take responsibility for challenging aspects of the job. The interviewer will also want to see that you have techniques and vocabulary that help you deal with distressed relatives and that you can adapt your tone of voice and body language to the situation.  

A great answer may be to say, "It is important for relatives to understand what is happening and come to terms with the situation. I would explain what had happened, why it happened, and how we would treat the patient. I would adapt my tone of voice to be softer and lower and offer support by listening to their concerns and answering any questions they may have.”

Ask for feedback

Once you have completed an interview, always ask for feedback from the hiring manager. This gives you information on parts of your interview that went well and areas in which you can improve. Keep this feedback process positive.

Read more: What Does a Registered Nurse Do? Your 2022 Career Guide

Next steps: Support with preparing for an interview

For additional help preparing for your nursing interview, consider taking the short course Preparation for Job Interviews on Coursera.

In this course, you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to prepare for five different types of job interviews, explain some of the most common interview questions, and help you with best practices for preparing before the job interview. 

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