31 interview questions for nurses — and how to answer them

When interviewing applicants, healthcare employers often ask behavior-based interview questions to assess how the individual would perform their duties and fit into the organization.

Here are 31 such interview questions, along with tips on how to answer them, as featured on Nurse.org.


1. Describe a situation when you had to work closely with a difficult coworker. How did you handle the situation? Were you able to build a relationship with this person?

2. Talk about a conflict within your healthcare team. What was the conflict and how did you handle it?

3. Describe a time when you were particularly proud of your healthcare team. What was your role in this situation? 

4. Tell me about a time you stepped into a leadership role.

How to answer: Employers want to see how well potential nurses would mesh with their team and work with different types of people. When sharing examples of past conflicts with team members, applicants should focus on what they learned from the experience and always put a positive spin on a difficult situation.

Patient care 

5. Tell me about a time when a patient's family was dissatisfied with your care. How did you handle that situation?

6. What approach do you take in communicating with people who do not know medical jargon? Give an example of a time you explained medical terminology to someone who is not medically trained.

7. Describe a time you provided effective patient or family education.

8. Talk about a time a patient or their family was particularly pleased and appreciative of your care.

9. Give an example of a time you had to interact with a hostile patient. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome? 

10. Describe a time you were faced with a patient who chose not to communicate or disclose important information. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome? 

How to answer: Employers value excellent patient care above all else. Applicants should be prepared to share examples of times they provided exceptional care or took the time to educate patients and family on medical topics.


11. Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it? 

12. Describe a time when your facility was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt? 

13. Tell me about a time when you didn't know the answer to something at work. How did you go about finding the information? 

14. Give me an example of an awkward situation at work. How did you remove yourself from the situation?  

15. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?

16. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems with a patient and initiated preventive measures. 

How to answer: Applicants should draw on past clinical experiences to show employers they are able to handle the constant urgency, crisis and uncertainty associated with the nursing profession.

Time management

17. Talk about a time you worked in a fast-paced setting. How do you prioritize tasks while maintaining excellent patient care? 

18. Describe your experience with a very ill patient who required a lot of your time. How did you manage this patient's care while ensuring your other patients were adequately cared for? 

19. Talk about a time when you felt overwhelmed with your work or patient load. What did you do? 

20. Give an example of an important goal you set for yourself. Did you accomplish that goal? How did you ensure that you accomplished it? 

How to answer: Employers want nurses who can effectively manage multiple patients, administer drugs in a timely manner and maintain detailed patient care notes. Applicants should highlight their punctuality, ability to meet deadlines and organizational skills during their interview.

Communication style

21. Give an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade a patient to agree to something. How did your persuade this person? 

22. Describe a time when you were the resident medical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you?

23. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to explain yourself to your team or to a patient. 

24. Talk about a time when you had not communicated well. How did you correct the situation? 

25. Describe a time when you received negative feedback and turned it into something positive. 

How to answer: To convey their individual communication style, applicants should share detailed examples of times they've communicated well or had difficulty doing so.

Motivation and core values

26. What is one professional accomplishment you are most proud of and why? 

27. Talk about a challenging situation or problem where you took the lead to correct it instead of waiting for someone else to do it. 

28. Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your work as a nurse? What could have been done to make it better? 

29. Describe a time when you went over and above your job requirements. What motivated you to put forth the extra effort? 

30. Give an example of a mistake you've made. How did you handle it? 

31. What do you find most difficult about being a nurse? How do you overcome this difficulty? 

How to answer: Employers want to learn about applicants' personal values and what motivates them during interviews. Applicants should share past accomplishments in the workplace and detail situations in which they took initiative to complete a task, highlighting the motivation behind such actions.

More articles on workforce:

Beaumont Health has 1,500 job openings
Geisinger to relocate 500+ employees by early 2019
20 hospitals hiring nurses

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