Whether on the first step of your career or fully established and looking for a new challenge, preparing for nursing interviews will prove one of the best strategies in securing a new nursing job. This week, our experienced team of health and social care recruitment specialists reveal popular examples of nursing interview questions how to answer them successfully.
5 questions that are likely to come up during your nursing interview:
Why did you choose a career in nursing?
Interviewers may instead say, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” or ask “What interests you about working at our practice?” Whatever the wording, these questions are designed to give the interviewer an idea of your personality, motivations and ambitions, as well as some information on your nursing background.
It’s also an opportunity to stand out from other applicants by creating a personal connection with the interviewer and establishing yourself as a good fit for the hospital or care home.
You want to avoid giving a long, rambling answer here. Be succinct, but personal. Is nursing a lifelong ambition? Or did the obvious importance of healthcare staff since the pandemic inspire you? Experienced nursing professionals can discuss how their connection with their job has changed and strengthened over time as a result of their experiences at work and through personal milestones. Above all, connect your personality to your passion and enthusiasm during your nursing interview.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
This question aims to reveal not only your skills and experience but your attitude to work and your thinking processes.
Think about the values of the six Cs – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment. Being caring is a personal characteristic rather than a skill that can be taught. So, make sure you demonstrate your caring, empathetic nature. A ‘duty of care’ means treating every patient as you would your own family or loved ones.
Try to provide several examples of your own practice during a nursing interview. Think about 2-3 different examples which demonstrate your professional capabilities as well as your abilities working in a team, communicating with patients and supporting families.
It is possible that interviewers may use ‘scenario-based questions’ to gauge your understanding of the best practices. For example:
- “If you witnessed a nurse administering incorrect medication, what would you do?”
- “The replacement nurse taking the shift after yours doesn’t show, what would you do?”
- “A patient has been struggling with pain management. Their family are present and are visibly upset. How would you handle this situation?”
What makes a successful nursing shift?
During your nursing interview, rather than simply stating that a fully-staffed shift and the right resources make a good shift, recognise the positive and more challenging elements of a day in your profession. Can you think of a shift where your team was short and there were some very challenging issues to tackle? Use this as a vehicle to talk about how your skills in organisation, time management, communication and collaboration were used to help transform a difficult shift into a positive experience.
Your interviewers will want to hear about delivering safe and effective patient care, however, this interview question also creates the chance to showcase your working style and unique motivations.
Be honest with your answer: tell your interviewer what makes a successful shift in terms of what you want to have achieved in that shift and what you most enjoy doing, as well as the things you will have worked on and the ways that you will have helped your patients and colleagues.
How have you dealt with challenges in the past?
Nurses will know that their career provides many examples of challenges. Whilst your interviewer won’t expect you to be perfect, they will want you to demonstrate your adaptability and evidence of how you’ve learned from errors or challenges. Nursing is a role that involves keeping calm and collected during high-pressure situations.
Don’t be afraid to talk about a personal challenge that you overcame, demonstrating your resilience. You probably want to avoid focussing too much on a struggling hospital or nursing team, as it may come across as negative.
This question is the ideal opportunity to tell the story of a difficult patient or specific case that you worked on, and managed to turn around to deliver a positive outcome. Prepare a summary of:
- The situation – Why was it challenging?
- The solution – What specific actions did you take to address the problem?
- The outcome – How did your actions improve the situation, and what were the effects on you, the patient, the patient’s family and your colleagues?
- The legacy – What would you do differently in a similar situation, what did you learn and how have you changed your behaviours or attitude in response?
5. How would you manage the spread of an infection on your ward?
This is something that is quite likely to crop up during nursing interview due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Interviewers will want to hear that you are comfortable with the precautions taken on nursing wards and that you understand the importance of effective handwashing, correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and isolating patients if they are infected or at risk of infection. The implementation of infection control precautions would include:
- Standard precautions:
- Maintaining excellent personal hygiene, with an emphasis on hand hygiene to reduce the risk of contract transmission of infections
- Appropriate use of PPE including gloves, gowns, masks/face shields, plastic aprons to prevent exposure to infectious particles
- Environmental controls including the regular cleaning and disinfecting of shared surfaces
- Transmission-based precautions (for when there is a known or suspected transmission of infection):
- Isolating or cohorting patients depending on their infection status.
- Carrying out dynamic risk assessments to anticipate potential need for transmission-based precautions
- Wearing specific PPE to when working in at-risk areas or caring for infected patients
For detailed guidance on how healthcare settings are advised to manage the spread of infection see here.
6. Do you have any questions for us?
Preparing insightful questions for your potential employer is important for any job. It is particularly vital for those in the running for healthcare opportunities. Your hiring manager and potential line manager will want to recruit someone who is genuinely interested in and excited about both the role and the organisation. Failing to ask any questions, even after a successful interview, may give the impression that you only want the job for the pay or convenience, and would not be as committed to the position as others might be.
Show your interest in the role and the hospital or care home by preparing at least two questions. Research online to find positive news stories or particular events that may be interesting to find out more about. E.g. the opening of a new wing or medical centre, or excellent recent performance. Ask how the organisation achieved them or how they will feature in the future of the organisation. Employers will also be expecting you to ask about career progression and learning and development. This reveals your interest in truly building a career and becoming a valuable team member.
Example questions to include during your nursing interview:
- What are your expectations for the person performing in this role?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the person who takes up this role?
- Can you tell me about possible training I will receive? How will this be updated, for example, will I receive opportunities to study and support with revalidation?
- What are your favourite aspects of working here? (Addressed to your interviewer, hiring manager or interviewing panel).
- What can I expect an average day to be like?
Questioning your interviewer can also reveal any red flags or negative aspects of the job that haven’t been highlighted. Remember: you are assessing your next potential employer just as much as they are assessing you. It’s important that you have everything you need to make the right choice.
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