Nursing is a difficult profession but can be an extremely rewarding career path. If you’re in line for an interview and curious what kind of questions you might be asked, read below for our roundup of common registered nurse interview questions, along with some helpful tips for answering them.
Registered Nurse interview questions
Expect some form of this question, especially since nursing is such a specialized field. You must attend at least a two-year program (and more often a four-year one), as well as pass the NCLEX exam in order to obtain licensure. So, an employer definitely wants to hear what motivated you to put in all of this hard work. This is your chance to speak to what drives you, and what interested you about becoming a nurse. Do you like helping people? Are you gifted in science? Were you inspired by a friend or family member in the profession?
Beneath the specificity of this question is simply: How do you work within a team? Stress the importance of teamwork when taking care of people, and speak to the need for you and your co-workers to maintain professionalism. Something like: “Working with other nurses and doctors is all about teamwork. We’re there each day to do a very important job: care for sick people. Because of this, it’s imperative that we lift each other up instead of putting each other down, and that we develop a rhythm so that we can help people as effectively as possible. In my own practice, I make an effort to get to know other nurses and doctors as quickly as possible. I think developing a healthy camaraderie with others is the best way to foster positive teamwork.”
AKA: Tell me about your thoughts on bedside manner. Sure, we don’t want to necessarily equate patients to ‘customers,’ but there is a need for basic customer service skills. Take this question and turn it into a reflection on bedside manner and caring for others in an amicable, helpful, and professional way. “Customer service in nursing is all about how you interact with patients. While they aren’t necessarily traditional customers, they’re still people who are trusting you to take care of them. As a nurse, I think it’s incredibly important to make sure patients feel safe, comfortable, and heard, all elements of quality customer service.”
As a nurse, you have to be on your feet for hours at a time. If you’re asked this question, think about how you stay motivated during a long shift, how you keep yourself busy, and how you share this energy with others. If you’ve been a nurse before, what did you do at your last hospital during that seemingly never-ending nightshift?
Failure is a part of life. What this question wants is an answer rooted in honesty. Provide a real situation where you failed. The “how you handled it” portion of this question wants to know not only how you managed failure in the moment, but how you grew from it. Check out our post on the STAR method for help with adding specificity to your answer.
Hopefully, you’ll still be a nurse, but will you have taken the next step in your career and become board certified? Do you want to eventually move into a position of leadership? It’s okay if you don’t know exactly where you’ll be — none of us do — but this question is an opportunity to provide a thoughtful response. It’s also a way for the employer to ensure that you’re not going to leave within six months. For further assistance with this question, take a look at How to Answer “Where Would You Like to Be in 5 Years?”.
Isn’t this kind of like the motivation question? Sort of, but it’s more specific to the hospital you’re interviewing with. Why do you want to work for them? The only thing not to say here is nothing at all. If there wasn’t anything in particular that drew you to the hospital, do some research beforehand. Look for something about the hospital that you like (its reputation, offerings, humanitarian efforts, research opportunities, etc.) and speak to that.
Reader, meet empathy. It’s what you’ll want to talk about when answering a question like this. Just like you want a patient to feel comfortable while they’re being treated, you need to find ways to empathize with stressed-out family members and communicate with them in a way that’s uplifting without being patronizing. Detail this in your response. An example: “The best way to approach family members is with empathy. They’re concerned about their loved one, and as their loved one’s nurse, it’s my job to offer them the same care in what I say and how I say it. Understanding them and their situation goes a long way in communicating effectively.”
Are you a master strategist? Do you have enough energy for three human beings? Is your middle name ‘Organization?’ Consider your strengths, and pick one that translates splendidly to the nursing profession. A good way to prepare for this question is to make a list of your strengths pre-interview, and compare them to the job description. Which strengths will help you the most?
If strengths come up, expect weaknesses to follow. This is a much maligned question, but all it really wants to know is whether or not you’re self-aware and reflective. That’s it! Sometimes people have a hard time looking in the mirror and admitting their own faults. Don’t be that person, and don’t be the person who says that your weakness is actually a strength. Bleh. Just be honest and open. An example: “I’d say one of my weaknesses is having a hard time saying ‘no.’ I’m passionate about my job and passionate about working with people, so sometimes this gets in the way of how much time I can realistically spend doing something. I’ve been working hard to prioritize tasks in my life and become better at saying ‘Sorry, not this time’ so that I don’t make anyone feel bad, but I also don’t put myself in a precarious position of having too many things to do and not enough time to do them well.”
Nursing isn’t just a job you decide to apply for overnight. There are steps, including specialized schooling, that you must follow. Each state also has its own unique requirements, though there is a general overlap. Typically, to become a nurse, you must:
1. Complete prerequisite coursework
These courses can be taken at a university or your local community college, and will prepare you to pursue either a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Coursework revolves around science disciplines like biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, etc.
2. Enroll in a nursing program
Once you have satisfied any prerequisite requirements, it’s time to enroll in a program. While an ADN is quicker and provides you with all of the nursing fundamentals needed to do the job effectively, a four-year BSN program also covers skills like critical thinking, research, and leadership. Not only is it a more holistic program, but it’ also often preferred by employers and can result in a higher salary.
3. Pass the NCLEX exam
No matter which program you choose, the last step to becoming a registered nurse is to pass the NCLEX exam. This is a computerized test that you’ll take several weeks before you graduate. Passing is a requirement for licensure.
Whether or not you apply for a job prior to taking the NCLEX exam is completely dependent upon the state you live in. Some states require licensure before applying, while others allow you to apply for a position while your licensure application is processing and pending successful completion of the NCLEX and graduation from your program.