10 Nursing Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)
Updated 11 August 2023
Answering nursing interview questions with a logical structure and powerful examples can get you a step closer to being hired by the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS looks for nurses who go beyond basic educational requirements. To stand out in an interview, you need to present yourself as a compassionate candidate who values patient care. As you gain experience and qualify for band six and above roles, you need to communicate your leadership skills too.
In this article, we cover general nursing interview questions for band six and above interviews with sample answers for each.
General nursing interview questions
Whether you are a fresh graduate or an experienced nurse, hospitals will want you to highlight your temperament, skills and training in a nursing interview. Using examples in your answers will give the interviewer a clear picture of your previous job performance and your potential. The following are five common nursing interview questions and example answers:
What interested you in pursuing a career as a nurse?
Most recruiters will ask this question to understand your commitment to nursing and your passion for patient care. Your answer will essentially tell them why you want the job. This question is less about your medical expertise and more about your character. It requires you to be unique, genuine and vulnerable.
Example: 'I chose nursing as a career because I love listening to people's stories. Over one summer holiday in high school, I got the chance to travel to Vietnam and care for blind children. The experience opened my eyes to how much care-takers give of themselves every day. It showed me that simply being there for a stranger can make a difference in their lives. This inspired me to study nursing.'
Describe how you manage your shift
Being a nurse will challenge you to balance several patients at a time. With this question, recruiters want to test your ability to use time management skills to prioritise your work. Use the STAR technique (Situation, Time, Action, Result) to share an example that shows your ability to manage your shift.
Example: 'As a nurse, my duties change every shift. This is especially true during the flu season when the general ward reaches full capacity. To stay on top of my patient care, I take out 20 minutes at the beginning of each shift to review my patient's charts for any major changes. During my rounds, I try to build a rapport with my patients to encourage them to share important health information. This way, I can minimise mistakes and prioritise more serious patients.'
Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult patient
This common nursing interview question wants to establish your temperament. Since hospitals are high-pressure work environments, recruiters want to know whether you can manage your emotions. Use an example to show your people management skills to defuse escalating conflicts.
Example: 'Many children I work with are afraid of injections. To deal with their emotions, I try to reassure them with words of encouragement or sing nursery rhymes to distract them. I believe that working together with patients to understand their fears and concerns helps me perform my role more effectively.'
What makes you a good nurse?
You want to use this question to stand out among other equally qualified candidates. Most nurses will share the same knowledge and background. Therefore, you need to impress recruiters with skills that can not be taught, such as compassion and willpower.
Example: 'Being teachable makes me a good nurse. When I interact with patients, I learn to be more patient and understanding every day. During lunch breaks, I find it so fascinating to learn about new innovations in nursing from my more experienced colleagues. My openness to experience has always given me an edge in patient care.'
You have made a mistake while treating a patient. What do you do?
Recruiters will ask this question to gauge accountability. When you are responsible for the life of another as a nurse, this trait becomes even more essential. Recruiters want to see that you can remain calm and respond to a problem effectively. Answering this question honestly is also a test of your integrity.
Example: 'Often I can intuitively tell when I have made a mistake. For me, the first step is to take my gut instinct seriously. Next, I follow hospital procedures to ensure the patient is stable before paging a fellow nurse or doctor for help. Once the problem is under control, I clearly explain the situation to the patient with an apology.'
Band six and above nursing interview questions
Band six and above nursing interview questions aim to understand the experience you bring to a role. The NHS will expect you to take on leadership positions at this level. Therefore, you need to show that you can confidently manage more responsibilities. Here are some interview questions and example answers for a band six or above nursing position:
Related: How To Prepare for an Interview
Tell us about your growth as a nurse
As you progress in your career with the NHS, it's important to illustrate your growth to employers. Nursing science is a rapidly evolving field with new breakthroughs every day. That's why recruiters value candidates who continue to refine their knowledge and skills. To answer this question, summarise your work experience, learning and career goals.
Example: 'Spending the past five years in the nursing field working directly with patients has shown me just how far active listening can go in making a patient feel comfortable. In my previous role, I was lucky to be mentored by the sister on the ward. She taught me how essential it is to apply the same communication skills with senior doctors too. I believe this role at your hospital is the next step in achieving my goal of becoming a sister.'
What values are important to you as a nurse?
Being a leader means that you have to emulate certain values and behaviours to set a standard for your co-workers to follow. As a nurse, your patients' health and safety are your top priority. Thus, recruiters want you to share how you incorporate nursing's 'six Cs' (care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment), to uphold ethics in your duties.
Example: 'As a nurse, I value being a role-model of the six Cs. I prioritise care and compassion in my interactions with patients and co-workers. Before taking on a case, I ensure my competency. I've also learnt to be courageous and communicate any concerns to doctors and more qualified colleagues. Nursing is a field of continuous learning and I'm committed to being a knowledgeable professional.'
Talk us through an example that demonstrates your ability to deal with an emergency
When a recruiter asks you this question, they seek to understand your situational awareness skills. As a nurse, dealing with emergencies is part of the job, but being able to make decisions with a sound mind can increase your chances of getting hired. Use an example that highlights your competency under pressure.
Example: 'During the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, information about the disease was rapidly evolving. Our treatment plan was unknown and resources were being depleted by the minute. In an emergency of this scale, the entire hospital team had to work together. We had to implement a system to prioritise resources for more serious patients. I had to sacrifice my own time with my family to ensure the safety of my patients. Being able to respond quickly and solve problems efficiently helped us take care of our patients.'
How do you use leadership skills in the workplace?
Leadership skills equip you with the communication tools to manage co-workers and the confidence to take decisive action. When hiring for a band six or above position, recruiters want proof that you can navigate the challenges that come with being a leader. In your answer, you want to highlight your leadership qualities, such as communication, attentive listening or problem-solving skills.
Example: 'My leadership ethos is to balance decisiveness with compassion. As a nurse, this means caring for my patient's best interests. As a leader, this means creating an environment where my co-workers can openly express their ideas and concerns while upholding hospital ethics and practices. I believe this is the reason I have been able to identify and resolve issues in a timely and efficient manner.'
How do you manage conflicts among staff members?
In a band six role or above, recruiters will expect you to manage a few co-workers. This means handling any conflicts and disagreements that arise between them. In this role, key decision-makers will count on you to maintain a harmonious work environment. Use your answer to demonstrate your people skills.
Example: 'My approach to conflict resolution is to act as a mediator so that both parties can agree on a compromise. In my previous role, a colleague of mine would often arrive late to his shift. This bothered a few nurses because it would delay handover. Before the conflict could fester, I sat down with my co-worker to understand his situation. He confided in me about the support he needed for childcare. Thus, I helped him arrange childcare. In this case, timely intervention and compassion were key to solving the conflict.'
Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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