Interview Question: 'Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're being interviewed for a place in nursing school or applying for your first nursing job, you are likely to be asked 'Why do you want to be a nurse?' Recruiters want to understand if you have the right qualities and personality to meet the demands of this profession. Taking the time to prepare a thoughtful response may boost your confidence during the interview and impress a potential employer. In this article, we explain how you can prepare to answer this interview question and we provide six example answers for you to consider.

How to answer the question 'Why do you want to be a nurse?'

Here are three steps you may take to answer the question, 'Why do you want to be a nurse?':

  1. Take time to write down what you feel would be important to include when explaining why you want to be a nurse to an interviewer. This could include areas of learning or personal experiences that have shaped your desire to be a nurse.

  2. Compile a list of descriptive words and phrases that you can use in describing yourself and your experiences positively. These descriptors help give the interviewer a better idea of your strengths.

  3. Use these points to create your answers. Be sure to practice your answer in front of a mirror or with a friend.

What to say:

  • Demonstrate that you are patient-focused. Sharing anecdotes and experiences that focus on meeting patient needs or advocating for them lets the interviewer know that patient-centred care is a priority for you.

  • Highlight your strengths and abilities. Use your answers to highlight personal qualities, like patience, diligence and compassion, that are advantageous to working as a nurse.

  • State the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). As a nurse, you need to keep your clinical and professional skills up to date. Ensure that your interviewer knows that you understand the importance of keeping your skills current.

What to avoid:

  • Complaints about the nursing profession. Negativity regarding the daily duties and responsibilities of a nurse may detract from positive expressions of your desire to pursue a nursing career. Instead, focus on the areas of work where you feel you may perform well.

  • Political issues in healthcare. Strong political opinions are not relevant to the interview. If you're asked about current affairs in nursing, prepare topics that relate to scientific discoveries or new areas of clinical practice.

  • Breaches of patient confidentiality. Sharing sensitive patient information is unprofessional. If you need to speak about interactions with a specific patient, be careful to not include any information that could identify them.

Tips on how to be confident during the interview

Have a look at these tips for performing confidently during the interview:

Genuine responses get the best results

An interview is all about getting to know you and understanding your motivations for pursuing your career in nursing. An employer wants genuine answers that reflect your personal values rather than a scripted or embellished response.

In answering why you want to be a nurse, consider what is really motivating your desire to work as a nurse. These thoughts should be the focus of your answer.

Related: How Do I Answer: 'Why Do You Want This Job?'

Include personal anecdotes

You may have unique personal experiences that have influenced your motivation to become a nurse. Personal stories help to provide further explanation for your reason for entering the nursing field. Sharing these personal anecdotes provides the interviewer with great insight into who you are and what draws you to nursing. No one else has had the same journey, so you can really differentiate yourself by sharing events like caring for a sick relative, supporting someone through a challenging time or volunteering.

Showcase your skills and strengths

Nursing is a demanding profession, and you definitely want to demonstrate an understanding of the hard work involved. You can do this by including personal qualities in your answer that demonstrate patience, endurance, compassion and other great qualities associated with nursing. Working your experience into the answer can communicate additional value to the interviewer. Your answer could relate to overcoming a challenge, accomplishing a goal or an area of service in your life. If you have served a particular community such as the elderly, children or certain cultural groups, your experiences can also be interesting to your interviewer.

Related: How to Answer “What Motivates You?” (With Examples)

Six example answers to the question: 'Why do you want to be a nurse?'

Here are some examples of how to answer this interview question:

Example 1

'For several years, my family lived next door to a rather reclusive elderly gentleman. On a few occasions, I noticed him struggling to get heavy shopping bags up the steps. I reached out and began to assist him with his shopping and we became good friends. One winter, I noticed he was finding it very difficult to climb the flight of stairs to his flat. On speaking to him he was clearly breathless and admitted to having had chest pains. I was able to encourage him to come with me to A+E, where he was promptly diagnosed and treated for a heart attack.'

Example 2

'I wasn't expecting to make nursing my career, but I had the opportunity to undertake work experience at my local hospital, which involved shadowing nurses in the Medical Admissions Unit (MAU). I got to see first-hand how much good nursing was dependent on discipline, keen observation and sound clinical skills. This really attracted me to the profession.'

Example 3

'Helping others fulfil their potential is a passion of mine and I love being able to exercise it by coaching the all-abilities netball team at my local youth centre. Part of what I do is look for how everyone can perform their role, whether they are able-bodied, in a wheelchair or have a hidden disability. I believe that working as a nurse will enable me to continue on this inclination to build people up.'

Example 4

'We have a close family friend who has a severe and debilitating health condition. Along with my mum, a district nurse, I have been helping provide our friend's family with respite care. I have been seeing percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding and tracheotomy care, which has inspired me to pursue a vocation where I can learn how to take care of people with complex needs.'

Example 5

'For the last two years, I have been volunteering at the hospice in my area. I really was not sure what to expect or how I could be of help or service, but I have been learning first-hand how empathy, compassion and listening can make a huge difference to someone who is suffering. A nursing career would provide the opportunity to continue to develop these caring skills.'

Example 6

'As a healthcare assistant at my local NHS hospital, I have been able to gain great insight into the nursing profession and how nurses work alongside other healthcare professionals like doctors, physios and radiographers to provide nursing care. I really enjoy and appreciate working in the clinical environment and I believe that to progress in my training and experience, a degree in nursing is my next step.'

Other questions you may be asked in a nursing interview

Here are some other questions that are commonly asked during an interview:

  • What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of being a nurse?

  • Tell me about how your education and training has prepared you for this role?

  • Can you share what you most enjoyed in a previous nursing placement?

  • Are you a team player?

  • What is your strategy for staying organised and on top of tasks during your shifts?

  • Which of your personal qualities do you think patients will appreciate most?

  • Talk us through how you would handle a situation where a patient wanted to complain about their care?

  • How do you handle stress?

  • Can you tell us about a time where you had to resolve a conflict at work?

  • How do you manage working relationships with junior doctors and consultants?

Related: 10 Nursing Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Key tips for preparing for a nursing interview

The more that you research and prepare for your nursing interview, the better your performance will be during your interview. Consider including these points as part of your preparation:

Prepare a summary statement or elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a short but comprehensive statement about yourself. Create it and use it so you can briefly present who you are and why you would make an excellent nurse. Prepare a short bio that covers your background, experience, qualifications and personal strengths that your interviewer needs to note.

Make sure you research the university or hospitals you are applying to

It's important to know the organisations and work culture that you will be part of if successful at interview. Employers and universities may ask you why you are applying to their specific institution, so you need to have relevant information available to support your answer. Look for recent news and familiarise yourself with the hospital or nursing college's values and mission statement.

Familiarise yourself with the banding system of salaries for your new nursing job

In the UK, nursing jobs are often banded according to the experience and responsibilities of a particular role, with the pay attributed accordingly. This is especially true if you're working with the NHS. Do your research to understand how nursing pay is structured and the remuneration you can expect in your specific role.

Gain an understanding of the career progression you can expect as a nurse

Nursing is a diverse profession that provides many different types of work. Not all nurses work shifts in the hospital. Some are based in the community or teach and work in universities. Be sure to demonstrate to an interviewer that you have a complete understanding of the nursing profession.

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