A nursing job interview is challenging whether you are a new nurse or have a long nursing career. The interview process presents unique nurse interview questions that need the correct nursing-specific answers to impress the hiring manager and assure the prospective employer that you’re a good fit.
We will review the best way to answer behavioral interview questions, list the 50 most common nursing interview questions, and provide a great sample answer for each.
How to Answer: STAR Format
The STAR method is a structured way to deliver an answer when responding to a behavioral question. Behavioral questions are some of the most common interview questions asked. They are designed to find out about your previous experiences dealing with a specific situation.
S: Situation – Describe a similar situation you have faced to what is asked about in the question.
T: Task – Explain what task must be completed to resolve the situation.
A: Action – Briefly state what action(s) you took to complete the tasks.
R: Results – State the outcome if you did the right thing, and what you learned.
50 Most Asked Nursing Interview Questions with Answers
Your Background and Driving Forces
Example #1: Tell me about yourself. Why do you think you will make a good nurse?
Important Points to Address: Explain what traits you possess that are desirable in a nursing role.
I am empathetic, genuinely caring, hard-working, good at following instructions and rules, and enjoy working as a team. When faced with a difficult situation, I can also think on my feet.
I know how to apply my experience and professional judgment to find safe and compliant solutions.
Example #2: What do you know about the role of a nurse?
Important Points to Address: Any potential employer wants to know that you understand the commitments and requirements of your role, especially if you have just completed your nursing degree.
Nurses are healthcare professionals whose primary job is to support the provision of quality medical care as directed by doctors. This includes observations, medication administration, blood drawing and collection of fluids, and provisions of general care.
When you provide general care, you assist patients with personal hygiene and daily activities when their condition or capacity requires.
Example #3: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Important Points to Address: A great way to answer this question is to discuss how you plan to grow and develop in the new role long-term.
As a new grad, this is a career path that I am committed to for the long term. The first thing I am focused on is quickly becoming proficient in the new role and proving myself as a valuable team player.
In 5 years, I would like to have developed considerable work experience and additional certifications. At that time, I would like to be well on my way to progressing in seniority.
Example #4: Why are you leaving your previous nursing role?
Important Points to Address: Never say anything negative about a previous employer. Instead, explain how the new job is a step forward.
I have enjoyed my current position. It is a great work environment, and I have learned a lot and developed myself professionally. However, this job was such a great opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. It is the obvious next step in my career.
Example #5: Do you work well under pressure?
Important Points to Address: Most healthcare facilities are high-pressure environments, so knowing you can handle stressful situations is important.
I not only work well under pressure, but I also do some of my best work under pressure. I find the speed of a fast-paced environment keeps me on my toes. A high-pressure environment ensures there is always something to do and new challenges to face.
Example #6: What is your biggest weakness?
Important Points to Address: A great answer to this question is to present a weakness that could also be viewed as a strength.
I enjoy being at work and providing excellent quality care. I will usually do overtime or cover other’s shifts when asked and often stay late without being asked. This can mean I spend a lot of time at work and often need more time to work. So one of my biggest challenges is maintaining a good work-life balance.
Example #7: What is your strongest professional attribute?
Important Points to Address: Choose a skill that is listed in the job description. It is an excellent time to discuss your best qualities that are hard to include in other answers.
One of my strongest professional attributes is my interpersonal skills. I am a strong communicator and active listener who can de-escalate conflicts, such as with uncooperative patients.
I can also deliver sensitive information in a way that is easier for patients and their family members to hear and understand.
Example #8: What do you like most about being a nurse?
Important Points to Address: Be sure to deliver this answer with optimism and confidence. You need to sound like you want to be a nurse.
What I like most is the sense of fulfillment I get from helping people and knowing I can make a real difference. Every day is different. The range of situations allows me to develop new skills.
Example #9: Why did you apply for a role with this hospital (or clinic)?
Important Points to Address: It is important to show that you have researched the employer and that you actively chose this employer.
When I was looking for a job, I carefully selected the places where I wanted to work. I looked for places with good reputations for the quality of care and work environment.
This healthcare institution is widely considered a great place to work. It has a reputation for valuing and helping its staff to develop and maintain their skills at a high level. It also has a reputation for providing excellent quality care.
Example #10: Why are you applying for this specific position?
Important Points to Address: Explain that you deliberately chose this role because it matches your skills. If possible, also state that you plan to be there for a long time.
As a new nursing graduate, I chose the types of roles that I would apply for based on the areas I enjoyed most in my studies and clinical experience. This role and your organization are a great fit for my attributes and nursing skills.
I believe it is where I can provide value and grow from a student nurse to a senior role or leadership position. In time, I would like to become a nurse manager.
Example #11: What questions do you have for us?
Important Points to Address: Ask questions that show you have thought about the role, want to grow with the company, and are genuinely interested in the role.
It is important to me to keep my skills current and develop my skills. Can you tell me about your professional development and/or study support options?
Is there any mandatory or facilitated training throughout the year?
Integrity and Values
Example #12: What would you do if a friend or colleague broke the procedure?
Important Points to Address: Any question about how you would respond to a breach in policy or procedure should always be addressed relating to the policies and procedures.
First, I would alert them to the issue and suggest we complete the action correctly. Then, I would report it according to the relevant policy. I would note the context, intent, and if it was a repeat event, but the decision to respond would belong to the supervisor.
Example #13: How would you handle a disagreement with your supervisor?
Important Points to Address: Always state that you would follow instructions unless they were a breach of safety and that disagreements would be brought up later.
Unless a supervisor directed me to do something that risked a patient’s immediate health or safety, I would always follow their instructions.
I would wait until an appropriate time to talk about it privately and suggest the approach I thought could produce a better result, explaining the benefits for the manager and the company.
Example #14: What is the most important attribute of a good nurse?
Important Points to Address: There are several core attributes for nurses. Ideally, try to list two or three to cover more key areas.
I think two attributes are equally important, compassion and attention to detail. Attention to detail ensures that the quality of care is high and medications are administered correctly and safely. Compassion ensures that care is delivered in an empathetic, sensitive way.
Example #15: How do you protect patient confidentiality?
Important Points to Address: Privacy is of utmost importance in almost all jobs. The three rules in the below sample answer will always apply.
First, never discuss patient details with visitors or third parties unless the patient has provided explicit permission according to the organization’s policies.
Second, never leave records, digital or paper copies, unattended or unsecured.
Third, don’t discuss matters with other staff unless work-related. This includes preventing others from breaching confidentiality.
Example #16: How would you respond if you had concerns about the competence or safety of care provided by a coworker?
Important Points to Address: If a coworker needs more training, raising this with a supervisor is the only way to address their shortcomings.
If my concerns were directly about competence or safety, I would take special note of their actions that created concerns and assess what it was about them that concerned me.
If the concerns were objectively valid, I would confidently approach their supervisor and outline my concerns so they could address them.
Example #17: How do you respond to criticism and correction?
Important Points to Address: Everyone makes mistakes. An employer wants to know that you are open to learning from them.
I remember that criticism is only sometimes negative. It can be constructive, helpful, and even positive. I step back and listen carefully to what the person has to say. I consider their feedback and ask questions if there’s something I don’t understand or need clarification on.
Example #18: Can you describe a time when you went above and beyond?
Important Points to Address: Even when providing a star-method response, try to keep responses concise.
S: I was providing care for a patient with a history of diabetes.
T: They often had unstable blood sugar and were highly insulin dependent.
A: I taught them how their diet and exercise habits could effectively minimize their insulin dependence.
R: They reduced their need for in-care and reliance on insulin by adopting lifestyle adjustments.
Example #19: What is your least preferred aspect of providing nursing care?
Important Points to Address: Similar to discussing a weakness, the aspect you dislike about nursing should be relatable and show how you are connected to the job personally.
The hardest thing I find is the emotional toll the job can take when you see someone in pain. When a patient you have grown close to passes away, you just can’t help it. However, there are also many positive aspects, and helping just one person makes the job worth it.
Example #20: What do you know about providing _______ nursing care?
Important Points to Address: Take note of the unit or specialty you are applying to and refresh your knowledge about the specifics of providing this type of care.
I am very experienced with this type of care and have had a passion for it since I first encountered it during my clinical experience. I have an intellectual fascination with it and read many medical journals and publications, so I am aware of the latest developments and standards of care.
Example #21: What is the hardest aspect of meeting a patient’s needs?
Important Points to Address: Questions like this are asked to ensure you understand the job’s challenges before hiring you.
Balancing the quality of care, you provide to each patient with the available time and resources is the hardest part of the job. Spending more time with one patient means you have less time for the remaining patients.
Judging which patients need more care and which do not is a big challenge.
Example #22: How would you respond if you could not read a doctor’s or prescriber’s instructions for a patient’s medication or dosage?
Important Points to Address: It is important that any actions you take are reasonable and would be permitted within standard policies and procedures.
I would review the electronic medication system to review if the medication had already been administered and if the previous dosage was noted. If not, I would find another nurse to ask if they could read the instructions.
If we couldn’t agree on the instructions, I would contact the supervisor on duty and ask them. If policy permits, I would strongly suggest contacting the prescriber to confirm what medication and dosage they wrote.
Example #23: Are you familiar with electronic medication administration and barcoding?
Important Points to Address: The best way to answer this type of question is to reassure that you are a competent and fast learner who will be able to learn their systems.
Yes, I have experience working with electronic medication systems. I am highly competent with computers and digital technology. If I still need to become familiar with the system you have in place, I am confident that I will be able to learn it quickly and use it correctly.
Example #24: If we asked your last team, how would your coworkers describe you?
Important Points to Address: When asked, this question is a good opportunity to sell yourself and explain why you are the best candidate.
If you asked my last manager or coworkers about me, they would tell you that I am a team player who puts the team’s success ahead of my priorities. I am always looking out for others and am happy to learn from them and share my knowledge to ensure everyone is always performing at their best.
Example #25: What is the most important part of being a team player?
Important Points to Address: To stand out, try and pick teamwork attributes often overlooked in most answers, such as reliability and accountability.
A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Teams are successful because each person can help to overcome each other’s weaknesses. I think being reliable is a key part of being a team player. This means being on time and doing what you say you will do.
Example #26: If we asked your previous manager what was your worst mistake, what would they tell us?
Important Points to Address: If this question is asked, be honest. They will likely ask your previous supervisor this question during the reference-checking process.
They would tell you about a time when I was a new nursing graduate. I didn’t want to ask how to use the lifting aids to move an immobile patient.
It resulted in the patient being stuck out of bed and could have injured the patient or me if I were unlucky. A senior nurse came to my aid and, after helping me, showed me how to use the lifting aids correctly.
I am humble now and always ask if I have any doubts about how to do anything.
Example #27: Do you prefer to work in a team or individually?
Important Points to Address: In most roles, you must be both a team player and capable of working independently.
I enjoy both. I like that in a team. You can all work together, make up for each other’s shortcomings, and achieve more than any of you could. But I am also a motivated and dependable self-starter who can be relied on to work alone when necessary.
Example #28: What do you do when the entire team is stressed?
Important Points to Address: This question is about showing that you can be mindful of the team’s needs, and is not necessarily about what you do in the situation.
Sometimes the environment is stressful, and everyone must push through. However, I always try to volunteer to take jobs of other team members I know they particularly dislike or that I am better at than others. I also try always to have a positive attitude and keep others upbeat if they get too stressed.
Example #29: How do you respond to coworkers who are constantly arriving late, leaving early, or taking long breaks?
Important Points to Address: This question can be difficult to answer. Some managers want you to show initiative, while others want to see that you would report it to a manager.
If I notice a team member is unreliable, I would first check to see if they are burnt out or going through something at home that they need support with.
I’d then politely explain to them that the entire team relies on each other and that when they are late, it creates extra work and stress for the entire team.
Adapting to Changing Situations and Problem-Solving
Example #30: Have you ever had a patient have a negative reaction to doctor-prescribed medication? What did you do?
Important Points to Address: It is not uncommon for patients to sometimes have negative reactions to medication. It generally does not end too poorly, provided the medical staff responds quickly and appropriately.
S: Yes, I once had a patient have a sudden change in condition shortly after administering their first dose of new meds.
T: The patient had serious complications and had to be stabilized quickly.
A: I pressed the call button and immediately declared the emergency while assisting. Once support arrived, we worked through immediate options while someone contacted the treating doctor.
R: We stabilized the patient and worked with the doctor to find a better course of medications that wouldn’t have the same complications.
Example #31: What would you do if you were caring for a patient who had a sudden negative change?
Important Points to Address: You need to show that you have situational awareness and can think on your feet to respond to changes quickly.
If a patient I cared for had a sudden change, such as going from alert to becoming confused or disoriented, I would alert my supervisor while noting their symptoms and assessing what sudden onset conditions may have arisen.
I would run through the relevant indicator checklist (such as the stroke checklist for a patient who was showing confusion and disorientation), notify their treating doctor, and follow both their and my supervisor’s instructions.
Example #32: How would you respond to an emergency while providing care?
Important Points to Address: Questions like this are designed to determine if you have a process and can think rationally through an emergency.
First, I would raise the alarm by hitting the call button to ensure that assistance was on its way. I would then immediately render assistance as required while awaiting help to arrive. If applicable, I would then write a report and notify the nurse in charge of the event.
Example #33: Describe a time when you made a decision using your clinical judgment. What happened?
Important Points to Address: Try to choose an example where you exercised judgment but where you didn’t make too big of a decision, as this could scare a potential employer.
S: I was working as an ICU nurse when a patient came in with a severe case of pneumonia and was put on a ventilator. After she had been in the hospital for about two weeks, her condition was worsening daily.
T: She was constantly getting worse, and we needed to try something to stabilize her.
A: I consulted with the doctor, and we decided to take her off the ventilator to see if she would stabilize without it.
R: She did not stabilize, so we put her back on the ventilator, and she stabilized after that. It turned out that it wasn’t just pneumonia but also sepsis.
Example #34: How do you respond to changes in care standards or policies and procedures?
Important Points to Address: Policy and regulation are constantly changing, so you need to show that you understand how to adapt.
The first step is to understand the change, why it was made, and its meaning. Then I ask how I will be affected by this change.
What new skills or tools will I need? And how will this affect my duties?
From here, I can take the necessary steps to implement the changes in my work.
Example #35: How do you stay up to date in your qualifications and skills?
Important Points to Address: You must show that you work to stay up-to-date and relevant in your field, as nursing practices are constantly changing.
I follow my favorite nursing associations on social media. I also subscribe to several nursing magazines, so I am kept up to date on changes as they happen. When I see something that interests me, I will try to find training or conferences in my area to gain first-hand knowledge.
Example #36: How do you respond to a patient when you don’t have an answer?
Important Points to Address: As important as empathy is, being able to have discretion and tact.
I try to always be honest with patients. If they’ve had a change in their condition, I will just say we don’t know, and we are waiting for the doctor.
If the doctor has already seen them, I will sometimes say, “your doctor said they’ve talked to you about your condition. I’m not qualified enough to add anything to what they have said.”
Example #37: Describe a time you had to change your caregiving practices. What did you do?
Important Points to Address: A change to caregiving doesn’t need to be a major change. It can be a simple adaption to the circumstances of just one patient.
S: I was assigned to a patient who had a history of falls.
T: I had to give this patient extra supervision as they couldn’t be trusted to stay still or follow prior instructions when unsupervised.
A: I made sure that they were in the room with me at all times. I also ensured that my coworkers and supervisors were aware of this change in their care.
R: While it slowed down my other duties, I was able to keep the patient safe and, at one time, managed to arrest a fall before they injured themselves.
Example #38: Can you describe a time you had to interact with a difficult family member?
Important Points to Address: Difficult families and patients are common in nursing, and being able to respond calmly but with authority is an important skill to demonstrate.
S: I remember when I was working at a hospital when a very angry older man came in.
T: He approached the nurses’ station demanding to see his family member, who was currently in the ER.
A: I sternly explained to him that non-medical personnel could not be in the ER and that there was no viewing area. The doctors were doing their best and would notify him as soon as there was news. I explained if he continued to be aggressive to staff, security or the police would be called to remove him.
R: He reluctantly calmed down and agreed to take a seat until a doctor could give him an update.
Example #39: What would you do if you were assigned to work with a coworker you didn’t like?
Important Points to Address: Conflict management is a highly valued skill for nurses. Being able to show how you work with someone you don’t like is critical to landing the job.
I have a process for working with coworkers that I don’t like. First, I try to find some common ground, something we agree on, even if it is just a love of coffee or a favorite sports team.
Second, I use clear and open communication to make sure we both know what the other is doing and responsible for so that we can reduce the opportunity for misunderstandings or conflict.
Example #40: How do you provide care for difficult patients?
Important Points to Address: You need to show a potential employer that you have what it takes to handle patients who are uncooperative with the care being provided.
While I always try to be compassionate, if a patient is difficult, I will clarify my authority as the caregiver. To provide them with the maximum chance of a positive outcome from their treatment, it is of utmost importance that they follow all instructions given by doctors and nursing staff.
Example #41: Have you ever had to work with a doctor who was rude or unprofessional?
Important Points to Address: Many nurses experience doctors who do not treat them with respect. You need a way to address these issues without escalating or creating conflict.
I have never had to work with a doctor who was rude or unprofessional. However, if I were ever to have that experience, I would address the issue directly with the doctor. I would explain my concern and ask them to be mindful of their behavior and/or tone.
Example #42: How do you address questions from a patient’s family or friends?
Important Points to Address: Liaising with third parties will happen a lot as a nurse. Employers will expect you to be able to answer inquiries appropriately.
If a patient’s visitors ask me general questions about the facility, the care provided or visiting hours, etc. I will answer them directly as best I can. If they ask questions that breach patient confidentiality or that I can’t help with, I direct them to ask the patient’s doctor.
Time Management and Organization
Example #43: How do you make sure that all of your tasks are completed reliably and on time?
Important Points to Address: The unexpected will always happen, but there will also be critical duties that need to be done reliably. It is important to have a reliable system in place to ensure you don’t lose track of your day.
I ensure that I always work from my to-do list of duties I am responsible for each shift. I work through them in a prioritized order, starting with things that cannot be delayed at all, then things that cannot be delayed to another shift, and leaving anything that could be left to another day till last.
This makes sure that if an emergency arises, I have as much time as possible available without impacting other critical duties.
Example #44: How do you stay organized?
Important Points to Address: Staying organized is critical for nurses, especially in the ER, ICU, or other fast-paced environments.
The two ways I stay organized are routines and checklists. As much as possible, I do the same things at the same time each shift. This helps patients know what to expect but also reduces additional planning or thinking on my part.
I also work through a prioritized to-do list of my duties so that if anything comes up or I get called away, I can keep track of where I am up to and return to it.
Example #45: What do you do if something unexpected interrupts your rounds?
Important Points to Address: It is important to juggle competing demands and events when they arise while reliably doing your rounds.
I stay calm and assess the situation if something unexpected interrupts my rounds. Then I ask the patient or their family if they need anything and if there is anything I can do to help. I make sure everyone knows where we are. Then I continue with my rounds.
Example #46: How do you regain control if a situation gets hectic or out of hand?
Important Points to Address: A good nurse has to be able to keep their head on during stressful times and make sure that they do everything possible to help those in their care.
I try to always remain calm and collected. If a situation gets out of hand, I take a deep breath and focus on how to respond and what factors I can control. This helps me stay on track and return to taking care of my patients.
Communication Skills and Style
Example #47: How do you communicate with a team across language and cultural barriers?
Important Points to Address: While all staff will be able to speak English, staff from foreign backgrounds may have language difficulties, and effectively working around these is important.
I have worked with many different people from various backgrounds and have never had an issue communicating. I try to be culturally sensitive and mindful of what might be offensive to other cultures.
As for language barriers, I simply try to keep to short, simple words and clear sentences with a single idea. When necessary, I will also write down what I am saying to ensure that important information isn’t missed.
Example #48: How do you ensure reliable communication of safety-critical information?
Important Points to Address: You need to show that you can communicate critical information, where a misunderstanding could result in injury or death reliably and effectively.
I communicate safety-critical information by being clear and concise, and I ensure the recipient understands that what I’m saying is important. I will always stop and ask them to confirm that they understand and repeat it back to me, or if it’s a situation where they can’t talk to me, I’ll write down what it is they need to know.
Example #49: Are you a good communicator?
Important Points to Address: This question is more about your ability to confidently deliver a strong answer than the content of your answer.
Yes, I am a good communicator. I have always been very good at communicating my ideas and feelings to others. I feel that communicating effectively is essential to being a nurse, and I am confident that I can excel at it.
Example #50: Can you tell me about a time you effectively educated a patient or their family?
Important Points to Address: This question is asked to understand your commitment to nursing and making a difference in the lives of your patients.
S: In a previous role, I was nursing a patient with chronic high blood pressure.
T: They did not know how to manage it properly. They had been on medication for a while, but it wasn’t working.
A: I talked to them about why they weren’t responding well to their medication, and I explained how high blood pressure could lead to serious health problems if it isn’t managed properly.
R: They asked a lot of questions, and we worked together so that we could make an action plan for how they would work with their specialist and implement lifestyle changes.
While the right answers can help land a job, a big part of success in a job interview is avoiding giving the wrong answers or raising red flags. By studying the job description before your interview, you can have a good idea of the types of questions that will be asked and practice your answers beforehand.
If you follow this advice and use these example answers as a starting point for your answers, you will be successful in finding your next nursing job.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.