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Top 10 interview questions for nurses

interview-questions-nurses-jobThere is no doubt that a career in nursing is a rewarding one. Nurses have a vital role in the treatment and recovery of patients and they can make all the difference in the patient’s life, giving them the best care and making them comfortable when facing a hard moment. If a career in nursing is what you dream of, then getting the right preparation is the right way to go. A well-rounded education will give you the upper hand when training to become a nurse.

If you are already getting your training and are about to start your job search, getting prepared for the interview is a must. You must be confident about the skills you have learned and calm so that you can answer questions properly and show the hiring team all you are capable of.

One great way to prepare for interviews is to learn about the common questions recruiters ask and what the kinds of answers are that they are expecting. We know that it’s impossible to know exactly what recruiters are looking for in candidates, but usually you can get an idea and build your answers on that.

The interview step is not the favorite one for most people. But it’s a necessity in the hiring process. So you should face this sometimes uncomfortable situation as a positive thing: an opportunity to show your knowledge and good personality. It doesn’t matter what role in nursing you are looking for; you will probably have to do an interview as part of the hiring process.

With that in mind, we did some research and put together a list of the top 10 interview questions for nurses.

  1. Why do you want to work in healthcare?

Focus on your history. Why did you decide to work in the healthcare field and how did you get started? It also helps to tell a success story. Examples always illustrate what you are telling and can help the recruiter understand and relate to your experience. This question presents you with a chance to show what inspired you to become a nurse and to demonstrate your desire to help people.

Sample answers:

“When I was in high school, I started volunteering in a hospital and that changed the way I see things. Seeing so many people needing care every day inspired me to pursue a career in which I could help people and make a difference. It’s really rewarding to be able to contribute to society and my community.”

“I’m passionate about helping people, and I truly believe that’s what I do in this profession. Seeing so many people needing quality care motivated me to become a nurse and actively help those in need.”

  1. What motivates you to work in the nursing field?

Here it’s time to really show motivation. And you must do that not only with your answer, but also with your body language. Make eye contact, smile and enjoy this opportunity to show why you are passionate about working in the nursing field. With this question, the recruiter wants to know your positive features.

Sample answer:

“There’s something about the challenge of handling difficult cases that makes me want to be better and make a difference. In my last job, there was a patient who was avoided by all the nurses. I understood his concerns and was able to solve his problems, which made him more comfortable and consequently easy to work with. I like to think that I’m motivated by challenges.”

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

This is a great opportunity to show the recruiter how unique you are and how great it would be to have you on the team. Don’t throw away this opportunity giving a chronological work history that can be read on your resume. Focus on your strengths and how your personality would make you a good fit for the role.

Sample answer:

“I’m positive and an excellent communicator. This makes my day-to-day routine caring for patients easier and more successful. My previous experience in the healthcare field really helped me build my confidence, which is helpful when caring for patients with critical cases, for example.”

  1. Can you tell us about a time you think you failed and what you learned from that experience?

Don’t say you have never failed. The recruiter is not looking for perfection; he or she is actually trying to learn more about who you are. What you consider a failure and what you do to overcome it. However, you should not tell them about a major regret. Remember, you must be positive during your interview. Highlight some situation that happened but that made you become a better nurse.

Sample answer:

“When I was in college, I started to learn another language. But at that time, I didn’t take it very seriously because I was so focused on getting my degree. As a result, I dropped the class without ever learning how to properly communicate in that language. Nowadays I realize how useful it is to speak another language fluently, especially when working as a nurse. That’s why I have started my studies again and now I’m really applying myself.”

  1. How has your training prepared you for a nursing career?

Here is where a well-rounded education in nursing will make all the difference. If you got your training from a respected school and learned all the skills you need to succeed as a nurse, you will be very comfortable answering this question. For that reason, if you are still looking for a school to start your training, consider carefully your options and do your research. Look for colleges that offer hands-on training and seasoned instructors.

Sample answers:

“I had the opportunity to do an internship at a hospital after graduating. This experience allowed me to work with real patients and exercise what I have learned in the classroom. I feel more confident now and prepared for the challenges I will find as a nurse.”

“During college, I had the opportunity to learn from the best instructors and to have hands-on training. Because of that, I feel that my education was complete and I’m prepared for multiple scenarios in the healthcare field.”

  1. In your opinion, what is the most difficult part about being a nurse?

Those kinds of questions need a positive approach, even if they are not very positive. You can use the things you find hard in the nursing career to showcase your abilities and soft skills.

Sample answers:

“I feel too responsible for the well-being of my patients. And for that reason, it’s hard for me to leave work at work. However, that makes me more organized and even more dedicated. I always instruct the other nurses with every detail about that patient, so they will be in good hands while I’m not there.”

“In my opinion, the hardest part of being a nurse is to have a patient who is in a lot of pain and I am unable to make them more comfortable. I believe that in these situations we must communicate with the doctors and understand the patient’s conditions the best way we can.”

  1. Do you prefer to work alone, or as part of a team?

Ideally, you should show the recruiter how well you can work in any given condition, whether you are working as part of a team, or alone. But keep in mind that nurses have to work with other nurses and with doctors. For that reason, it might be a good idea to show the recruiter that you are a team player.

Sample answers:

“I thrive when I’m part of a treatment and support team. That’s a great opportunity to learn from others and improve the way we care for our patients. But I also enjoy having autonomy and working alone. I don’t see that as a challenge.”

“In my opinion, nursing is a team effort when you work in a hospital. I’m completely able to work as part of a team and contribute the best way I can.”

  1. How would you handle a patient who is in constant pain and very uncomfortable?

Show the recruiter how much you care for the patient and how invested you are in their well-being. Give real examples of what you would do or maybe even an example of what you have done in your experience as a nurse.

Sample answer:

“I would make sure that the patient has everything he or she needs to feel more comfortable. It’s also a good idea to check with the attending doctor about the level of pain the patient is feeling and if there is anything else we could do to alleviate their suffering. I would also talk with the patient and show that we are doing everything we can to improve his or her condition.”

  1. How would you deal with family members who are not cooperative and want to blame you?

Communication is very important for nurses. You will have to give information about treatment and patients’ conditions not only for the patients, but also for their families. And this is not always easy. Keep in mind that you are dealing with people who are in a difficult and delicate situation, and that they might not like the answers you have to give. With this question, the recruiter wants to know your communication skills and how you would behave in a complicated situation.

Sample answer:

“First of all, I would keep calm. We must understand what people are going through and how this situation may be difficult for them. I would explain to them the treatment we are providing for the patient and be very clear that we are doing the best we can to care for that patient.”

  1. Why should I hire you?

Tell the recruiter about your qualifications without using quick and empty answers like “Because I’m the best one for the job.” The recruiter wants to hear details about your training and your personality, things that will show why you are capable of providing care for patients.

Sample answer:

“I’m passionate about nursing and I’ve had various experiences that made me more confident and prepared doing my job. Taking care of people is a rewarding job, and one that I’m proud of doing. That’s why I’m always committed to doing the best I can.”


Some extra tips for interviews

  • Prepare for the interview by rehearsing some scenarios.
  • Interviewers want to know more about you and understand if you would be a good fit for the position. Do your best to show who you are and what makes you unique.
  • Always try to use examples to illustrate your skills and personality traits.
  • Ask questions at the end of the interview. That shows you are interested and would like to learn more about them.


Now that you have read about the most common questions and good answers you can give, it’s time to get prepared. Think about the responses you would give and examples that you find interesting and that can exemplify a skill that you consider important in the nursing career. And always be honest. The recruiter will probably notice how honest you are being during the interview, and that will make them engage more with your story.

Also, remember that nursing is all about the care of others. If that’s the main reason you became a nurse, be sure to show it. Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to hire someone who loves what they do and who finds in the career they have a rewarding one?

The field for nurses is very promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for nurses is expected to grow by 16% from 2014 to 2024.

If you are prepared with the right skills for the job market, and ready to pass interviews, you will be able to take advantage of the increasing opportunities for nurses.


The Northwestern College difference

At Northwestern College, we offer an Associate in Applied Science degree in Nursing. This degree will prepare you with the right skills to become a registered nurse. To earn your Associate in Applied Science degree in Nursing, we require your commitment and your passion for helping others. In return, you will have a nursing school experience that will prepare you for all the challenges you might find in the healthcare field.

Our curriculum is tailored with the demands of the healthcare industry in mind. We offer a hands-on approach through simulation labs and clinical practice.

Our nursing degree includes:

Medical Surgical Nursing: This course focuses on the nursing care of adult clients with medical and/or surgical problems. It covers both acute and chronic illness states in the adult. This course includes aspects of both health promotion and disease prevention. The student utilizes laboratory and diagnostic test results data in analyzing client problems and in the formulation of a plan of care. The nursing process is used in all aspects of client care, including assessment, analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation. The student plans care that meets the psychological, social, educational, and physical needs of the client.

Pediatric Nursing: This course focuses on the nursing care of infants, children, and adolescents. The topics covered include health promotion and disease prevention, acute illnesses in children, chronic illnesses in children, pediatric emergencies, growth and development, developmental theories, congenital health problems, and the hospitalized child. Nursing care of the entire family unit is emphasized in this course. Techniques of infant, child, and adolescent assessment are covered in detail. Pediatric medication dosages and administration techniques are reviewed. The nursing process is utilized in the analysis of client/family problems and in the formulation of a plan of care.

Maternity/Women’s Health Nursing: This course covers current topics in maternity nursing and women’s health. It encompasses health and illness in women of all ages. The care of women during pregnancy and childbearing composes a major portion of this course, and includes disease states/problems and other deviations from the norm during pregnancy. It includes the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum periods, as well as the nursing assessment and care of the newborn. Other topics covered in this course are health promotion, disease prevention, and menopause. The nursing care of women with various gynecological disease states/problems is also included. The nursing process is employed in the analysis of client problems and in the plan of care for women in all developmental stages.

If you want to learn more about the Nursing degree, visit nc.edu and find out all the details about our program.