The nursing profession isn't for the faint of heart.
Finding a nurse who can handle long shifts, difficult and physically demanding work, and still have a smile on their face at the end of the day is a tough task. At the same time, the demand for nurses is high.
Hiring the Right Nurses in a Tight Market
The U.S. is currently on the verge of a major shortage of nurses, as we hit an era in which we have more of our population over the age of 65 than any other time in our history, we don't have enough people coming out of nursing school to satisfy demand. It's a stressful situation to be in if you're hiring in health care.
Job growth in registered nursing is expected to be the highest of any sector from 2008-2018, with a projected growth of 581,800 new jobs.
Hiring a nurse practitioner, CNA, staff nurse, nursing assistant, and other jobs in the nursing field and health care is going to get harder and harder, but the importance of their work won't lessen. We need people we can trust to help take care of our aging population.
The right nursing interview questions and interview process make it easy to discover who will be a good fit for your facility, weigh their nursing experience, and give confidence to patients and their families. Still trying to figure out how to fill a nursing position? See how our guide to advertising jobs can help you.
Also, be prepared for conducting any job interview with our list of 25 most common interview questions, and our guide to a phone interview process. Each question has a sample answer to help you understand what you're looking for. We'll take you way beyond the generic "greatest strength, greatest weakness" questions.
Whether you're a nurse manager making a hire, or you're hiring a nurse manager, you'll find this info very useful.
Question # 1: Why did you choose nursing?
Listen for candidates who express a lifelong interest in the field.
You’re looking for a candidate who loves what they do, can tell you why, and is interested in professional growth. Avoid job seekers who seem directionless or just tell you how much they like the field – if they can’t tell you why they love nursing, chances are they actually don’t, and won't have the work ethic to carry them through the demands of the position.
Question #2: How would you respond to a patient who constantly demanded pain medication?
The answer to this nurse interview question needs to demonstrate a few key attributes.
First, you need evidence that the candidate is not going to try to do everything solo – they should call for help if they find themselves in the difficult situation of having a patient incessantly demands pain medication. Additionally, they should check vitals, practice safe nursing, and anticipate interventions, labs, etc.
You can easily turn this into a behavioral question by asking them to tell you about a time in their nursing career when they had to respond to a situation like this.
Keep in mind that some applicants will be new graduates and won't have previous job experience. Don’t expect more than what is reasonable based on their nursing experience, but do make sure that they are professional, capable team player with a patient care oriented personality.
Question #3: Would you like to be a doctor someday?
Sometimes nurses and doctors mix like oil and water.
It’s important to find a candidate who answers this question with a positive attitude towards doctors, but also an appreciation for their own field. You aren’t necessarily looking to hire or avoid a candidate who wants to be a doctor someday. On the other hand, you do want to hear evidence of a definite plan for career growth and dreams about the future. It tells you a lot about work ethic.
There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone who wants to move from a nursing position to being a doctor, either. Just watch out for candidates who seem to "go with the flow" and don’t discuss possibilities for growth. Whatever answer is given, it should show passion and direction.
Question #4: What professional association memberships and affiliations do you have?
This answer should give you a good idea if they have the desire for more information and to stay current in the field, much like nurse interview question 3 initially tackled.
You want a candidate who is active and involved in the field, beyond just having gone to nursing school. A candidate who is not only a member but is actively involved in a professional organization is a great find.
Question #5: What do you do to stay current with medical findings and practices?
A good candidate is interested in the latest developments in medical research and patient care. This question will give you a good idea how seriously they take this part of the job.
Watch for someone who expresses an interest in regularly reading journal articles, attending professional conferences, and has a definite system for staying up to date. Great nurses stay informed and put their research into practice, with facility approval, of course.
Question #6: What interests you about working here?
Listen for an answer that clicks with your facility’s work culture and ethic. This is a common question for many jobs, but it will tell you a lot.
Does this person sound like they would enjoy working in your facility? Why? Do they understand the facility, its mission and values, and the work that would be expected of them? How do their personal goals and aspirations align with those of your organization? That's how you find a real team player.
Question #7: How do you handle stress on the job?
This behavioral question is a common question for nurses for a reason. The nursing profession is intense and high-stress, whether you're a registered nurse, staff nurse, CNA, nursing assistant etc.
The vast majority of nurses work 41 to 60 hours per week, and many suffer debilitating musculoskeletal injuries or are concerned about the effects of chronic and acute stress and overwork. Candidates need to be mentally and physically tough, with clear strategies for tackling stress and handling a difficult situation. Perhaps the greatest weakness a nurse can have is not admitting to the stress, and having no way of dealing with it. The greatest strength is perhaps then being able to admit when they're stressed out, and getting the help they need.
Even candidates who are just out of school and haven't had a previous job in the nursing field should be able to refer to how they handled stressful situations in school.
Additional Interview Questions to Ask:
- Do you have any time management tips other nurses could learn from?
- What is your most important achievement in your nursing career to date?
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