And How to Ace Them With Candor

Job interviews. Is there anything worse? Very few of us look forward to them but unless you’re part of the less than two percent set to receive a trust fund, they are part of life. The best thing to do as a candidate is prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. And we hate to say it, nurses, but you want to tack on an extra “prepare” to that statement, and for that we apologize. The reason is that nurse turnover is extremely costly to healthcare facilities, especially during the current nursing shortage, so the hiring manager wants to get this right the first time.

At Eisenhower Health, we want to know about your real life experiences, the job, and how you’ve dealt with them. It takes a certain (and special) kind of person to be a nurse professional, so we want to know your thinking process when you’ve encountered things like being understaffed, overworked, patient or their family issues, and other situations that have surely put you to the test.

We’ve shared 10 common questions you might expect to hear during an interview for a nursing position, and a short explanation of what we think would be a good answer:

Patient Care

Not surprisingly, patient care is our top priority here at Eisenhower Health, so we want to hear about how you shine in this area. If you’ve fallen short at some point, tell us why you think that happened and what you learned from it.

1. You’ve had to interact with a hostile patient. How did you handle this scenario and how did the situation turn out?

Answer suggestion:

Take the interviewer through the situation, step-by-step. What was it about the patient that was hostile? How did you diffuse the situation? End with how you resolved it or, if you weren’t able to do so, how this helped you know what to do in the future.

2. Tell me about a time when you’ve had to explain a complicated medical procedure to someone not in the medical field. 

Answer suggestion:

Explain the procedure, the medical jargon that would have gone over the patient’s head, and how you were able to describe it using layman’s terms. End with letting the interviewer know how you were able to confirm that this patient understood the procedure. 

3. Give me an example of a time you were given high praise by a patient. Conversely, tell me about a time when a patient or family member complained about you. How did you handle both of these scenarios?

Answer suggestion:

Let the interviewer know what motivated you to go above and beyond for this patient, or at least be perceived as doing so. What was it about your behavior this patient specifically appreciated? For the complaining patient, tell the interviewer what you did to handle the situation head on. Were you able to rectify the situation and, if not, what did you learn?

Time Management

Good time management skills are needed in just about any position, but none more so than nursing. Not only do you have a full caseload, but also the only thing that’s certain is that things will change. We want to hear how you overcame your packed schedule while getting things done in a timely manner.

4. Give me an example of a time when you were overwhelmed by your patient care workload and how you handled this. 

Answer suggestion:

Explain what caused your workload to become extreme and either how you resolved the hectic situation or what you would do differently the next time this happens.

5. Tell me about a time when the situation demanded that you reprioritize based on your caseload. 

Walk the interviewer through the scenario and what factors went into your triage decision making. Be honest about what your reprioritizing either did or didn’t do to help the situation. As with the other scenarios, a bad outcome isn’t forbidden to mention as long as you learned from it.


There are plenty of times in nursing when you simply want to scream at the top of your lungs. Of course, you can’t do this, and this is exactly where a stronghold on good communication with patients and peers will keep you afloat. 

6. Give an example of a time when you had a patient who would not agree to something you knew was in his or her best interest. 

Answer suggestion:

Let the interviewer know what the medical scenario was, how the patient wanted to proceed, and how you explained that this was not the best route to take. Did the patient ultimately agree and, if so, what information did you provide in getting him or her to do so?

7. Tell me about a time when you encountered a patient medical issue that went beyond your expertise. 

Answer suggestion:

This is a distinct possibility for any medical professional at some point or another, which is why there is surely a specific chain of command at your healthcare facility. Let the interviewer know that you would follow this to get assistance and follow the proper protocols.


You might not realize this, but it’s crucial for employers to understand what drives you when it comes to nursing. In fact, recent research has shown that those who got into the field for altruistic reasons are more susceptible to burnout.

8. How Do You Engage in Self Care?

Answer suggestion:

Because of the association between the nursing profession and career burnout, you need to impart that you proactively combat stress between shifts. Whether this is doing yoga, engaging in therapy, working out, or simply taking long walks with your dog, the interviewer wants to know you’re taking precautions that counteract burnout. There is no right or wrong answer here, but the best way to reply would be to tell the interviewer about a specifically stressful shift and what you did to take care of yourself afterwards.

9. What motivated you to go into nursing?

Answer suggestion:

Be honest about your original motivation and perhaps what has changed along the way. If you do mention that you went into nursing to help people, be prepared to answer a follow-up question about how you prevent burnout.

10. Give an example of a mistake you made during a shift. How did you rectify this and what was the outcome?

Answer suggestion:

All nurses make mistakes at one point or another. The key to answering this will be explaining how this happened, owning up to your part in it, and explaining how it got resolved. Did it get resolved to your satisfaction? To your boss’s satisfaction? What would you have done differently, if anything?

Don’t forget to have your own questions prepared. Just as with the interviewer, you want to be sure this is the workplace for you. Check out our current openings at Eisenhower Health in the scenic expanse of Coachella Valley.

Originally posted on 18/7/2019

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