Returning to nursing after a career break can be a daunting prospect. Whether you’ve been out of the role for a short break or are returning after a longer period, preparing for your next interview can make you feel confident for your return to practice.
To help you get prepared, we’ve collected 13 of the most common nursing interview questions as well as how best to answer them.
This common question provides you with the ideal opportunity to express your enthusiasm for returning to practice. Think back to your nursing personal statement and highlight the specific qualities and experiences you’ve had as a nurse – these anecdotes will allow you to showcase your nursing career and make yourself memorable.
Example Answer: “I love helping people, the patient interaction and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives is the reason I want to get back into nursing. My experience working in pediatric care left a lasting impression on me.”
Compassionate care is a well-known phrase in nursing. Learn your ‘Six C’s’ – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence. This will demonstrate your awareness of current NHS ideas and is an easy way to show you’ve done some prep.
Example Answer: “To me it is one of the most important of the ‘Six C’s’. Compassionate care means not only providing medical care but also offering emotional support and understanding to patients and their families.”
The healthcare industry is a fast-paced environment where you will be asked to work with a variety of colleagues, including HCA’s, other nurses and doctors. For this question, discuss skills such as listening, teamwork and problem-solving that will help you get along with colleagues.
Example Answer: ” I focus on essential skills like active listening, teamwork, and problem-solving. For instance, if a colleague suggests a course of action I’m unsure about, I listen before offering my perspective, aiming for a collaborative solution, or if I have experience in an area I can help those around me to give the best care for the patient.”
It is important to address the protocol you would take if disagreements with colleagues occur. For example, this may include discussing the disagreement with the colleague in question, and if the problem persists, seeking your superiors for assistance. Make sure you give examples of times you have resolved conflict previously.
Example Answer: “Disagreements can occur in high-pressure environments – I always try to deal with disagreements calmly. During a particularly busy shift as my last hospital, a doctor prescribed a dosage for some medication I wasn’t sure about, due to other medications the patient was on. I discussed this with the doctor and we agreed to change the prescription. If she had disagreed with me, I would have escalated the situation by discussing it with my supervisor.”
With questions like this, the interviewer wants you to highlight your resilience. A good shift is not just about staffing numbers, you should discuss the importance of prioritising tasks to ensure that you can deliver effective and safe care whilst acknowledging the importance of breaks and stress management.
Example Answer: “A good shift for me is about the team around me. It doesn’t matter if it is a busy or a quiet shift if we can deliver the best care for the patients and everyone can be happy when we hand over and everything is in the best place possible for the next shift I am happy. To get there, it involves delivering quality care while also acknowledging that we are human and we need breaks and stress management sometimes.”
Nursing can be a stressful job. Talk about the stress management tools you use inside and outside of work. This could be anything from taking a moment to get some fresh air on shift or your love of painting outside of work.
Example Answer: “Stress management is vital, especially in a fast-paced environment. I’ve found that taking short breaks for fresh air helps me regroup mentally. Outside of work, painting has been a great stress reliever for me. These techniques help me return to my job with a clear mind and better focus.”
7) How would you deal with making a mistake?
A question such as this is highly likely and it is always best to be honest – everyone has made mistakes. Emphasise what you have learnt from mistakes yourself or others have made and how this has impacted how you would deal with a similar situation today.
Example Answer: “Mistakes are inevitable but are also valuable learning opportunities. The key is to own up to them and take immediate steps to rectify the situation. I always reflect on what I’ve learned from the experience to ensure it doesn’t happen again, just as I’ve handled similar situations in the past.”
Use this question to highlight your ability to manage your time to ensure patients receive excellent care no matter the circumstances that day. Give examples of times your workload has unexpectedly increased and how you managed this.
Example Answer: “I’ve experienced shifts where the workload increased unexpectedly. During those times, time management and task prioritisation have been crucial. I focus on what needs immediate attention while ensuring that every patient receives the care they need, no matter how busy the shift.”
Often patients who are being difficult require extra support and compassion. You should describe how you would do this and what steps you would take to ensure their needs are being met – providing extra resources to make the patient more comfortable or taking time to offer reassurance are good examples.
Example Answer: “Difficult patients are often in pain or anxious. I would always try and get to the bottom of why they are struggling. During one of my clinics, a patient became agitated when discussing being put on a waiting list for further treatment. I took time to talk to the patient and discovered they were experiencing a lot of pain at home and that they felt anxious about the procedure they were waiting for. I was able to prescribe appropriate increases in pain medication and talk them through the upcoming procedure to reassure them.”
Being a nurse can often mean you have to be flexible with your hours. Describe how you would prioritise continuity of care by attempting to contact your replacement or find an alternative replacement to ensure consistent care for patients.
Example Answer: “If my replacement hasn’t arrived, I would first try to contact them to assess the situation. My priority is to ensure the continuity of care for the patients, so if necessary, I would stay on shioft and seek an alternative replacement.”
The interviewer wants to see you are passionate about the role and this is the perfect question to demonstrate this passion. You could talk about your interest in your chosen specialism or use examples of patients that have impacted your nursing career in a positive way.
Example Answer: “My interest in pediatric nursing grew from specific experiences that profoundly impacted me. Children require specialised care, and the ability to make a difference at such a formative age is incredibly fulfilling for me.”
When returning to practice, it is important to demonstrate an awareness of the medical sector as it is now. Do some research or talk to previous colleagues and friends to gain some insight. It is also a good idea to discuss how you will cope with these challenges.
Example Answer: “UK health providers are currently dealing with staffing shortages and increased service demand. I have kept in contact with former colleagues and know what to expect.”
Asking questions is a great way to show your enthusiasm. Always have some questions prepared for the interviewer, this could be about the returning to work process, career progression or job opportunities once you’ve completed your return to practice programme.
Example Answer: “Yes, I’d like to know more about the return-to-work process here and what opportunities for career progression and training to improve my skills as a nurse.”
If you are looking to get back into nursing and want to find a role that suits you, Safehandsrecruitment are a leading healthcare recruiters with hundreds of nursing roles. If you would like to register for job updates you can get in contact with a member of our team on 01242 505415 or email us at email@example.com.