September 26, 2023

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Top 20 Registered Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Top 20 Registered Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Top 20 Registered Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

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Welcome to 20 Registered Nurse Interview Questions and Answers.

Registered Nurse jobs are in very high demand; hence the need for job assistance in this field.

All information  listed here has been researched and contributed by a professional and licensed RN of 30 years. We are proud to provide job assistance to many aspiring nurses all over the world, and this is why it is incredibly important to have accurate and educational source of information.

Below information touches on various nursing fields in order to provide general interview assistance.

Nursing in healthcare is a complex topic so we have brief instructions to go by:

Additional reference material is provided for each question that ends with a number-at the bottom of this article.

Some questions will have multiple answers and some will provide false and true statements. This is labeled as such…

If a question pertains to a certain branch of nursing it is labeled accordingly. For example; (General Nursing).

The first 5 questions are general interview questions and do not include additional 20 that follow.


Basic Introductory Questions

Q. Please describe, in detail if you can, your interest in our (hospital, organization).

A. well-prepared candidate will have at least some knowledge of the organization which granted the interview.

Q. Describe a situation (in a previous position for an experienced nurse, or during student clinical rotations, or life experiences for a new graduate) in which you needed to exercise sound judgment, make a spur of the moment decision. What did you learn from that experience? What might you have done differently?

A. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. This question gives the interviewer insight into the candidate’s “mettle” and possibly her character.

Q. Describe what draws you to the nursing profession. Please be specific.

A. The answer will be subjective for each candidate.

Q. Have you considered other professions? If so, what are they?

A. The answer will be subjective for each candidate.

Q. Have you experienced difficulty in being a nurse? If so, please elaborate. 1

A. The candidate may describe difficult patients (perhaps they are in pain, or feel a lack of control over their situation). They may find it difficult to leave when their shift ends (having cared for an especially ill patient, or feeling that duties such as charting or updating the care plan are not completed). These are both valid answers.


Medical Interview Questions and Answers

Q1. (Pediatric) Please list the supplies needed and the purpose for each, to be used for changing the tracheostomy tube while the patient is in the hospital. (This will differ from home care, where a clean technique is used).2

A. Enlist an assistant. Begin by washing your hands. Use a sterile trach tube with obturator (guide to insert the tube properly into the trachea). Use sterile technique to avoid infection.
1) Wash basin with warm water, two washcloths, mild soap – to clean the skin around the tracheostomy stoma (opening or hole in the throat). Caution: a new stoma can close quickly. Make sure that emergency ventilation equipment is available.
2) Surgilube – to lubricate the advancing end of the trach tube using sterile technique.
3) Sterile suction catheter – to remove secretions after the trach tube has been changed.
4) Rolled blanket – for gentle, backward hyperextension of the neck for proper placement of the trach tube.
5) Blunt tipped surgical scissors – to cut the trach ties for a proper fit.
6) Clean trach ties – for replacement.
7) Ambu bag attached to oxygen – as needed to provide additional oxygenation if the patient is agitated or fearful.

Q2. (Surgical Nursing) Please differentiate the duties of a circulating nurse and a scrub nurse in the operating room.3

Circulating Nurse Duties Scrub Nurse Duties
1. assists with patient positioning on the operating table 1. performs surgical scrub (“scrubs in”). Then enters the operating room and dons surgical gown, mask, gloves
2. ensures proper set up of the operating room; inventories disposables (pads, sponges). Chooses correct instrument pack for the procedure 2. assists the surgeon by passing instruments, sponges, and other materials as needed to him during the procedure. This requires thinking ahead, and anticipating the surgeon’s next need
3. verifies the patient’s identity, and the procedure to be performed with the surgeon 3. maintains a correct count of the instruments and disposables placed into and removed from the patient
4. checks the working order of equipment to be used in the procedure, connects, and calibrates as needed 4. requests additional instruments, sutures from the circulating nurse as needed
5. provides the surgical team with replacement fluids and medication as needed. Provides additional instruments or disposables 5. assist other surgical team members with gowning after they have completed the surgical scrub
6. maintains “big-picture” oversight while the operation is being performed 6. Coordinates with circulating nurse to complete the final count of instruments and supplies before the incision is closed

Q3. (Medical-Surgical Nursing on a patient unit) Which three statements pertaining to nursing care of the medical-surgical patient are true?

A. 1. Daily assessment of patient status includes (among the following) wound and dressing status, evaluation of patient pain level using a 1-10 scale, updating the care plan and communicating changes to relevant staff, and encouraging the patient to ambulate, per physician orders – True
2. Fall prevention to reduce patient injuries is not well documented, and has no specific guidelines for the nursing staff – False
3. Patients who are elderly, obese, smokers, and have a history of lung disease are at the highest risk of developing post-operative respiratory complications – True
4. Patients who are obese have a high risk of experiencing nausea after receiving general anesthesia because anesthetic medications and gases linger in the fat cells – True4
5. Performing a peripheral vascular assessment upon the patient’s admission to the Med-Surg unit is not necessary, as this is done in the operating room – False5

Q4. (General Nursing) When obtaining a medical history, please determine which techniques are acceptable.6

A. Allow the patient to tell their story without interruption, when possible.
Try to keep your questions as open as possible.
Asking leading questions is often helpful – often causes the retrieval of incorrect information, and may aggravate the patient.
In addition to listening, your body language, your expression, and empathy are critical.
Assess whether what you are concluding aligns with what your patient thinks is wrong.
Keep an open mind, but there is no reason to check for assumptions you may be making – medical assumptions may lead to a completely incorrect history and diagnosis.

Q5. (Psychiatric Nursing) Please determine the three accurate statements with regard to a psychiatric evaluation.7

A.1. The three considerations in conducting a psychiatric evaluation are patient confidentiality, time allowed, and safety.
2. Seating the patient between you and the door is acceptable – this poses a potential safety risk for the interviewer.
3. The interviewer is not legally obligated to report the patient’s stated harm to others or himself, a history of or current sexual/child abuse, or pertinent information relevant to a court case or subpoena – this information is reportable by law.
4. The most common obsession reported is the fear of something has been left undone (the door was left unlocked, the stove is still on, the patient’s hands haven’t been washed).

Q6. (General Nursing) You observe a nurse colleague act against policy in the care of a patient. How do you handle this?

A. Determine if the nurse’s actions pose danger to the patient, and act appropriately (reporting to the Nursing Supervisor may be necessary).
Speak with your colleague; if admission/correction of the infringement occurs, increase your observation of the colleague (make notes as needed; be specific) for future infractions.
If your colleague denies the infraction, report the colleague’s actions to the Nursing Supervisor.

Q7. (Obstetrical Nursing) What is the most critical observation made post-partum (after birth) period? What assessments must be made? 8

A. The presence of vaginal bleeding. Determine if the volume is within normal range, depending on the type of delivery (vaginal delivery – 500cc or approx., 17oz; C-section – 1000cc or 33oz).
Assessment of the uterus is primary. If the uterus can’t be palpated (felt) it may be inverted; treatment is surgery. If the uterus is boggy (soft and large) the treatment is Pitocin (a medication which contracts the uterus).
If the uterus is firm, but is not reducing in size per the predicted time frame, there may be retained placenta; treatment is surgery.

Q8. (General Nursing) Please describe how you would handle a patient complaint.9

A. Do this: Listen sympathetically, obtain details, assure the patient that their complaint will be investigated, document the complaint in the patient’s chart, include relevant other staff or the attending physician, report the complaint to the Nursing Supervisor.
Don’t do this: Dismiss the patient’s complaint, neglect to obtain pertinent information, neglect including relevant staff, leave the attending physician out of the conversation, omit reporting the complaint to the Nursing Supervisor.

Q9. NICU (Neonatal ICU Nursing) Describe at least four skills that are required to be an effective NICU nurse. 11

A. 1) The ability to handle emergencies using quick, accurate thinking.
2) Attention to detail.
3) Precise calculations and documentation.
4) Strong communication (for the medical staff and colleagues) and education skills (for parent teaching).
5) Effective stress management skills – caring for critically ill newborns, managing a poor prognosis or death.
6) Flexibility -the patient assignment may change from day to day.

Q10. (General Hospital Nursing) You enter a patient’s room and find her unconscious. List the steps you would take in order of their importance. 12

A. Use the ABCs of basic life support (American Heart Association) (within the first 10 sec) to assess the patient: A=airway, B=breathing and C=circulation.
• Is the patient breathing? Watch for chest movement and count respirations.
• Assess the carotid pulse (weak and thready, or strong)? Count the pulse rate. If the pulse is present, call for help and continue your assessment. Monitor the patient’s blood pressure at least every 15 minutes.
• Signs of biting may indicate a seizure.
• If the patient is not breathing, check for any obstructions in the mouth which may be blocking the airway. If she has no countable carotid pulse, call a “Code” or “Code Blue” (which will summon the emergency response team) and begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Deliver two rescue breaths (watching the chest rise). Gently hyperextend the neck to open the airway (or gently thrust the jaw forward is a neck injury is suspected). Deliver chest compressions by interlocking your hands and placing the heel of your hand over the middle of the sternum (breastbone at the nipple line).

The newest American Heart Association’s newest guidelines are:
100 chest deep/fast compressions per minute in groups of 30 compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths. Do not interrupt compressions to deliver rescue breaths unless you’re alone. To check vital signs, stop no longer than 10 seconds. Poor outcomes are linked to waiting longer.

Q11. (Emergency Room Nursing) Please list four errors commonly made in the ER, and discuss strategies nurses make use to avoid them.13

A. Incorrect diagnosis – be the “communication bridge” between the family and the physician (as time allows) regarding medical history, medications, etc. Obtain the patient’s EMR (electronic medical record) if possible, and make it available to the physician.
Failure to fully assess or treat the patient’s condition – Ensure that the physician has all lab test results, xrays, ECGs, etc. in a timely manner. (Nurses often secure these results, rather than waiting for them to be delivered).
Prescribing the incorrect medication – confirm the physician’s order (question or clarify spelling, dosage, etc if needed).
Failure to adequately monitor the patient – Status changes in an unstable ER patient can be instantaneous; using nursing judgment in making frequent assessments, and observing/documenting changes can make a critical difference.
Failure to protect the patient from infection – don’t succumb to the emergent nature of the situation. Practicing aseptic (the absence of disease-producing microorganisms) or sterile (the absence of all microorganisms) is time well spent. The CDC estimates that hospital infections in American hospitals account for 99,000 deaths annually. 14
Failure to prevent patient falls – instruct your patient to call for help, and not try to get up on their own. Keep all supplies needed at the bedside, reducing the time you must leave the patient alone.14

Q12. (General Nursing) Please list at least five common medication errors.15

A. Wrong dose, wrong choice of medication, wrong dose, known (or unknown) allergy, drug to drug interaction, wrong frequency, wrong technique, wrong route, extra dose, equipment failure ( i.e., infusion pump), insufficient monitoring of the patient.

Q13. (General Nursing) Please list three of the most common reasons for patient falls.

A. Patient disorientation (common in the elderly).
Effects of medication on reasoning, judgement.
Wanting to get up (most commonly to the bathroom) or reach something, and not wanting to bother the nurse.
Delayed response to the patient call bell.
Inability to reposition or free themselves from the bed linens.
The bed-exit alarm has not been set.

Q14. (General Nursing) Please list three techniques used to plan effective patient education.

A. Ask the patient to explain why they were admitted to the hospital.
Assess the patient’s understanding of the reason(s) they are taking the medications prescribed.
Determine the level of understanding the patient has for the treatments he is receiving.
Elicit the patient’s fears or concerns (general or specific).
Determine if there are questions the patient has that he is not comfortable asking the doctor.
Assess if the patient’s family is having a positive or negative influence on his care and/or recovery.

Q15. (General Nursing) Please describe three reasons to evaluate and/or change a patient’s surgical dressing.

A. New or excessive drainage or blood on the dressing.
A foul odor is emanating from dressing.
The patient complains of a new or different pain associated with the incision.
The dressing has become loose, or is not effectively covering the surgical wound.
The patient has developed a fever.
A spill (from the patient’s meal tray, or a drink) has soaked the dressing.

Q16. (General Nursing) Identify three techniques to be used when addressing patient or family concerns.

A. Always use a respectful tone of voice and posture.
Reiterate your understanding of the concern the patient or family has described.
Ask pertinent questions to increase your understanding of the concern.
Communicate the concern to the attending physician, not matter how small.
Document the concern, as well as any other clarifying information, in the patient’s chart.

Q17. (General Nursing) List three benefits of a thorough “hand- off” or end of shift report.

A. It is essential to report a change in the patient’s condition.
Patient safety is ensured through communication (changes in medication orders with or without adverse reactions, falls).
The patient-nurse-family relationship can be enhanced.
Inter-shift communication assures the physician that his patient is being properly cared for.
Communication (and clarification) can occur if there are questions between the two shift nurses.
Patient/family anxieties can be reduced if they sense a continuous thread of care is occurring from shift to shift.

Q18. (General Nursing) List three ways that a Nursing Supervisor supports the unit staff.

A. Provides staff training.
Manages staff and priorities.
Sets the tone of the unit (hopefully in a positive, professional manner).
Assists to reduce and solve conflict issues.
Enforces safety regulations.
Supports staff in discussions/solving problems with upper management.

Q19. (General Nursing) List three examples of a nurse needing a career change.

A. Feeling burned out or exhausted on a regular basis.
Dreading going to work each day.
Having a short temper with patients or staff without a reason.
Wanting/needing to make a change; a desire to “move up”.
Not sensing that you have made a difference with your patients or colleagues.
Making mistakes (secondary to distraction or dissatisfaction).

Q20. (General Nursing) List four ways to improve the physician-nurse relationship.

A. Be a team player, rather than a lone ranger or maverick.
Communicate effectively; consider the personality of the physician with whom you’re having a conversation.
Keep the patient, and the priority of his medical care, as your first goal.
Take pride in your nursing care and the level of experience you bring to the situation.
Do not exhibit negative behaviors or language.
Don’t let the stress of the environment negatively affect your decision making and/or communication.
Keep a sense of humor.

Anita T., RN

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Disclaimer: CosmicNovo LLC ( does not represent an official authority in medical field. All content listed in this article is for informational purposes only.

Special thanks to Anita T. for providing this very useful information.

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