Nursing School Interview Questions and Answers With Examples
Don’t know what is waiting for you during the nursing school interview? Our list of possible questions, samples of answers, and useful tips will help you prepare.
Don’t know what is waiting for you during the nursing school interview? Our list of possible questions, samples of answers, and useful tips will help you prepare.
The nursing industry is growing and becoming one of the most dynamic fields in health care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing employment rate will increase by 12% by 2028 for several reasons, including a focus on preventive care and the spread of chronic illnesses.
Nursing school is one of the best steps in getting an education, license, and cherished job in this field in the future. If you’ve already decided to become a nurse and, perhaps, have selected the educational institution, but have no idea of potential nursing school interview questions and how to answer them to portray yourself as the perfect candidate for the nursing school student position, this article can help.
Why Is It Hard to Get Into Nursing School
Nursing is one of the most in-demand majors at colleges and universities. Moreover, there are many nursing schools and approximately 996 bachelor degree programs in the United States, providing training to become a fully qualified nurse. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey showed that in 2018 at least 363,433 students enrolled in 688 of those baccalaureate nursing programs.
However, due to the high competition, these institutions are very selective. Sometimes, even students with high-grade point averages can find themselves closed out.
The Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing report stated that U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,029 qualified applicants during the 2018-2019 academic year. According to the AACN, the problem lies in a shortage of faculty, expensive facilities and technologies, and limited placements.
Another organization, the American Association of Nursing Practitioners, conducted it’s research on the shortage of faculty and found out that the median salary for a nurse practitioner is $97,000, while the median salary of a nursing school assistant professor is $78,575. Thus, fewer educators want to teach students because they prefer to work as practicing nurses earning more money.
- Tutors don’t want to teach students because they can find better conditions.
- Due to faculty shortage, nursing schools close out applicants, lowering admission rates.
- Those applicants accepted, don’t want to teach in schools after graduation. Thus, nursing programs provide not enough potential nursing educators to meet demand.
We understand that rejection from nursing school can be discouraging. Thus, you should use every opportunity to catch the selection committee’s attention. One of the approaches is to send an impressive cover letter highlighting your motivation and skills along with your application.
How to Prepare for the Nursing School Interview
Interviews can be stressful. However, if you start preparing for a nursing school interview early enough, you can become more confident. We’ve done some research and identified four easy steps that will help you shine.
1. Start asking questions
The first thing to do after you’ve gotten your invitation for an interview is to ask your contact person three basic but important questions:
- What format of the meeting should I expect?
- Who will join the interview?
- How long will the meeting last?
These answers will give you direction for further preparation and research.
2. Research nursing school
Go to the nursing school’s website and social media platforms to learn more about its mission, values, requirements, and reputation. Moreover, you can check out frequently asked questions sections. Make a list of what you learn and study it before your interview.
Think of how you can refer to this information when answering the interviewing committee member questions.
3. Identify your strengths
The interview is a perfect chance to sell yourself to the school. Thus, you need to identify your key strengths, which will become your sales arguments.
Think about your previous experience, if any, relevant skills, qualities, and knowledge, and try to understand which of them are in line with the school’s mission and values.
4. Practice your self-presentation
Almost every interview starts with the “What can you tell us about yourself?” question, and nursing school won’t be an exception. What you answer matters because it will set the tone of the meeting from the very beginning.
You shouldn’t tell your life story. Instead, focus on something that can be useful to the interviewer. Talk about the strengths you’ve identified before, and the skills and qualities that you think may help you. Tell the interviewer how you can contribute to the nursing school and its culture.
You can refer to your resume and cover letter as a source, but don’t merely repeat the information the interviewer already knows. Try to expand it with examples.
5. Choose proper interview attire
This interview can be a turning point in your admission. As soon as you see the interviewer, you only have seven seconds to make an excellent first impression. And your interview attire speaks for you before you open your mouth.
You can’t go wrong with a classic suit, since it’s a golden standard for an interview. However, you should pay attention to colors and avoid bright and strident ones. Black, grey, dark green, and dark blue, sometimes even nudes, can be perfect. And, of course, don’t forget about the basic rule: your clothes should be clean, modest, and neat.
How to Answer Nursing School Interview Questions
This interview is a crucial moment, so you don’t want to be caught off guard. That’s why it is important to practice answering interview questions. However, the way you respond is no less critical.
Here are some obvious, but still crucial things you should remember:
- Be memorable and passionate when describing what inspired you to become a nurse and sharing your dedication toward making a difference;
- Be direct and use clear, sharp, and persuasive language to get to the point;
- Be sincere by explaining your motivation and answering the questions from your heart.
- Be concise and try to avoid details that detract from your key message.
STAR method to answer questions
STAR is the best way to answer behavioral questions related to your previous experience by describing a specific situation, task, action, and results.
Situation: Tell about a specific situation from your previous job, student life, volunteer experience, etc. and give enough detail for the interviewer to understand it. Don’t generalize too much.
Task: Describe what goal you were working to achieve.
Action: Explain the specific steps you did to deal with the situation and what your contribution was.
Result: Outline the outcome of your efforts and make sure your answer contains multiple positive effects.
To better understand how it works, we’ve prepared an example of a behavioral interview question and two variants of answers.
“I cannot give a specific example, but usually, I check the manuals and talk to senior colleagues.”
This answer is too general. It doesn’t show your skills, persistence, and ability to solve problems.
And by the way, the phrase “I cannot give a specific example” isn’t the best way to start your answer. If you can’t respond immediately, you should take a little pause saying something like, “It’s a good question. Let me think a bit about it.” Use this time to recall some of the situations related to the question and then use the STAR method to answer.
Situation: “I was volunteering as a nurse assistant in a local hospital. I was still studying and didn’t know a lot of things.”
Task: “I was asked to find out what medication dosage the patient needed.”
Action: “I checked the healthcare systems policy and found an answer. I also talked to the head nurse to confirm it. After this, I came to the head nurse, nurse educator, or ward counselor nurse at the start of each shift and talked to them about patients, treating they need, medication dosage, etc.”
Result: “Thanks to this, I managed not only to find an answer I needed but also to get the necessary practical knowledge and connect with the medical staff of this hospital. I got a great recommendation letter and was invited to join the team after graduating from nursing school.”
Here you’ve given a context, so the interviewer understands the details of the situation that happened. You’ve also explained your role and how you succeed in finding an answer. Moreover, you highlighted your communication skills and ambitions.
20+ Common Sample Nursing School Interview Questions and Answers
Usually, interviews are part of a more extensive process of a holistic review, where candidates are evaluated on much more than just their academic scores, tests, etc.
At this stage of the selection process, your interpersonal and communication skills are assessed. The questions that you’ll face will often be quite challenging. They will probe your sense of ethics, priorities, ability to adapt, etc.
We have collected the most common interview questions for nursing school and examples of how to answer. However, there are many different good ways of responding, and these are just examples. So you should individualize what you say based on your own experience, skills, and qualities.
Usually, the interviewers ask general nursing school interview questions to learn more about the candidates and understand their aspirations.
- Why have you decided to become a nurse?
“Four years ago, my mother fell ill and stayed in the hospital for seven weeks. I visited her every day and saw how nurses had been taking good care of her. They did everything possible to help my mother and speed up the process of her recovery. That’s when I understood I want to be like them and decided to become a nurse.”
- Explain your motivation to attend nursing school?
“It’s the best option to get a nursing degree. It will help me to pursue my career in this sphere.”
- Why did you apply to this nursing school?
“When I was choosing a nursing school, I focused on undergraduate nursing options and NCLEX test results. You offer both traditional four-year BSN and an accelerated 15-month BSN, and 95% of your students successfully pass the test. Moreover, courage, compassion, integrity, and collaboration as your core values resonate with me.”
- What will your challenges be if you become a student in this program?
“I know that as a student, I will have a nursing practice in clinics and that my shifts and patient assignments can change from time to time. So, I think that the biggest challenge is unpredictable schedules, but I’m a quick learner adaptable to changes.”
- Why should we choose you for this nursing program?
“You should choose me because I have an excellent learning mindset and an empathetic heart, which is important for a care-giving field. If you give me a chance to participate in this nursing program, I will become an excellent representative of your school throughout my professional career.”
- What is your plan if you are not selected?
“First of all, I will analyze what skills and qualities I need to improve and what knowledge I need to gain. Then, I will apply to a local community college and take basic general education classes and reapply next year.”
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
“I am compassionate and can find solutions to difficult problems. When I volunteered in the child health center, I saw that one of the patients had night terrors. I decided to talk to that boy to calm him down. It helped. Moreover, I tried to come earlier next night to spend time with him. As for weaknesses, I’m too sensitive, but I try to build borders between my job and personal life.”
- How do you deal with stress?
“I know the caregiving job is quite stressful, but I’ve found that the best way to deal with stressful situations is through thorough organization and good management. Therefore, I always try to pause and give myself time to comprehend it without unnecessary emotions. It allows me to develop a clear plan of action, regain control of the situation, and mitigate stress accordingly.”
- What is most challenging about being a nurse?
“It's hard to see someone at death’s door, and understand that there is nothing you can do to help.”
- What are your plans for the next five years?
“I will put all my effort into my studies and become the best in the group. Then, I plan to work as a qualified nurse in the Alzheimer’s center, helping patients and doctors. My grandfather had this illness, and I know how hard it is. I also want to join the research project to contribute to the search for a cure for this disease.”
- What is a typical day of a nurse?
- What resources do you use to learn more about nursing?
- What area of nursing most interests you? Why?
- Would you like to become a doctor later?
- What professional organizations do you know, and are you planning to join?
- Nursing consists of interprofessional teamwork. Tell me about a time when you worked in a very diverse team.
“I worked in the Retirement Center, and our manager initiated several wellness strategies. He created a special committee that included nurses, aides, administrators, and accountants. There were 15 of us on the team. Many patients had dietary restrictions, so we needed to update the lunch menu. We offered our ideas for possible meals and dishes from our various cultural backgrounds and agreed on the list with a nutritionist. Due to this diversity, we got important and useful insights.”
- Give an example of when you took the lead.
“I stayed on the night shift in the rehabilitation center, and one of the patients had an attack. At that time, the head nurse was on a call in the other department. I recalled the protocol and assigned tasks among the assistants. I checked the medical history and determined the medication and the dose. While one of the assistants prepared everything needed for the injection, I contacted the head nurse to explain the situation. I was leading the team for five minutes, and we managed to solve the problem.”
- Tell us about a situation when you helped to provide excellent patient education.
“I assisted one of the nurses, and together we met the parents of one girl who broke her leg. I told them about the post-discharge care and rehabilitation process, and then I asked them to repeat the information in their own words. Such a reverse learning method helped me to understand that the family got the information.”
- Describe the most challenging decision you have had to make.
“During my volunteer job in one of the hospitals, I noticed that one of the doctors shared a patient’s personal information with the pharmaceutical company representative. I knew this was unacceptable, so I met with my supervisor to discuss how to handle it. It was hard for me to be involved, but I knew I had a responsibility to do so.”
- How would you deal with an irritated patient?
“First of all, I would try to find out why the patient is angry. I will use active listening techniques and focus on their perspective. I will also ask clarifying questions if needed. This information can help me to find potential solutions to the situation. If the person is too violent, I will follow the protocols to ensure the safety of the patient and the medical staff.”
- How would you act in a fast-paced environment?
“I would make a to-do list with everything that needs to be done, prioritize it, and put the most urgent things at the top. For instance, administering medications will be on at the top, while washing a patient’s hair will go further.”
- How would you deal with a patient that requires much attention, while ensuring proper care of others?
“Delegation will help in this situation. Sometimes, you cannot succeed doing everything by yourself, so it’s important to ask for help if you feel you need it.”
- How would you persuade a patient to agree to something?
“Nurses should not persuade patients to do something. It’s better if they agree freely. However, I will explain the consequences of the decision so that a person clearly understands the potential outcome. In the case of children, the bargaining system may work. For instance, if they don’t want to take pills, I can say that they can watch cartoons or play video games afterward.”
- How would you react to negative feedback?
“My approach is to listen and analyze what people tell me. If I don’t understand something about feedback, I will clarify and try to change it. It can be hard to accept criticism, but I want to perform the best way possible, so any opinion, even critical, can help.”
- How would you help a patient who heard bad news about his/her condition?
“I will show compassion and explain all the opportunities that exist. I will also share contacts of some support groups that can provide information and help. Additionally, if the patient is alone in the hospital, I will try to find some relatives or friends and contact them.”
- What do you think about euthanasia?
- Should the physician tell the patient that they have only six months to live?
- To whom will you give a transplant liver: to 60-year-old community activist or 25-year-old drug addict?
- Should wealthy patients pay more for their treatment?
- What do you think about mandatory vaccination?
Additionally, you may be asked about your understanding of nursing duties, short-term and long-term goals, self-education, etc. Here are some examples:
When you hear an interviewer saying, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of...,” that’s a behavioral interview. In this case, you need to consider your personal experience and recall challenging situations in which you participated.
Unlike behavioral questions, situational ones aim at understanding how you would act in a hypothetical situation. In case you have no previous experience related to healthcare, it’s an opportunity for the interviewer to learn your way of thinking.
Situational questions may also include ethical dilemma questions. Sometimes, nursing school interviewers ask them to find out more about your flexibility, thoughtfulness, and reflectiveness. But the main reason is to evaluate your judgment.
Here are some examples of questions you should think about and be ready to answer:
Questions to Ask After a Nursing School Interview
Usually, interviewers like candidates who take the time to do their homework and your questions are part of it. If you can come up with 3-4 smart questions to ask at the nursing school interview, you will show your interest in learning more about the program, being accepted, and pursuing your career in this field.
Remember that the questions you ask at the end of the interview can tell many things about you. Sometimes, even as much as your answers to previous questions.
Here are some questions to ask during a school interview:
- If I am accepted, what do you, as a faculty, expect from me as a student?
- What sort of training do you offer?
- Do you have a mentorship program?
- What resources would you recommend to develop my skills and learn more about nursing?
- Do you have any online educational programs?
- What do you consider as the best advantage of this nursing school?
- When will I get feedback?
Nursing School Interview Tips
Now that you’ve learned some of the nursing school interview basics, you probably want to know some secrets that can make you more confident and help you ace your interview. These tips may sound obvious, but they really work.
- Confirm everythingMake sure to check the time, date, and place of your interview. If possible, practice getting there, so you don’t get lost on your route.
- Prepare copiesDon’t forget to bring several copies of your application and cover letter. You will probably have an interview with the nursing program director, assistant director of nursing education, nursing department chair, and some other officials.
It’s okay if some of them have already seen your cover letter. By bringing copies, you will prove your foresight and impress interviewers with your organizational skills.
- Arrive early, not on time It happens that cars break down, or traffic is heavy. If you leave your house earlier, you are more prepared for these issues. Moreover, you will have some time to think about your self-presentation and calm yourself before the interview.
- Relax and be yourselfIt can be overwhelming when you enter the room and start talking. But usually, there is one thing people forget during an interview. The person you are talking to was once in your spot. They understand how you feel. So take a deep breath, calm down, and feel the confidence in your voice.
Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, and nursing school is a great starting point if you feel like taking care of people is what you want to do for a living.
You may encounter various challenges on the way to your dream job: from choosing the school where you would like to study and interview with the selection committee to long shifts in the hospital and constant stress. But we hope that our advice will at least make the interview process easier for you.
Follow our tips, practice answering interview questions, print several copies of your application and cover letter, believe in yourself, and you will cope just fine.