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Your Clinical Rotation Is Your Interview: Make the Most of It

“Without the support of certain instructors … I would not have pushed myself to grasp the concepts and pass my boards on the first attempt. Once I passed my boards, it was less than one month after that I landed my first Respiratory Therapist job where I am currently working with so much joy every day.”


Marcus Streator
Respiratory Therapy graduate
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“I decided to go to school because I was tired of working dead-end jobs. … When I found out I was pregnant, I realized that I needed a better life for me, for my child, for my husband, and just to better myself.”


Trenisha Jones
Dental Assistant Graduate

Your nursing interview is a critical turning point where you finally transition from your clinicals and taking your licensure exam, to a full-fledged nursing career. You can take several steps to prepare yourself for an interview (1), such as researching the facility you're interviewing at, making copies of your nursing license and board scores, and carefully selecting professional attire. However, the most significant prep work for your interview is already complete. Your hours in nursing clinicals were all getting you ready for this moment. In terms of clinical rotation, interview preparation begins with your on-the-job experience.

As you review some common questions for interview purposes, you'll see that your clinical rotation provides nearly all the answers you need to succeed.

Nursing Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Interviewing for your first nursing job can be intimidating, but a little practice will go a long way toward preparing you for this meeting. Consider the following common questions and how your clinical rotation has already prepared you to answer them.

What made you choose a career in nursing?

Think about the factors that sparked your initial interest in nursing and compare them to the experience that you had in your clinical rotation. Perhaps you chose this career out of a desire to help people and, through your rotation, realized that the experience is as satisfying as you imagined. You may also want to discuss ways that nursing is not what you expected. Perhaps you joined this line of work for career stability but now get your greatest satisfaction from seeing your work's results.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse?

Use the feedback you received during clinicals to support your answer here. Rather than relying solely on your self-assessment, give specific examples of areas where you were praised by your instructor as well as those where you received extra feedback to help you improve.

How did your clinical rotations prepare you for a career in nursing?

Highlight clinical experiences that gave you insights you couldn't have obtained through classwork. For example, you have the opportunity to work on your bedside manner and practice communicating with patients and their families in your clinical rotation, which is invaluable to your future nursing career.

Why do you want to work in this facility?

If you're interviewing at the same location where you completed your clinicals, you can give specific examples of features that you enjoy. If you're interviewing elsewhere, compare and contrast the two sites. Research the facility ahead of time to help you specify how it is favorably similar to the location where you completed your rotation and how it differs positively for you.

What made you choose this area of nursing?

Discuss some of your experiences in different areas of nursing during your clinical rotation. Explain what you enjoyed most about this area with clear examples demonstrating how you're well-suited to the type of nursing position you seek.

How do you keep up with advancements in the nursing profession?

Nursing school is only the beginning of your medical education. Consider the resources that you turned to most during your nursing clinicals. Explain how you will continue to use these and other similar methods to keep up with changes in nursing. These resources may include nursing publications, ongoing coursework, nursing blogs, or industry conferences.

You might discuss both useful resources and those that you've found less useful. It's helpful to demonstrate that you can easily distinguish between reliable sources of information and those that aren't the best use of your time. You may be able to impress your potential employer with your ability to find insightful studies or other sources of cutting-edge information in the medical field.

How do you handle difficult patients?

Consider the most challenging patient situations that you faced during your clinical rotation and prepare one or two for discussion in your interview. Your interviewer is looking for evidence that you can remain calm and collected in the face of stress. Discuss situations where you successfully deescalated the problem and helped the patient reach a positive outcome.

If you encountered a situation with a less-than-satisfactory outcome, it's OK to mention this as long as you accompany it with the lessons you learned which will improve your performance in the future. Your interviewer understands that no one is perfect. The most crucial factor is whether you can recognize and learn from your mistakes.

How do you deal with difficult co-workers?

The stresses of the medical field can create tense situations between co-workers. You must demonstrate strong communication and conflict resolution skills. If you can, provide an example of a conflict that you encountered with another nurse. Describe how you resolved the issue and what you would do to prevent these situations where possible. For example, you might say, "When I encounter friction with another nurse, I look for a private moment when I can address the issue. I'm very open to feedback and encourage others to let me know how I can improve."

How do you handle the stresses of working as a nurse?

Nursing is a stressful career. It's essential to have strategies in place to help you deal with these stressors. Hopefully, you've already developed some successful ways to handle the tension of the job. Discuss what you did during your clinical rotations to keep stress in check, such as yoga, meditation, or leaning on your supportive group of friends.

Have you had to deal with patients or families who were unhappy with their care?

As a nurse, you need to communicate with patients and their families. Sometimes, it's more challenging to handle a patient's family than manage the patient. Refer to specific examples of conflict resolution with your previous patients' families in your rotations. Discuss both how you handled the situation and what you might have done better. Emphasize how your communication skills serve you well in this area.

What would you do if your shift replacement did not arrive as expected?

With this question, your interviewer is trying to determine whether you can remain calm and professional in the face of unexpected situations. You want to let your interviewer know that you can go the extra mile and prioritize your patients over your personal time when necessary. If possible, give an example of a situation when you put in extra hours to help out when needed.

What would you do if you discovered that you made an error with a patient's medication?

Mistakes can happen to anyone, and a nurse needs to know how to handle these situations openly and honestly. A patient's health and well-being can suffer if you're unwilling to admit to an error. Refer to the procedures in place where you did your clinical rotation when answering this question.

Many facilities have their procedures for reporting errors. You should respond that you would follow the proper reporting procedures at the facility and follow this protocol to explain how your facility handled errors in your rotation. This strategy demonstrates that you're prepared to handle mistakes responsibly and willing to admit that they can occur.

Questions to Ask at an Interview

After questioning you, many interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them. Interviews can go both ways, and it's essential to use this opportunity to learn more about the position and determine whether it's the right fit. Thinking back on your clinical rotation, you can tailor these questions to help you identify whether the job offers what you seek.

What is your nurse-to-patient ratio?

Understanding a facility's nurse-to-patient ratio will give you a good benchmark to compare this job opportunity to the workload in your clinical rotation. If there are significantly more patients to each nurse here, you need to consider whether you're prepared to handle the increase in your responsibilities.

How long have most of your nurses been on the unit?

The facility's nurses' tenure will give you a good idea about what the culture is like for staff. If the facility has a high turnover rate and nurses don't stay on staff for long, it's worth looking into why. If many of these nurses left to pursue better career opportunities, it could indicate that this facility offers good learning opportunities and prepares its nurses for future growth and success.

Do you have a mentorship program in your unit?

A mentorship program is an excellent asset for a new nurse who is just getting out of a clinical rotation. If you find a facility with a strong mentorship program, you should put this location near the top of your list for your first nursing job because it will give you the support you need most in your early years of nursing.

How much autonomy do nurses have with patient care here?

Consider your personal preferences and look for a facility that offers the level of autonomy you desire. If you're self-motivated and prefer to work independently, you will want an employer that encourages this independence. However, if you're more comfortable in a highly structured setting, you'll want to seek jobs that have detailed processes and procedures in place at every level of care.

How do you provide feedback to your employees?

Frequent feedback is valuable, especially in the early years of your career. It's essential to know how you'll receive this feedback. A facility that offers more frequent ongoing feedback may be a better fit at this point in your career than a job that only provides annual reviews.

How do you maintain accountability for your staff?

Asking this question shows that you value accountability in your career, even if it means admitting your own mistakes or shortcomings. Professional accountability holds professionals responsible for their actions and helps create a safe and stable work environment. You might mention how your workplace maintained personal accountability during your clinical rotation and how it was beneficial.

What policies or programs are in place to encourage self-care for nurses?

Self-care is crucial for those in the nursing program. Asking this question will demonstrate that you value self-care and realize how essential it is to your success as a nurse. The best work locations emphasize and support self-care with features such as whole foods in the cafeteria, mindfulness classes for staff members, and access to mental health care resources.

Suppose the facility doesn't offer any special programs for self-care. You might cite some examples of hospitals that have successfully provided these types of features to their staff, such as the Wellness Room (2) available at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens.

What is the process here for nurses to address quality improvement?

Quality improvement is something that all staff members can contribute to achieving. Asking this question shows that you're interested in becoming an active part of maintaining and improving the quality of care at your future workplace. As a potential employee, you want to look for facilities where you get your concerns addressed. You might compare the facility where you're interviewing to your experiences in your clinical rotation, whether you're looking for something similar or a situation that's more flexible and open to suggestions.

Why did the last person in this position leave?

Understanding why previous nurses have left the facility will give you a good idea about the workplace environment. In your clinicals, you may have seen some common workplace problems that can cause nurses to leave. Ideally, you'll find an open position where a previous nurse retired after a long career or chose to move up to a more advanced position.

If you're interested in a career in nursing, Concorde can get you on the right path. You can obtain an associate degree in nursing in as little as 21 months and make your way into your first nursing interview in less than two years. Get started now!

Footnotes

  1. "Acing the Nursing Interview," Big Interview, https://biginterview.com/nursing-interview/
  2. "NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens Opens New Wellness Room for Employees," NYC Health + Hospitals, https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/pressrelease/nyc-health-hospitals-queens-opens-new-wellness-room-for-employees/
Consulted Resources
  1. "Nursing Interview Questions to Ask Potential Employers," Monster, https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/nursing-interview-questions-to-ask-employers
  2. "Questions to Ask Your Nursing Interviewer," Trusted, https://www.trustedhealth.com/blog/questions-ask-your-nursing-interviewer
  3. "19 Nursing Interview Questions and Answers to Help You Prepare," Indeed, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/nursing-interview-questions-for-grads
  4. "The Ultimate Guide to New Grad Nurse Interview Questions," MAS Medical Staffing, https://www.masmedicalstaffing.com/2017/09/05/new-grad-nurse-interview-questions/
  5. "How to Prepare for Your First Job Interview," Nursing Times, https://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/infection-control/how-to-prepare-for-your-first-job-interview-13-09-2013/
  6. "Image", flazingo_photos, https://www.flickr.com/photos/124247024@N07/13903385550/sizes/m/
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