How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions for Nurses

behavioral interview questions for nursesBy Erin Wallace

If you're sitting in an interview for your next nursing job, and the nursing supervisor or manager starts their questions with phrases such as “Tell me about a time when” or “Give me a specific example of," chances are you're in a behavioral interview.  

Behavioral interview questions for nurses are common; however, these types of behavioral questions can be difficult to answer.  

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Check out these sample behavioral interview questions for nurses along with answers to help you prepare — and ace — your next nursing behavioral interview. 

What are Behavioral Interview Questions for Nurses? 

Behavioral interview questions for nurses are asked to get a sense of how you will perform or behave under specific circumstances 

In general, it's best to answer these questions with real-life examples and stories from your experiences as an intern or while at a previous job. 

Many behavioral interview questions for nurses fall under these specific themes:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Problem solving
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • Responses to challenges, stress or pressure

Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions for Nurses

Some behavioral questions you may be asked include:

  • Describe a time when you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Have you ever had to inform a patient or family member of bad news? What did you say and do that was effective?
  • Tell me about a time when you weren't communicating effectively with another team member. What did you do to solve the problem?
  • How do you deal with someone who isn't satisfied with patient care?
  • How do you handle the stress of the job?
  • What do you find is the hardest part about being a nurse?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult patient and how you handled it.
  • Describe a situation when you had to overcome a communication barrier to make sure a patient understood what you wanted them to know.
  • Give me an example of a time when you were empathetic to a coworker. How did this contribute to a better work outcome?

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions for Nurses

In general, according to an article in American Nurse Today, the official journal of the American Nurses Association, you should take the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach to answering behavioral interview questions.

  • Situation: Describe the situation you were in at the time. Try to avoid combining stories or being too general. Be specific in your answer.
  • Task: Describe the goal or what you were aiming to accomplish in this situation. Again, be specific in your answer, and try not to generalize.
  • Action: Go over exactly what you did to accomplish this task. Focus on your role in the situation and not what others did. Remember to use “I” when describing your actions.
  • Result: Outline the outcomes of your actions. If it's a positive outcome, don't be afraid to take credit for your actions. If the outcome was negative, frame it in a positive light, and note what you learned from the situation. Finally, trace your answer back to the interviewer's original question to bring the focus back to the behavior.

When you keep these tips in mind for how to answer behavioral interview questions for nurses, you can help make sure you land your next job that lets you utilize your skills and expertise.

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