When you are working on your upcoming interview for nursing, you’ll want to check out nursing conflict scenario examples. Nursing interviews require that you prepare for every possibility. There are many methods of preparation – like nursing guides, , and , which we cannot recommend enough – but looking over example answers to and scenarios are a big help.
To that end, in this article, we provide several nursing conflict scenarios, sample answers, and a breakdown of why the answers work the way they do to help you prepare for this type of question in your interview.
It’s important to remember that nursing school interviews tend to follow a traditional model, with similar elements across schools. The scenario-based question is part of that model, and as a nursing hopeful, you should become familiar with and train for the following priorities and strategies when participating in any nursing interview process.
Want to learn expert responses to nursing school interview questions? Check out this video:
Identify Who Is At Risk
Every answer should keep in mind the primary consideration of any nurse: care. Care is most often directed toward patients but must also be applied with patients’ families, colleagues, and indeed, anyone a nurse comes into contact with over the course of the day.
You must use a clear rubric to know who your primary concern is in any situation.
This quick hierarchy will help you in your answers:
- Who is the most at-risk party? A scenario might contain any number of at-risk persons, but one of them will usually stand out as the person who is most at risk. As the person who stands to lose the most, they are your primary concern.
- Your patients, of course, are a high priority. While they might not be the most at risk in a scenario, you must always, always keep your patients’ needs in mind. They are the reason for your position in the hospital or care facility, after all.
- Other persons should be stacked based on their levels of risk, but colleagues should not be forgotten. You need to remain in a good, professional working relationship with these people, and you should be mindful of them. It can be easy to forget about colleagues while tending to the needs of patients and their families, but you should never forget that your coworkers are people, too, and deserve your care and consideration.
Why do you need to identify the most at-risk person? Simply put, this lets you focus your answer. You will have a minute or two to look over a scenario and begin to prioritize your care and make decisions on how you will answer and handle the given situation. In that time, it helps to have a kind of North Star that you can aim for. Keeping the most at-risk person in mind is how you do this. Once you have that key navigational point, you can chart your way through your answer.
Maintain Your Ethical Standards
Of course, another major element of your answer that you must consider involves the ethical and legal obligations that you have as a member of a health care team.
- Make sure you know what is legally required of a nurse. This will take time, and it’s unlikely you can memorize every single rule or statute – you’re a nurse, not a lawyer – but you should still be aware of some of the more common legal requirements that hospitals have regarding patients and health care.
- Also be aware of your ethical and moral responsibilities. While there might be debate over the philosophy of ethics, you should still try to act as ethically as possible and be able to justify your decisions. It’s best to err on the side of compassion and care, which will yield optimal outcomes in most scenarios.
These two elements of your answer – morals and ethics – will be particularly necessary while answering conflict scenarios, given the potentially antagonistic and volatile nature of many of these questions.
Because you don’t know which questions you might get in an interview, strategies for how to answer are essential, along with a broad base of knowledge. This will enable you to answer any question.
However, certain questions require a unique approach, and conflict scenarios are no exception. Personal stories work for the “” question or if you’re answering “?” and your actual experiences can also be used to illustrate how you manage conflict scenarios in nursing or other areas of your life. A real event is much more indicative of how you would react in the moment and will come across as authentic to interviewers because you will remember and be able to convey the details of the scenario accurately.
Each answer must address the primary concern in the given scenario. If you were asked a question about how to bake a pie and you spent your entire answer talking about different flavors and dietary restrictions, your answer didn’t address the actual concern of the question. Likewise, in any scenario, there will be a direct conflict that needs solving. Make that your main goal and apply ethics and the most-at-risk mechanism to craft your answer.
When answering, always describe your rationale for acting the way that you do. For instance, if you were given a scenario in which you had to greet guests, say that you would open the door because this is courteous, not just that you would open the door.
You don’t need to describe every detail, but you should provide enough information to enable your interviewer to picture what you are accomplishing. It is one thing to say, “I would talk to my coworker about their conduct” but far better to say, “I would have a conversation with my coworker, making sure to talk to them alone first to avoid embarrassing them. If they denied engaging in bad behavior, only then would I involve a manager.”
Want to learn more nursing school interview questions? Check this infographic:
Scenario No.1: Inappropriate Patient
“You have a patient who is flirting with you. You ask them to stop, but they persist. What actions should you take in this situation?”
Who is the vulnerable person?
We really want to impress on you the importance of keeping the vulnerable person in mind while answering questions.
In this scenario, the most vulnerable person is the patient. Even though they are making advances toward you, they are still the person who your actions can hurt in a professional and legal sense; they have come to the hospital for care, so they are in a position of vulnerability.
However, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your own wellbeing or safety. Remember to include yourself as a potentially harmed person here.
It is necessary that I remove myself from this situation before any escalation occurs. So, to start with, I would ask for assistance from another member of the nursing team – so that I am not alone to deal with a potentially problematic situation – but also to ensure that my patient does not suffer or receive lesser treatment.
After ensuring continuity of care, I would consider who else might help me communicate more clearly to this person that I am not comfortable with their flirtation. I would probably ask another member of the health care team to accompany the patient and myself. This would ensure that, while firmly stating my professional position and reaffirming my disinterest in their advances, I could minimize the risk of hurting the patient’s feelings. The witness and mediator from the health care team could make sure that everybody is on the same page and that no one’s boundaries are crossed.
My report would note all actions taken.
If the flirtation continued, I would have to speak directly with hospital administration and management to arrive at a more permanent and effective solution and to ensure the care and safety of both my patient and myself.
Scenario No.2: Abusive Coworker
“You notice a coworker is speaking with a patient’s family member in an aggressive manner. How would you handle this situation?”
Who is the vulnerable person?
The patient’s family member is the most vulnerable person here, but don’t forget that the patient will be affected by any aggression or confrontation as well, even if only indirectly. Finally, the hospital’s reputation is also on the line, and while it can be easy to think of hospitals as faceless entities, you still need to remember your responsibility to your employer and your health care team.
The very first thing I would do is approach the conversation and begin to mediate. Just stepping in and saying, “Sorry to interrupt, but I can hear that this conversation is getting very intense. I understand this is a very difficult time right now, so I would like to help work through this,” or something along those lines. Of course, I would be open to the possibility that neither my coworker nor the patient’s family member considered there to be a problem – so if I was the only one concerned with the aggressive tone, then it might only be a problem of perception. If that was the case, I would have a one-on-one conversation with my coworker about the potential optics of such a tone, or potential misunderstandings that could ensue.
If the problem was genuine, however, I would try to work the problem out and calm both the family member and my coworker down. I would then wait for a good opportunity to talk privately with my coworker about what had happened and about how they felt. I would want to be careful not to be accusatory – maybe my coworker is going through a hard time themselves, so I don’t want to be judgmental, of course. However, I would state that I thought their conduct was inappropriate and try to find out the reason why. If it was their temper flaring up, I might recommend that they seek help with a qualified therapist. If it was about something in their personal life, I would either try to help or get them help so that their stress wasn’t spilling over into their work.
I would include this incident in my report, and I would follow up with my coworker to make sure that this issue did not become an ongoing or recurring problem.
Scenario No.3: Conflict Within Health Care Team
“Your patient’s physiotherapist believes that the patient is recovering well, physically, and an increase in physiotherapy will be beneficial. The patient’s physician disagrees, thinking that more bed rest is necessary. The debate is becoming heated. Should you step in, and if so, how should you proceed?”
Who is the vulnerable person?
In this case, your patient is still potentially the most vulnerable person. While your coworkers’ vulnerabilities are part of the equation, the patient is the one who will or will not be receiving best care.
I would ask that, as a health care team, we put together a kind of “pitch” for each treatment path and offer these in a neutral way to the patient. We would also come up with a timeframe for when we should see results, as well as establish some good indicators of what progress will look like. We would tell the patient the pros and cons for increasing physiotherapy or for more bed rest. I would offer to present the options to the patient so that they would be presented neutrally. We respect the patient’s fully informed decision and embark on that care strategy. If they exhibit progress according to our rubric, we continue. If we see any warning signs or stagnation, we would potentially present the options to the patient again.
Scenario No.4: Angry Family Member
“The daughter of a patient comes to you and, in an angry tone, begins accusing you and the health care team of improper treatment of her father. She claims that one of the other staff members was verbally abusive to her father and that he is receiving inadequate treatment. How do you respond and what actions should you take next?”
Who is the vulnerable person?
If you’re being shouted at, you should absolutely include yourself in the list. Whether the anger is warranted or not, it should not be directed at you without reason, and you should be wary of inappropriately expressed anger – particularly if the family member is physically intimidating or larger than you are.
However, at bedrock, the most vulnerable person is the patient. Your main concern should be the potentially improper treatment, which could result in catastrophe for your patient.
Before beginning the conversation, I would ensure that I am physically safe to avoid opening myself up to potentially aggressive reactions from either party.
I would then check on the patient’s condition to make sure that they are not in any immediate danger and that they are currently receiving the necessary care for their condition, according to the attending physician, who I can contact, if necessary, to verify the prescribed treatment and care.
Next, I would tell the family member that if there is anything wrong, I will take immediate steps to rectify the problem. I would start by asking this person to confirm with me their understanding of the treatments and to explain the issues they are having. I would listen closely to any allegations of wrongdoing or improper care, make a note of it, and check this information against hospital procedures and policies.
Finally, I would speak with the patient themselves to corroborate their family member’s allegations. I would get detail on what was done, how the staff member was being verbally abusive, and anything else that might have happened. I would take this information and have a one-on-one conversation with the staff member to find out what happened from their perspective.
If the stories matched up, I would report the staff member for the appropriate disciplinary action and update the patient and their family about what had happened and how it was being addressed.
However, if there was a discrepancy between the stories, I would either mediate a discussion to clear up what happened, or find an appropriate mediator to consult the family member, the patient, and the staff member to find a solution.
Additional Nursing Conflict Scenarios for Practice
Use these additional conflict scenarios to practice your own answers in preparation for your interview or mock interview.
- “While doing your rounds, you notice a patient’s physician is flirting both verbally and physically with the patient. The flirtation appears to be mutual. What should you do?”
- “You do not think that a current course of treatment is appropriate, but you know that the attending physician can be stubborn and arrogant, especially when spoken to about treatments by other staff members. Should you approach this person with your concerns, and if so, how?”
- “Your coworker keeps stealing your lunch. While you have not caught them red-handed, you do know it was them. How do you respond?”
- “You have a coworker with bad personal hygiene habits. Do you confront them? How?”
You now have several excellent, expertly written scenarios for your perusal to help you develop your own answers in your nursing interview. For additional practice, you should see whether you can come up with different answers that would be equally satisfying to an interviewer. You should also make sure to cover other topics, like and . You need to be well prepared for anything in your interview.
Practice will serve you well, so your best next step is to set up a mock interview to hone your skills. A mock interview, recommended by programs, will mimic actual interview conditions and thus prepare you for your own interview like nothing else – if enacted by professionals, of course!
1. How long do I have to answer?
Verbal answers should be between 2 and 3 minutes, although you may be given more time. Make sure your answers are thorough and succinct, in any case.
2. What is an MMI?
A is a system of screening candidates in which they are presented with scenarios or other kinds of “stations” and move from station to station, taking a few minutes at each to answer questions or enact situations as a kind of test.
3. How many nursing conflict scenarios will I need to answer?
That really depends on the interviewer. You might not need to answer any, or you might encounter a half dozen. Being prepared means being ready for every kind of question, whether or not they come up.
4. Who can conduct a mock interview?
Professionals are the only way to go when engaging in this form of prep based on the proven model. Friends and colleagues might mean well, but they won’t run scenarios or give feedback nearly as efficiently or effectively as a pro.
5. Do I have to memorize my answers?
Under no circumstances should you memorize your answers. If you do, you run the risk of sounding robotic and being locked into certain answers. What happens if a different question comes up? Study material and technique, not specific words.
6. Do I wear scrubs to a nursing interview?
No. Instead, dress in business-casual clothing, which will present you as professional but leave room for comfort and freedom of movement.
7. What if there are two at-risk parties?
One is almost always more “at risk” than the other, but if you really cannot decide between the two, you will have to find an answer that cares for both persons equally. You can also default to prioritizing patient wellbeing over that of family members or your own colleagues, neither of whom are your direct responsibility; remember the hierarchy of risk we presented earlier.
8. If these are ethical scenarios, are there any wrong answers?
Yes, there are wrong answers: those that would be considered harmful or problematic to the persons in the scenario. If you ruined a professional relationship, acted rashly, or failed to act legally or ethically – those would all be wrong answers.
Philosophically speaking, it can be difficult to know what “right” and “wrong” are, but if you translate those terms into “harmless/healing” and “harm-causing,” you should find your way through most scenarios.