Nursing school applicants generally must go through an interview as part of the application and vetting process, so practicing with nursing school interview questions is essential. Whether this is a traditional one-on-one interview, a MMI Interview (Multiple Mini Interview), interviewing with a panel of experts, or any other interview type, you will likely face some tough questions.
These 100 common nursing school interview questions cover a variety of question types – personal, attitudinal, hypothetical, and policy-based. While you can never know exactly what questions you’ll get in an interview, understanding different question types – and strategies for approaching them – will help you think through your approach to any question. Below, we’ll give you some tips and expert responses to these questions, explaining the considerations behind the answers, but you should note that multiple answers would be considered acceptable. The answers here are strong because of the reasoning they employ, not just because of their content.
Here are the questions we'll cover:
“Tell me about yourself ” is likely the most common “question” interviewees face. It is quite vague, and intentionally so! This open-ended prompt can be taken in any number of different directions, and the interviewer(s) wants to see what comes to your mind when prompted with such a vague request. Everyone’s answer to this question will be completely unique, based on their own experiences, values, and priorities. However, there is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind:
It’s not a list, it’s a story.
You may be tempted to simply recite your CV or information from your application. Do NOT do this! It is, of course, absolutely fine to discuss things you’ve mentioned in your application, but you must avoid a dry recitation of your activities, scores, presentations, etc. The interviewer(s) will already have access to this information if it’s an open interview. Even if it’s a closed interview, where the interviewer(s) won’t have access to that specific information, you still shouldn’t simply run down a list of factoids or trivia about yourself. You need to take this opportunity to let your best qualities shine through by telling the story of who you are!
That said, you can’t outline your full auto-biography – there’s simply no time for the entire Story of You. While a feature-length film may be out of reach, it is acceptable to take a few minutes for “Tell me about yourself”, 3-4 minutes should be the maximum length. Any longer than that and you’ll risk losing your audience’s attention, so focus on the highlights that show your best self. This is a key reason to put a good deal of time and effort into thinking through how you’ll respond to “Tell me about yourself” – this is your chance to demonstrate for the interviewer(s) who you are at your core, and who you aspire to be as you pursue the path to becoming a nurse. But you must also do this in a concise and compelling way. You need to work with this prompt until you know you can cover the points you want to cover in 3-4 minutes (again, max), but you also don’t want your answer to sound over-rehearsed or wooden, as that may come off as inauthentic to the interviewer(s).
To compose an expert answer that is sincere, reflective, and that highlights your best qualities, you need to craft a compelling narrative, using anecdotes organized around 2-3 events, qualities, values, competencies, or priorities that you think best represent who you are at your core (and, of course, one event/story can embody multiple qualities at once - a time when you acted with compassion may also be a time that you did so in a leadership position where you engaged in conflict resolution, while maintaining the integrity of your position). In general, people love stories, and offering an answer that allows your interviewer to “see” you as a leader, educator, collaborator, compassionate caregiver, etc., will do much more for the impact of your answer than a loose string of events, benchmarks, or scores.
To understand the kinds of qualities you should consider, you should first think about the kinds of qualities typically sought in candidates for nursing programs. They generally want people who are empathetic to others, compassionate in the face of suffering, able to defend their ethical principles, attentive to detail, able to communicate complex information to non-specialists, leaders and collaborators with others, oriented to serve one’s community, advocates for their patients, etc. Think of times you've been able to act in line with such qualities, and use these as the "plot points" for your narrative.
As well, another great place to look for and reflect on such qualities is in the mission statement for the school where you’re interviewing. All institutions have a statement of mission, vision, and/or values, and demonstrating how you align with the institution’s mission, vision, and values means demonstrating that you’re a “good fit” – a key evaluative principle in interviews like this. As representatives of the institution, interviewers want to know that, when you graduate, you will act as a positive ambassador for their program, as you go out into the professional world and hang that university’s diploma on your wall. So, draw on these resources and come up with three values, qualities, etc., that you think best represents you, and which you can support with anecdotes and narratives from your own experiences.
Want our help to ace your nursing school Interview?
This question is meant to evaluate your priorities, your reasons for pursuing this profession, and the amount of mature reflection you’ve done in considering this path. It is critically important that you display intrinsic motivation to pursue this profession; that is to say, that you are genuinely motivated by the work and ideals you’ll be advancing.
Click here for our expert response.
Here's a great video on finding inspiration when preparing for an interview
Nurses often complain about long shift work hours. In your view, what are some of the negative side-effects of having nurses work prolonged periods without rest?
Questions about “negatives” like this need to be handled strategically. You must demonstrate that you have thought through some of the challenges you will face in this profession. As passionate as you may be, that doesn’t mean that each day will be easy – you will face real and difficult trials, and you need to show that you’re ready to take these on. The key is to show that you know that this is an issue, and that you’ve already implemented stress-relieving tactics that work for you.
Click here for our expert response.
If you were granted the opportunity to wake up anywhere in the world and pursue anything that your heart desires, where would you like to wake up and why? What would you like to accomplish?
Obviously, this question isn’t asking specifically about your future in nursing, and it would be easy to rattle off an answer without thinking carefully about it. Many people would instinctively say something about waking up in a beautiful location – maybe a beach or a rainforest or some other lush place – and thinking about the kinds of recreation they’d like to partake in while in such a location. However, you must remember that you’re being asked this in an interview, which means they’re asking this for specific reasons. They don't want to hear that you'd love to wake up on a beach doing nothing but sunning and sipping daiquiris all day. They’re looking for your intrinsic motivations, what you would be doing if you had full control over your options in life. You want to demonstrate that the work you’re pursuing now is something you’d be pursuing regardless of the opportunities you have – you’re pursuing it not because it is just what you want to do, but because it is part of who you are.
Click here for our expert response.
The field of nursing consists of inter-professional collaboration and teamwork. Describe a time when you worked as part of a highly diverse team.
This is a very standard question about your own experiences, where you get to share more about your own history, with emphasis on a particular quality prioritized by this field. You should be honest about your experience, and able to reflect on the values and challenges of diversity. Speak to the ways in which diverse opinions and approaches strengthen a team, and the ways in which differences of opinion are respectfully navigated in such collaborative efforts.
Click here for our expert response.
What are your views on mandatory influenza vaccinations for nurses in hospital settings?
On the surface, this appears to be a pretty basic question about policy. However, at its core, it is a question of competing values: patient safety and personal autonomy. Being able to spot such tensions in seemingly straightforward questions is very important, as it shows your familiarity with key concepts in the field. You should already be reading up on ethics and tensions in your chosen profession, as this will help you spot such things. In your answer to policy-type questions like this, you must demonstrate your understanding of both “sides” of the issue, prior to offering your own response. As well, you need to represent each “side” fairly, even though you may likely disagree with one of them. Being able to acknowledge as valid the concerns of those with whom you disagree is the height of critical thinking. This is a key example of a question where there isn't necessarily a "wrong" answer - there are valid positions on both "sides" of the question. What's important is how you respectfully engage each "side", how you defend your own rationale, and whether you can think of any creative compromises or other ways of looking at the issue.
Click here for our expert response.
“As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul, and body of our patients, their families, and ourselves.” (Maya Angelou) What does this quote mean to you?
Quote-based questions like this are quite common. It is important to note that the point of such a question isn’t to see if you know what the author “really” meant when saying it. It’s not a test of how well-read you are, so don’t panic if you’re faced with something or someone you’ve never read. Rather, questions like this are intended to see what kinds of free associations you make, what comes to mind when prompted with the words of others. Sometimes, the quotes will be related to your future profession, but they also may not be. This is just a way of seeing what values and qualities you can articulate when presented with moving or impactful words.
Click here for our expert response.
A recent report by health authorities has revealed that there are more deaths due to preventable injuries and common diseases in rural areas as compared to urban settings. In your opinion, what could be causing the observed difference?
- Follow-up Question: What if another report showed the complete opposite findings? Meaning, that those living in rural areas have less frequent deaths due to preventable injuries and common diseases compared to those living in urban areas.
This question and its follow-up have a few goals. The initial question is meant to see if you are aware of current challenges facing certain populations – in this case, those living in rural areas. Rural areas have been historically underserved, and there are current efforts underway to try to remedy this, but progress is slow. The follow-up question is meant to gauge your judgment when faced with two opposing claims. How do you handle a situation in which you’re presented with opposing sets of facts?
Click here for our expert response.
In life, we are bound to be faced with situations where we do not feel a strong sense of assurance and confidence and question our own abilities. As a nurse, you will be faced with such situations. Describe a time when you were faced with a situation that challenged your confidence and sense of assurance.
Questions about weaknesses, limitations, failures, or lack of self-assurance are very common in interviews of all kinds. Talking about these kinds of things can make us very uncomfortable, especially in a high-pressure situation, where we’re being evaluated and want to only put our best face forward. We want them to see our strengths, accomplishments, and positive qualities, not our weaknesses or failures! However, there is still a way to do this, while answering the question honestly. The first thing to do is exactly that: Be honest. We have all confronted our own limitations from time to time, and succeeding at almost anything means failing at some point – nothing every goes off completely as expected! That’s okay; you’re human, and you’re allowed to be human in an interview. What’s important is that you show how you overcame that challenge, how you re-built your sense of self-confidence, and why you’re better now for having gone through such a moment of doubt. Have a look at our blog to find out how to answer "what is your greatest weakness?".
Click here for our expert response.
You have recently begun working in the pediatrics department. You find out that the pediatrician has refused to continue to act as a child's physician unless the child’s parents agree to fully vaccinate their child, as per her recommendations. Do you think the doctor is acting reasonably? Why or why not?
This question has two fundamental issues: withholding care based on a physician’s personal convictions, and your ability to approach superiors or others in a position of authority in a delicate situation. It is important to think through a question like this diplomatically and tactfully, as any “side” you take will likely put you at odds with someone else. This is a question about autonomy, about the responsibilities of physicians when they hold different beliefs than their patients, and about careful conflict resolution when all parties are deeply invested in the outcome.
Click here for our expert response.
Here's a video summary of these challenging nursing school interview questions:
11. What does being a nurse mean to you?
12. What qualities do you believe set you apart from other applicants?
13. Describe a time when you had to help someone who was difficult and unwilling to accept help.
14. Describe a time when you had to help a colleague who was difficult and unwilling to accept your input.
15. How do you define a team?
16. What are your thoughts on drug patents?
17. Tell us about a time that you needed to choose one priority at the expense of others.
18. What would you do if your patient chooses not to disclose important information?
19. What would you do if your patient discloses important information to you, but requests you not to reveal it to the physicians?
20. Your close female friend reveals to you that she is unintentionally pregnant. What do you do?
21. Nurses often have to advocate on behalf of their patients. Describe a time when you had to do so for someone else.
22. What do you think are the 5 most difficult aspects of being a nurse?
23. For you personally, what would be the most difficult aspect of being a nurse?
24. Describe the most stressful event of your life. Why was it stressful, and how did you handle the situation?
25. Some institutions prefer selecting candidates who have connections to that region/area. What are your thoughts on this?
26. How would you handle a disagreement with a coworker?
27. Your most recent patient suffers from severe arthritis, but cannot be prescribed or have any more pain medication. What do you do?
28. If we asked a family member to describe you, what would they say? What about a friend? What about a supervisor?
29. Nurses often have a very high workload. Why do you think this is the case, what do you think are the implications of this on patient care and work culture/environment, and what policies do you believe can alleviate these issues?
30. How do you respond to people asking for medical advice outside of clinical settings?
31. Tell us about your most significant interaction with a patient.
32. What are your thoughts on physician-assisted suicide?
33. Have you ever questioned your decision to be a nurse? Why or why not?
34. Which class did you most enjoy at university/college? Why?
35. Which class did you least enjoy at university/college? Why?
36. You are a nurse in the neonatal department, and your nephew has just been admitted to the pediatric unit of your hospital. The patient files on your system are linked, and your sibling asks you to look up your nephew’s records to tell them what you think about his most recent test results, since they feel that their doctor is understating the gravity of the situation. What do you do?
37. You are a newly hired radiology nurse, and on your first day, as you are viewing an X-ray, the machine suddenly powers down. You restart it, but then hear what sounds like an electrical shortage, and cannot turn it on. What do you do?
38. If you had to choose between giving a liver transplant to an elderly individual versus a 30-year-old alcoholic, how do you choose?
39. What is the most pressing healthcare issue in your state/province and country?
40. What pressing healthcare issues do you anticipate for your state/province and country in the next decade?
41. What is your greatest personal achievement and why?
42. What is your greatest regret? Why, and what would you have changed?
43. Who is your role-model?
44. If you could change any aspect about yourself, what would it be, what would you change it to, and why?
45. You are a nurse, on vacation in a foreign country. One day in the market, an elderly woman next to you suddenly collapses and is seizing. What do you do?
46. Clara Barton, the renowned nurse and founder of the Red Cross, once said “The surest test of discipline is its absence”. What does this quote mean to you, and do you agree with it?
47. Your best friend has just been rejected from nursing school for the 2nd time. They invite you to speak with them about their future plans. What would you say?
48. How do you define success?
49. Your neighbor, who you do not know very well, has recently taken up a hobby of baking. One evening, they knock on your door, and offer you their latest batch of cookies. They urge you to try one. Upon your first bite, you realize that is not very good at all. How do you proceed?
50. What are your thoughts on recreational marijuana?
51. Describe a time when you had to be creative.
52. Describe a time when you had to organize something that was disorganized.
53. You are a nurse and your patient requires several important tests to diagnose their symptoms; however, they refuse them due to lack of insurance coverage. What do you do?
54. “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire. What are your thoughts on this quote?
55. What is your opinion on a physician strongly recommending against parents’ decision to pursue medically futile care for their comatose child?
56. Tell me about a time when you failed as a group member or leader.
57. Tell me about a time when you succeeded as a group member or leader.
58. What are your hobbies?
59. Are you drawn to any particular area of medicine? If so, what field and why? If not, why?
60. Tell me about a time when you experienced barriers to communication. How did you deal with that, and what was the outcome?
61. Tell me about a time when you were disappointed in your own performance.
62. Tell me about a time when someone else was disappointed in your performance.
63. What is your opinion on universal healthcare?
64. What is the hardest lesson that you have had to learn?
65. What 5 qualities do you think a good nurse should have?
66. How would you describe a biological topic (eg: DNA replication) to a 5-year-old?
67. Describe a time when you helped someone make an important decision.
68. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working on a team?
69. You are a nurse who has just learned that a recently discharged patient of yours is now back in the hospital. You learn that this occurred due to the patient not adhering to their care instructions. What would you do?
70. If you had to describe yourself with 5 adjectives, what would they be, and why?
71. Suppose you live in a future where sequencing technology is widely available. What are your thoughts on the implementation of policies that require all adults to receive whole-genome sequencing?
72. What do you foresee as the most challenging aspect of nursing school?
73. What will you do if you are not accepted?
74. Medicine is ever-evolving. How do you stay informed?
75. As an aspiring nurse, are you prepared for inevitably losing patients? If yes, why, and if not, how will you prepare yourself?
76. If you had to choose between job security and career advancement opportunities, which would you choose and why?
77. What are 2 good and 2 bad habits that you have?
78. As a nurse, would you ever strike?
79. Tell us about a time when you had to motivate someone else. Were you successful? Why or why not?
80. Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond to complete a task. Why did you do it, and was it worthwhile?
81. What is your approach to speaking with a shy person?
82. Why do you believe diversity is important? Include personal examples if you have them.
83. What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?
84. Tell us about a time when you were overwhelmed by responsibilities.
85. How do you perform under pressure?
86. Describe a time when you were unprepared for a situation/event. What happened, and what did you learn from that experience?
87. Describe a time when you became aware of a potential problem and resolved it before it became an issue.
88. Your significant other has fallen ill, and you take a leave of absence from work to care for them. Your employer appeared understanding when you spoke in person, but you have now just received an email from them urgently reminding you of a project’s upcoming deadline. What do you do?
89. How do you define “integrity”?
90. You are walking down the street on a warm, summer afternoon when a car quickly pulls up next to you, parks curbside, and a woman quickly leaves the car with a package and enters a building. You glance into the car and notice that she has left a child of about 3-5 years old in the passenger seat. The windows are all closed. What do you do?
Follow up question: What if this was instead a cool, autumn evening?
91. If you could transport yourself to any moment in time, past or future, and observe a scene without any interaction, would you do it, and if so, what would you choose to observe?
92. What does health literacy mean to you, and what responsibility do you see nurses having in promoting it?
93. You are a nurse whose patient has been complaining about their pain. They state “Don’t give me any more of the oral meds – I need IVP because it works faster and helps more”. How do you respond?
94. When put into new work environments, what steps do you take to become comfortable and feel like you know what you are doing?
95. With the advent of the pandemic, remote services such as telehealth and phone hotlines have experienced increase use. What is your opinion of individuals calling in for medical advice, and providers giving such advice without being able to see the individual?
96. According to a 2019 “American Nurse Today” survey, 59% of nurses report being verbally assaulted by a patient and 23% report being physically assaulted by a patient. These numbers are increased from 2018 statistics of 55% and 20%, respectively. One opinion is that the emphasis on patient satisfaction often leaves nurses feeling unempowered to take action. What are your thoughts on this, and what do you think can be done to reduce these statistics?
97. What are 3 benefits and 3 disadvantages to electronic health records?
98. How do you balance hopefulness with realism? How would help someone else balance the two?
99. Your sibling has decided to convert to solely relying on alternative medicine for their newborn, agreeing to vaccinations, but refusing any other forms of medication. Their baby has recently gotten an ear infection, and their condition is not improving. In fact, you suspect it may even be getting worse. What do you do?
100. How do you maintain good, mental health?
In an interview, the admissions committee gets a chance to understand who you are as a person – what your strengths and other assets are, what values you maintain, whether you’re a mature professional, how effective a leader or communicator you are, and so on. As such, the questions asked at such interviews are often very challenging; they are meant to probe your sense of ethics, your priorities, and your ability to adapt and persevere in the face of adversity. Nursing school interview questions can be related to the field of nursing, in particular, often via hypothetical scenarios, though they will also explore more general aspects of your personality – your successes, weaknesses, and goals. If you’ve made it to the interview stage, then you are likely one of the stand-out candidates, and this is your chance to demonstrate why you have what it takes to succeed in this program and this profession.
1. What type of interview can I expect?
This will totally depend on the schools to which you're applying. You could encounter a traditional one-on-one interview, a panel interview, a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), or even a video interview. It's also important to note that some programs that may not conduct an interview. Instead, they may ask for written answers to a variety of questions that you would normally expect during an interview. If you do have an MMI, check out our MMI questions blog to practice with sample questions.
2. Do I really need to prepare for my interview in advance?
Absolutely! You have likely prepared for tests and presentations during your studies so preparing for your interview is no different. Some schools place 100% of your applicant score on your interview performance, so it is not a good strategy to simply “wing it”. You need to ensure you practice with sample questions, participate in real-life mock interviews, and receive personalized feedback on your responses to ensure you are showcasing the very best version of yourself.
3. Other than practicing, what else should I do in the weeks before my interview?
If you haven't already done so, one of the most important things to do before your interview is to research the schools to which you're applying. You want to familiarize yourself with the school's mission statement and core values so you can discuss how your skills, interests and experiences match the goals of their institution. Remember, it's your responsibility to prove to admissions committees that you are not only suited for a career in nursing but that you're also well suited to attend their school. In addition to researching the school, you want to ensure that you are staying up to date on healthcare- related news and that you have a good understanding of both the challenges and hot topics in your field. You will most likely encounter a policy type question in your interview, so you need to have enough knowledge on the subject to present both sides fairly and maturely before introducing your own opinion on a specific topic.
4. What should I do at the very start of my interview?
First impressions are everything, so your very first move should be to introduce yourself to the interviewers. Keep in mind that from the moment you walk into the interview room, you're being assessed. So it's important that you are as professional and courteous as possible, even during an MMI where the interviewers may not interact with you a lot. If you're participating in an MMI, take the time to extend a proper introduction at the beginning of each station by stating your name and getting the interviewer’s name. At the end of the interview or station, ensure you take the time to thank your interviews for the opportunity and if you can remember, include their name here as well.
5. How can I manage stress levels right before my interview?
Feeling nervous before a high-stakes interview is perfectly normal so it's a good idea to accept this and have a few strategies to combat the stress. Preparing for your interview beforehand is obviously one of the best strategies, as you will have an approach for answering every question you are asked, no matter the type. Aside from preparations, ensure you are well-rested and get enough sleep the night before your interview. Right before your interview begins, ensure you take a couple of sips of water so your throat doesn’t feel dry. When you’re right outside the interview room, try taking a few deep breaths in and out to calm your nerves. Lastly, you can close your eyes and envision a calming scene, like a beach or your favorite comfy spot in your house, to further set your mind at ease.
6. What if I'm asked a question about a poor grade?
In an open-book interview, where your interviewers have access to your application materials, it's very possible that you will be asked a question regarding any shortcomings in your academic record. This is perfectly normal, and the best strategy is to be honest. Explain the situation surrounding your poor grade and explain what you learned from the situation and what strategies you have adopted to address this issue. For example, perhaps you were juggling too many extracurriculars at once leading you to devote too much time into these activities instead of your coursework. Moving forward, you could have learned how to manage your time better and prioritize your studies by saying no to participating in activities that were not overly meaningful to you. What's important is that you own the situation and don't play the victim. Admission committees are interested in mature applicants that take ownership of their actions and will use these experiences as a way to be better and do better in the future.
Would you like us to help you ace your nursing school interview?
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
Image credit: YJ-Lee, via the Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode