Researching the Company
Study the hospital and the department before your interview. Read as much as you can on their website. Know their values, mission, trauma level, service area, patient population, doctors, services, reviews, and anything else you can gather.
By researching the organization, you’ll learn keywords to use during the interview to show how your skills and values match theirs.
Try to learn about the hiring manager before the interview. Ask the recruiter for the name of the lead interviewer. If you work in the same hospital, try to meet them ahead of time. You may find the individual(s) on the hospital website, in online news articles, or on LinkedIn, a great place to network.
Review the job description well. It gives clues into the department’s values, expectations and topics the interviewers might ask about. Knowing this will help you prepare more keywords and example stories for your answers.
This curiosity will also help you prepare questions to ask the interviewers. Questions show you are interested in knowing them and are insightful about the unit’s complexities.
Just like practicing your nursing skills, rehearsing an interview will boost your confidence and relax your nerves.
Practice answering questions out loud. Speaking to your mirror might feel odd, but it revealsyour tone and energy. Recording or videoing yourself does the trick as well.
Consider asking a friend, coworker, or nursing instructor to hold a mock interview with you. Answering questions under pressure will prepare you for the real thing.
Lastly, envision your success often before the meeting. Be detailed as you imagine a successful interview.
[More: Sign up with Incredible Health to get free interview coaching]
General Interview Questions
To get to know you, interviewers will likely ask general nursing questions first. More specific questions will follow to see whether you fit well into their department.
Answer general questions in a way that relates to emergency nursing. If you’ve never worked in an ER, show off skills relevant to the unit.
Your ER interviewer looks for nurses who stay calm, focused, and task-oriented in the face of trauma and critical situations. They want flexible nurses with clear and caring communication skills, quick decision-making talents, and good technical skills.
Here are some general questions you may be asked:
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- Tell me a time when you went above and beyond to help a patient or team member.
- What methods do you use to manage your time and tasks at work (or during clinicals)?
- *How do you handle your emotions at work with difficult coworkers, patients, or family members? *Check out our emotional labor piece for more on this key workplace skill.
- Where would you like to be professionally in 5 years?
For detailed advice on general interview questions, be sure to read 20+ Nursing Interview Questions, Answers and Tips.
- Why do you want to work in this emergency department?
Sample answer: This is where your prior research on the department will help. Rather than use this time to talk only about yourself, highlight the things you love about their department.
- Describe your communication style with doctors and team members, and tell us how you handle team conflict.
Sample answer: Clear communication is an ER survival skill for both the team and the patients. Miscommunication in pressured situations is not an option. Tell a story showing how you confidently and professionally communicate with your coworkers.
Interviewers may give you a scenario-type question to ask how you’d correct a doctor or clear up miscommunication. They want nurses who are both bold and respectful.
This could be a good time to ask what MD standing orders the unit has for nurses. This gives you insight into the teamwork and efficiency of the unit.
- Describe a clinical situation where you were under a lot of pressure. How did you deal with it? What methods worked well for you?
Sample answer: Nursing is stressful. Hiring teams want to know you have strategies to deal with it. Discuss specific ways you handle stress during work and outside of work. Talk about how you and your team help each other handle work pressure and trauma.
This is a great time to ask how the hiring unit supports their staff’s mental and physical health.
- Tell me about a time you dealt with a critical patient. What did you learn? How would you have handled it differently?
Sample answer: There are different ways to ask nurses about their skills and ability to manage critical moments. Be ready for any form of this question by writing down stories of unstable patients and how they shaped your critical thinking and technical skills.
- Tell me about a time you noticed a change in a patient’s condition and how you intervened?
Sample answer: A vital nursing skill is keeping an eye on patients’ conditions during a busy shift. Tell a story proving your nursing intuition, assessment skills, and ability to act quickly and decisively.
- How would you manage these 4 patients under your care: one who visited the emergency department for chest pain, one with sepsis symptoms, one in a mental health crisis, and one with minor cold symptoms?
Sample answer: Always be ready for scenario questions during your interview. Your interviewers are looking for how you make quick decisions and triage patients. This gives them insight into your clinical knowledge and critical thinking skills.
Scenario questions are also a good time to include keywords like task prioritization, patient safety, delegation and focused assessment.
If you just finished nursing school, it’s okay to say something like, “I can’t wait to learn more from your team about how you manage care for complex patient loads. During clinicals, I had a similar scenario that taught me a lot….” Discuss a story of your toughest patient load, how you prioritized care based on the patients’ disease processes and conditions, what you did well and what you learned.
Keep in mind the interviewers know you are likely nervous and might miss something. Thankfully, perfection is not the goal. If you keep a confident and calm demeanor, your mind is more likely to think clearly to answer the best you can.
- Tell us a story of how you handled a difficult patient.
Sample answer: ER patients can be difficult. They are scared, anxious, painful, or altered, and maybe all four at the same time.
Pick a story showing your ability to de-escalate a situation with a dementia, psychiatric or angry patient. Your goal is to show that you calmly helped solve a patient’s problem, eased their frustrations, and kept everyone safe.
Be sure to highlight any de-escalation and patient safety training and certifications.
Unusual Questions and Situations
It can be nerve-wracking when an interviewer asks an unusual question.
Do your best to keep a calm manner so you can think about the question and their reason for asking it. Try to understand what they are looking for to target your answer. It’s okay to ask the interviewing team to explain their question or give an example.
Also, be honest about your skills and knowledge. If this is an area of weakness, talk about what you have done or plan to do to improve.
After you give an answer, ask what they would do in the same situation. This shows your ability to learn and grow.
In rare cases, an emergency department might run you through a simulation. During initial contact with the recruiter, ask if there will be a skills simulation.
If so, ask when it will occur and for any specific details or advice they can give you ahead of time. If a simulation is planned, ask if you should wear scrubs instead of professional clothing.
It’s nearly impossible not to feel nervous about a simulation. Some helpful steps to guide you through it are:
- Tell yourself you’re more excited than nervous. This helps your brain reframe the situation to be less afraid.
- Next, be confident in the skills you do have and do them with excellence.
- Lastly, be honest and ask a team member for help if you do not know what to do. Or delegate the task to another team member if appropriate. This will show your desire to learn, ability to take direction, leadership skills and willingness to ask for help rather than injure a patient.
Questions to Ask Your Interviewers
Hiring managers will tell you they are impressed when a candidate asks good questions. It shows your engagement, curiosity and knowledge.
Veteran nurses suggest you ask questions like these:
- How many patients does the unit see per day and night shift?
- What is your patient population like?
- How many technicians do you have?
- What is your patient door-to-bed time?
- What is your patient-to-nurse ratio? Are you fully staffed or understaffed?
- What are some expectations you have for the staff under your leadership?
- What is your staff’s morale like during these difficult times? Have you had a lot of nurses leave? How do you address that?
- How do you protect your employees from violent patients and families? How many security guards are in the building during each shift?
- What kind of culture do you aim to facilitate in your unit?
- What current goals do you have for the unit?
- How do you help nurses complete required or desired certifications?
- What are educational opportunities and available reimbursements?
- What are growth opportunities in your system?
- Are there opportunities for participation in unit-based organizations?
- What resources are available if I have questions about policies and procedures?
- What would you say makes a good ER nurse?
- Is there a nurse in the unit I could talk with?
Move forward with courage and take the risk of pursuing your dream job. Every interview, successful or not, gets you one step closer.
Incredible Health is in the business of landing that dream nursing job. Our Career Resources is a great starting place for more help.
Remember, you’re in demand!
Top Emergency RN jobs on Incredible Health
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