It’s never been a better time to be a Nurse Practitioner (NP). All levels of nursing professionals continue to be a hot commodity in healthcare. Demand for NPs is expected to grow by 40% from 2021 to 2031.
Pursuing a career as an NP takes commitment. You must first become a Registered Nurse (RN), then gain a few years of experience while continuing your education. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is required before you can obtain state licensure as an NP.
In total, you can expect to spend about six years of educational and clinical preparation to become an NP. Once you have your license, the next step is to find a job.
Interviewing for NP positions doesn’t have to be difficult when you know what to expect. In this article we answer the following questions to get you ready:
- What are some steps for acing the interview?
- What are some common interview questions?
- What are some more unusual questions?
- What questions should you ask your interviewer?
- What are some other steps for interview prep?
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What are some steps for acing the interview?
Preparation and practice are the keys to acing any job interview. If you take the time to do both, you are halfway to success. Here are some other steps you can take to make sure your meeting goes smoothly.
Research the healthcare organization
Every employer has a mission, vision, and values. Make sure you explore what they prioritize to give you an idea of the questions they may ask. Pay particular attention to whether they have won any awards or recognitions. Sometimes interviews ask what you know about their organization, and you can use that knowledge to give an informed answer.
Review all possible interview questions
You can stress yourself out trying to think of all the possible questions your interviewer may ask. Or you could check out some of the most commonly asked questions (and some helpful ways to answer).
Practice with a partner
Mock interviews are effective at preparing you for the real deal. Ask a trusted advisor or friend to play the role of the interviewer so you can gain confidence before the big day.
What are some common interview questions?
It’s always a possibility an interviewer will come up with an “out-of-the-box” kind of question to see how you handle pressure. Mostly, NPs can expect to hear some variation of these seven common interview questions.
Can you tell me about yourself?
Most people dread talking about themselves, but this is your opportunity to shine a light on your talents. There’s no need to share your life story. Instead, toss out a few of your job qualifications and personal traits that make you an awesome NP.
I am an energetic team player and enjoy working in a collaborative environment. I have a strong set of clinical skills but am always looking to learn new things and stay current with research developments and treatment protocols. I have a special interest in diabetes management but can care for patients across the lifespan.
Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner?
Here is where your previous research comes in handy. Draw from a value or the mission statement for the organization and apply it to an example of why you chose nursing. You can’t go wrong with an answer that emphasizes care and compassion.
I was working as a registered nurse for five years on the inpatient side, both in the emergency department and on the floor. Particularly in the ED, I missed building relationships with patients. Now in primary care, I get to know my patients and they get to know me. That familiarity builds trust, which in turn supports our provider-patient relationship. We can accomplish more when we have a longstanding, trusting relationship.
Do you have any certifications or specialties?
While not required, NPs can obtain certifications that establish them as authorities in healthcare specialties. Be sure to promote any that the potential employer would find mutually beneficial.
As a provider in the primary care setting, I have an affinity towards diabetes prevention and management. While I do not have a specific certification in diabetes, I enjoy caring for this patient population in particular because of the multidisciplinary approach needed to make meaningful change.
Tell me about a stressful situation and how you handled it.
Nursing is demanding and can lead to burnout quickly if nurses don’t learn how to problem-solve. Give an example of a stressful situation and how you handled it effectively.
Sometimes we would have patients arrive late, or a same day appointment added to the schedule that would really throw off the flow for the day. I used to find these situations stressful as patients needed to be seen and I didn’t want to run behind. I found ways to save time by delegating more to the support staff, while also being honest with patients and taking ownership if I was running behind. Patients were appreciative of this, and the clinical staff were quick to engage in patient care in a different way.
How do you like working with a team?
Sure, teamwork makes the dream work. But some coworkers are more difficult than others. Give an example of a time you had to work closely with a difficult colleague and how you kept it from compromising patient outcomes.
I am absolutely a team player- I know we can accomplish a lot more when we work together. I did have a situation where one of the support staff would answer the phone but would not verify some of the patient information accurately. In those instances, I would ensure I used two patient identifiers, review their correct phone number and any other information I needed, and also properly document my conversation with the patient. I modeled this behavior when my coworker was nearby, and I noticed a change in her telephone conversations over time.
How do you handle problematic patients?
Examples work well, so cite a time (or two) you had a difficult patient and how you soothed the situation. Keep in mind that if the solution involved referring the patient to a supervisor, that’s still effective problem-solving.
When working in urgent care, a patient was demanding we prescribe antibiotics. He did not seem to have a bacterial illness and was insistent. Instead of arguing with him, I leaned on my team to help meet the patient’s needs. I asked the nurse to provide education to the patient about viral and bacterial infections, and to explain our diagnosis of his condition in greater detail. After the nurse completed her education, I went back in to see if the patient had more questions or concerns. I apologized to the patient for any misunderstanding in our previous conversation. I could see he was a lot more relaxed, and he said he understood his diagnosis better.
What do you do to go above and beyond to improve a patient’s care experience?
This is your chance to set yourself apart from other NP candidates. Most nurses have that one thing they do that’s unique to how they provide care to their patients. Explain yours and how you came up with it.
I always make sure to take note of what name my patient likes to be called by when in the office. I make notes in their electronic chart next to their name or make an alert, so everyone knows how to address the patient.
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What are some more unusual questions?
Sometimes interview questions might make you uncomfortable. Making tough inquiries is an interviewer’s job. It’s how they find the best fit for their organization. Here are some of the more unusual questions NP candidates can anticipate.
How do you deal with cultural differences?
Cultural sensitivity is a must when working in the healthcare field. How you speak and act can point to an unfair bias against a patient. Interviewers judge your ability to provide equitable care based on your answer. Provide an example of a time you treated a patient with a different cultural background, pointing to specific accommodations you made to help them feel more comfortable.
I worked with a lot of patients who had diabetes. I found I needed to learn more about the normal Latin American diet to better serve my patients. I spent time outside of work learning about cultural norms in the kitchen and common ingredients and the slag words my patients used to refer to different snacks. This helped me make better food plans with patients and help give better treatment recommendations.
How do you cross-collaborate across the medical teams to ensure your patient receives the proper care?
Even if you enjoy working as part of a team, there are a lot of moving parts involved. Explain methods you’ve successfully used in the past to ensure every member of the patient care team has access to the information needed to produce the best patient outcomes.
What is your approach to providing care to patients using a holistic perspective?
Patient outcomes improve when nurses and other healthcare professionals treat the whole person, not just their immediate medical needs. Demonstrate your understanding by citing an example of how you used a holistic approach with a patient.
How do you handle your emotions at work when faced with a difficult patient, family member, staff, or a supervisor?
Nursing can be an emotional roller coaster. Patients (and their families) are not always kind. Sometimes other teammates or supervisors create hostile work environments. Give an example of a time you were faced with such a situation, plus any coping strategies for maintaining your composure and professionalism.
How do you deal with a supervisor that asks you to do something you’re not comfortable with?
There are several ways you can answer this question. One of the best suggestions includes explaining why you’re uncomfortable and then offering an alternative solution. You also can talk about when it’s appropriate to suck it up and do the requested task, even if you’re not 100% behind it (assuming it’s not unethical).
What are some focused areas of growth you are currently working on?
Everyone enjoys highlighting their strengths, but it’s good to also come into an interview with a set of weaknesses or areas of improvement. Be prepared to explain what you are doing to improve those things (think educational pursuits, trainings, leadership summits, etc)
How do you keep your practice of medicine up to speed?
Especially in the world of the pandemic, guidelines and evidence-based care can change quickly. What are your sources for up-to-date information (e.g., CEUs)? Make a list of your go-to resources and prescribing tools.
What questions should you ask your interviewer?
A good interviewee knows how to turn the tables on the interviewer. Never be afraid to ask questions during your interview. Most organizations expect it and some base their hiring decision on your ability to be inquisitive. Here are a few questions you should consider asking.
What resources are available to me if I have questions about policies and procedures?
Protecting your professional reputation and your nursing license is a priority. Asking this question shows you care about doing your job to the best of your ability. It also ensures you have access to the information you need should onboarding fall a bit short in preparing you for your first day treating patients.
Are there opportunities for participation outside of direct patient care? In unit-based organizations?
The best healthcare organizations encourage and support nursing involvement in shared governance. It’s the most effective way to guarantee accountability for patient safety and quality of care.
How is employee morale prioritized?
Pizza parties don’t cut it these days. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are burned out after two years of a pandemic. Healthcare organizations that don’t promote innovative ways to help their nursing staff stay happy and healthy should be avoided.
How do you and your leadership help incentivize the staff to do their best work during these hard times?
Employers that know how to keep morale high – even during the most difficult times – are happy to have honest conversations about their incentive programs. Look for healthcare companies that accept feedback and provide mental health coaching and counseling.
What are some expectations you have for the staff under your leadership?
Clarity, consistency, opportunity, and respect are some of the answers you should look for when asking this question. Great healthcare leaders embrace these and other simple expectations that can encourage the entire team.
What are some other steps for interview prep?
After researching the company and running a few practice rounds with a trusted partner there are some other things you can do to get ready.
- Review the job description to identify keywords for your interview answers.
- Read the company’s mission and vision statements.
- Choose a professional outfit to wear during the interview.
- Get directions and make a practice run to ensure you know where you’re going.
- Aim to arrive a at least 15 minutes early for your interview.
What are your next steps?
Finding NP jobs that match your nursing goals can be time-consuming. Consider using Incredible Health’s Nursing Career Resources to make your job hunt more efficient. We connect you with hiring opportunities that fit your needs.
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- “A Concept Analysis of Holistic Care by Hybrid Model.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- “American Nurses Credentialing Center” (ANCC). nursingworld.org/ancc. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- “Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.” bls.gov. Accessed March 29, 2022.
- “Nurses’ burnout and associated risk factors during the COVID‐19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta‐analysis.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed March 29, 2022.
Ariella Jolly, DNP, FNP-BC contributed to this article.