Critical Care Nursing Interview Questions

by Linda Ray

    Acute and critically ill patients require a level of nursing skills that go above and beyond the normal scope of patient care. Specific questions bring out the experience and training of the candidate. Whether you're a job-seeker or recruiter, succinct stories during the interview illustrate the candidate’s qualifications, personality and reliability.

    How Do You React Under Pressure?

    Very often, critical care patients go into crisis mode and require nursing staff to remain calm and take the necessary life-saving steps to intervene. Critical care nurses deal with life-and-death situations that are stressful and demanding. The candidate might explain that the first priority is to anticipate patients’ needs before crises occur and tell a story about a patient who went into cardiac arrest while she was delivering daily medication. Her calm demeanor and professional training kicked in while she rang for help. The story illustrates the candidate’s training and experience and how it results in a positive ending, such as the patient coming through the experience unscathed.

    What Do You Find Most Challenging About the Work?

    Every question and answer should highlight a positive aspect of the candidate’s training and qualifications. When asked about challenges, she could refer to the steps she took to take and pass the certification courses and exams necessary to earn critical care certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses while working full time. Other challenges should always carry a positive tone, such as the pressure to continually keep up with new technologies and the exciting advances in the field of critical care. She might share a story about a challenging co-worker she decided to mentor and how he became an effective member of the team. Those kinds of stories highlight the vital ability to work well on a team.

    Why Are You Leaving Your Last Job?

    Refrain from disparaging a former employer. Job candidates should always talk about the wonderful training and experience they received at their last post. They can mention how grateful they are for the opportunities at the previous post. They might explain about downsizing, if that happened, but quickly add that the layoffs gave them the opportunity to work at a more modern facility with an excellent reputation. A smart way to explain leaving is to talk positively about former co-workers. Candidates might add that their former facility offered few chances for growth and that the target hospital has a reputation for encouraging professional development.

    How Do You Deal with Difficult Doctors and Co-Workers?

    Critical care nursing requires extensive solo work as well as following the care plan prescribed by the treating physician. Nurses also serve as part of a critical care team on the floor. Candidates should declare a deep respect for other medical professionals and an understanding that differences often occur among a care team. As part of the team, an effective critical care nurse approaches doctors and co-workers privately to discuss treatment plans and provide an opinion. At the same time, candidates prepared for the job understand the chain of command and talk about how they follow that chain to resolve differences. To highlight effective teamwork, a candidate might talk about a team she led in her last job or how she requested a place on a critical care team advisory board as proof of her willingness to work with others.

    About the Author

    Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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