Top 10 Clinical Questions in Nursing Interview with Answers

Common Clinical Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

1. You are assigned to a patient who is post-operative from a knee replacement. They are complaining of severe pain and are requesting a pain medication they used at home, but it’s not on the doctor’s order. How would you assess the situation and proceed?
Sample STAR Method Answer:

Yes, this is one of the common scenarios in healthcare settings.

Once I was assigned to a patient who had recently undergone a knee replacement surgery, post-operatively, the patient was experiencing severe pain and requested a specific pain medication they had been using at home, which was not listed on the doctor’s current orders.

My task was to assess the patient’s pain and find a way to manage it effectively, adhering to hospital protocols while ensuring the patient’s comfort and safety.

First, I conducted a thorough assessment of the patient’s pain, using the pain scale to gauge its intensity and asking specific questions about the nature and location of the pain. I also reviewed the patient’s medical history and previous medication usage.

Next, I explained to the patient why I couldn’t administer the requested medication without a doctor’s order. I reassured them that their pain was a priority and that I would advocate for their needs.

I then contacted the attending physician, providing detailed information about the patient’s pain levels, their request for the specific medication, and any relevant medical history that could support the need for a different pain management approach.

In the meantime, I administered the prescribed pain medication and utilized non-pharmacological pain relief techniques such as ice packs, elevation of the affected leg, and guided relaxation techniques to help alleviate their discomfort.

The physician responded promptly and evaluated the situation. They adjusted the medication order to include the patient’s preferred pain medication, which was more effective for their specific pain. Consequently, the patient’s pain was managed more effectively, leading to improved comfort and satisfaction with their care. This approach not only addressed the immediate pain issue but also reinforced the importance of patient-centered care and effective communication within the healthcare team.

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2. You enter a patient’s room and find them disoriented and trying to get out of bed. They have an IV pole attached and are at high risk for falls. What are your immediate actions?

Sample STAR Method Answer:

Yes, this is a critical situation as I entered a patient’s room and found them disoriented, attempting to get out of bed while attached to an IV pole. The patient is at high risk for falls, and immediate intervention is necessary to prevent injury.

My task here is to ensure the patient’s safety, prevent a potential fall, and assess the cause of their disorientation.

First, I quickly move to the patient’s side to stabilize them and gently guide them back into bed, ensuring their IV line remains intact and undamaged.

Next, I calmly reassure the patient, explaining who I am and where they are, to help reduce their confusion and anxiety.

Then, I call for assistance from another nurse to stay with the patient while I check their vital signs and review their recent medical history for any changes in medication or other factors that could contribute to their disorientation.

After ensuring the patient is safely back in bed, I conduct a thorough assessment, including checking their neurological status and reviewing any recent changes in medication or health status that might explain their confusion.

I also ensure the bed rails are up and the call bell is within the patient’s reach. Additionally, I place the IV pole in a secure position to prevent any accidental pulling.

Finally, I document the incident in the patient’s medical record and report it to the attending physician, providing all relevant details and my assessment.

The physician evaluates the patient and determines the likely cause of their disorientation. By acting swiftly and ensuring the patient’s safety, a potential fall is prevented, and the underlying issue is promptly addressed. This experience highlighted the importance of vigilance, quick intervention, and thorough assessment in preventing patient harm.

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3. You suspect a patient is experiencing a diabetic emergency. They are sweating, and confused, and their blood sugar reading on the glucometer is very low. Describe your course of action.

Upon suspecting a diabetic emergency, indicated by the patient’s symptoms of sweating, confusion, and low blood sugar reading on the glucometer, my immediate course of action would begin with ensuring the patient’s safety and providing quick intervention to raise their blood glucose levels.

First, I would promptly administer a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or juice, to rapidly elevate their blood sugar. Simultaneously, I would closely monitor the patient’s vital signs and level of consciousness, ensuring they are in a safe, seated or lying position to prevent injury in case of further deterioration. I would then recheck their blood glucose level within 15 minutes to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. If the patient’s condition does not improve or if their blood sugar remains low, I would administer another dose of fast-acting carbohydrates.

While managing the immediate crisis, I would alert the attending physician and prepare for potential additional interventions, such as an intravenous glucose solution if the patient is unable to ingest oral carbohydrates. Throughout this process, I would provide reassurance to the patient, explaining each step to alleviate their anxiety and confusion.

Once the patient’s blood glucose levels stabilize, I would evaluate the situation to identify the cause of the hypoglycemia, such as missed meals, excessive insulin, or increased physical activity, and develop a plan to prevent future occurrences. This plan would involve patient education on recognizing early symptoms of hypoglycemia and managing their diabetes effectively. Documentation of the incident, including the patient’s symptoms, interventions provided, and their response, would be meticulously recorded in their medical chart to ensure comprehensive care continuity and facilitate further medical evaluation.

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4. A patient is becoming increasingly agitated and verbally abusive towards you and other staff members. How would you de-escalate the situation and ensure your safety and theirs?

When a patient becomes increasingly agitated and verbally abusive, it is crucial to address the situation with a calm and systematic approach to de-escalate the tension and ensure the safety of all involved. First, I would maintain a calm and composed demeanor, as reacting with frustration or anger could exacerbate the patient’s agitation. I would speak in a soft, steady tone, using clear and concise language to avoid misunderstanding or further agitation. Ensuring that my body language is non-threatening and open, I would keep a safe physical distance while positioning myself at the same eye level as the patient to avoid appearing confrontational.

Next, I would acknowledge the patient’s feelings and validate their emotions, expressing empathy and understanding without necessarily agreeing with their complaints. Statements such as, “I can see that you’re upset, and I want to understand how I can help,” can help to defuse anger by showing that I am listening and willing to assist. If possible, I would try to identify any underlying causes of their agitation, such as pain, anxiety, or unmet needs, and address these issues promptly.

To further de-escalate the situation, I would set clear, respectful boundaries regarding acceptable behavior. I would calmly explain that while it is okay to express feelings, abusive language and behavior are not acceptable, and we must communicate respectfully to resolve the issue. Offering choices or options can also help the patient feel a sense of control over the situation, reducing feelings of helplessness or frustration.

Throughout the interaction, I would remain aware of my own safety and the safety of others. If the patient’s behavior becomes physically threatening or if de-escalation attempts are unsuccessful, I would not hesitate to seek additional help from colleagues or security personnel. In such cases, it is important to follow the healthcare facility’s protocols for managing aggressive behavior to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect everyone involved.

After the situation has been brought under control, I would document the incident in detail, including the patient’s behavior, my interventions, and the outcomes. Additionally, I would discuss the incident with my team to evaluate the response and identify any improvements that could be made in future similar situations. This approach not only addresses the immediate crisis but also contributes to ongoing improvements in patient care and staff safety.

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5. You are caring for a patient with a nasogastric (NG) tube. Upon assessment, you notice the tubing is dislodged and there is drainage around the insertion site. What steps would you take?

As a nurse, it is essential to maintain a high level of vigilance and promptly address any complications that arise with medical devices. One such situation involved a patient with a nasogastric (NG) tube, where I noticed the tubing had become dislodged and there was drainage around the insertion site during my assessment.

I was caring for a patient who had a nasogastric (NG) tube in place for feeding and medication administration. During a routine assessment, I observed that the NG tube had become dislodged and there was noticeable drainage around the insertion site. This situation posed a risk for aspiration, infection, and disruption in the patient’s nutritional and medication regimen.

My primary task was to address the dislodged NG tube and drainage issue to prevent any complications such as aspiration, infection, or nutritional deficiencies. This involved immediate stabilization of the patient, reassessment of their condition, and appropriate communication with the healthcare team to ensure prompt and effective resolution.

First, I ensured the patient was in a safe and comfortable position, elevating the head of the bed to reduce the risk of aspiration. I then assessed the patient’s respiratory status, looking for any signs of distress such as shortness of breath, coughing, or changes in oxygen saturation, which could indicate aspiration.

Next, I gently secured the dislodged NG tube to prevent further movement and possible injury. I used sterile gloves and a clean dressing to manage the drainage around the insertion site, minimizing the risk of infection. I documented my findings, including the amount and characteristics of the drainage, and promptly notified the attending physician and the on-call surgical team about the dislodged tube and the observed drainage.

While waiting for further instructions from the physician, I ensured the patient was monitored closely, checking vital signs frequently and observing for any changes in their condition. I prepared the necessary equipment for the potential reinsertion of the NG tube, including gloves, lubricant, a new NG tube, and securing devices. Upon receiving the physician’s orders, I assisted in the reinsertion of the NG tube or, if instructed, followed the protocol for its temporary removal and the provision of alternative feeding methods.

The physician arrived shortly after being notified, and we successfully reinserted the NG tube with no complications. The patient’s respiratory status remained stable throughout the process, and the drainage at the insertion site was managed effectively. This quick and efficient handling of the situation prevented any further complications such as aspiration pneumonia or infection. By addressing the issue promptly and communicating effectively with the healthcare team, the patient’s treatment plan continued without significant interruption, ensuring their nutritional and medication needs were met.

6. You are assisting a patient with transferring from the bed to a chair. During the transfer, the patient experiences sudden dizziness and almost faints. How would you react and what would you monitor?

Assisting a patient with transferring from the bed to a chair requires attentiveness and preparedness for unexpected events, such as sudden dizziness or near-fainting episodes. When the patient experienced sudden dizziness and almost fainted during the transfer, my immediate priority was to ensure their safety and prevent a fall. I reacted quickly by supporting the patient firmly, using my body to stabilize them and prevent them from falling. This involved holding the patient securely, maintaining a strong stance, and gently guiding them back to the bed or to a nearby chair if it was safer to do so immediately.

Once the patient was safely seated or lying down, I elevated their legs to improve blood flow to the brain, which often helps alleviate dizziness and prevents fainting. I then closely monitored the patient’s vital signs, checking their pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate to identify any abnormal readings that could explain the sudden dizziness. I also assessed their level of consciousness, ensuring they were responsive and aware of their surroundings.

After stabilizing the patient, I asked them about any symptoms they were experiencing, such as lightheadedness, nausea, or blurred vision, to gather more information about their condition. I also inquired about their recent food and fluid intake, medication schedule, and any previous occurrences of similar symptoms. This information helped me understand potential underlying causes, such as dehydration, low blood sugar, or orthostatic hypotension.

Throughout this process, I kept the patient calm and reassured, explaining each step I was taking to address their symptoms. Clear communication was essential to reduce the patient’s anxiety and to ensure they understood what was happening. I informed the attending physician or nurse in charge about the incident, providing detailed information about the patient’s symptoms, vital signs, and any relevant medical history that could contribute to their sudden dizziness.

In the following minutes and hours, I continued to monitor the patient closely, regularly checking their vital signs and assessing their symptoms. I also observed their skin color, temperature, and overall responsiveness to ensure there were no further complications. If the patient’s condition did not improve or if they experienced recurring dizziness, I would prepare for additional interventions as directed by the physician, such as administering fluids or adjusting medications.

Finally, I documented the incident thoroughly in the patient’s medical record, including the circumstances of the near-fainting episode, the interventions provided, and the patient’s response. This documentation ensured continuity of care and provided valuable information for the healthcare team to review and address any underlying issues that could prevent future occurrences. Through careful monitoring, effective communication, and prompt intervention, I aimed to ensure the patient’s safety and well-being during and after the transfer.

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7. A family member of a patient asks you a detailed question about the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis that you are not comfortable answering. How would you explain this to them and offer them resources for finding the information they need?

As a nurse, it is crucial to provide compassionate and accurate information to patients and their families. However, there are times when I encounter questions about a patient’s diagnosis and prognosis that fall outside my scope of practice or expertise. In such situations, it’s important to handle the inquiry professionally and guide the family to the appropriate resources.

During one of my shifts, a family member of a patient approached me with a detailed question regarding the patient’s diagnosis and long-term prognosis. The family member was anxious and seeking comprehensive information about the expected outcomes and treatment options.

My task was to address the family member’s concerns respectfully while ensuring I did not provide information beyond my expertise. It was essential to maintain trust and guide them to the appropriate resources to get the information they needed.

First, I acknowledged the family member’s concerns with empathy and understanding. I calmly explained that while I was involved in the patient’s day-to-day care and could provide updates on their current condition and treatment, specific questions about the diagnosis and prognosis were best addressed by the physician. I reassured them that their questions were important and that they deserved comprehensive and accurate answers.

I then offered to facilitate a meeting with the physician or a member of the medical team who could provide the detailed information they were seeking. I explained that the physician had the specialized knowledge and training to discuss the diagnosis and prognosis thoroughly, ensuring that the family received the most accurate and relevant information.

To further assist the family, I provided them with written materials about the patient’s condition that were available from the hospital’s patient education resources. I also informed them about support services available within the hospital, such as social workers and patient advocates, who could help address any additional concerns and provide emotional support.

The family members appreciated my honesty and the effort to connect them with the appropriate resources. Shortly after, I arranged for a meeting with the physician, who provided the detailed answers and reassurance the family needed. The family felt more informed and supported, and the patient continued to receive coordinated care from the healthcare team. This approach not only ensured that the family received accurate information but also reinforced the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and communication in patient care. Through this experience, I strengthened my skills in addressing difficult questions professionally while providing compassionate support to patients and their families.

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8. You identify a medication error on a patient’s medication administration record (MAR). What is the proper protocol for handling this situation?

Identifying a medication error on a patient’s medication administration record (MAR) is a serious situation that requires immediate attention and careful handling to ensure patient safety and maintain the integrity of the healthcare process. Upon discovering the error, my first step would be to verify the details of the medication order and the administration record. This involves checking the physician’s order, the MAR, and the actual medication given to determine the nature and extent of the error. It is crucial to understand whether the error involves the wrong medication, dose, route, time, or patient.

Once the error is confirmed, I would immediately assess the patient for any adverse effects or signs of complications resulting from the error. This assessment includes monitoring vital signs, observing for any unusual symptoms, and asking the patient about their condition. Ensuring the patient’s immediate safety is the top priority, and any necessary interventions should be implemented promptly. For instance, if the patient received an incorrect dose of medication that could cause harm, I would follow the appropriate protocols for managing the overdose or adverse reaction.

Following the patient assessment, I would notify the attending physician or the on-call medical team about the error. Transparent communication is essential in this process to provide the physician with all relevant information, including the type of error, the medication involved, and the patient’s current condition. The physician can then make informed decisions regarding any additional treatments or monitoring that may be necessary to mitigate potential harm to the patient.

Simultaneously, I would inform the nursing supervisor or the designated authority within the healthcare facility about the medication error. This step ensures that the incident is officially reported and that the proper administrative procedures are followed. The error must be documented accurately and thoroughly in the patient’s medical record, including the nature of the error, actions taken, patient assessment findings, and any physician orders received.

An incident report would also be completed according to the facility’s protocol. This report is typically a part of the hospital’s quality assurance process and is used to analyze the error, identify contributing factors, and develop strategies to prevent future occurrences. It is important to approach this reporting process with a focus on improving systems and processes rather than assigning blame.

Finally, after addressing the immediate situation and ensuring the patient’s safety, I would participate in a follow-up review or debriefing session if required. This session often involves discussing the incident with the healthcare team to understand what led to the error and how similar errors can be prevented in the future. Education and training sessions may be conducted to reinforce best practices in medication administration and to highlight the importance of vigilance and accuracy in the medication administration process.

Handling a medication error with a systematic and thorough approach helps to protect patient safety, maintain trust in the healthcare system, and contribute to continuous improvement in healthcare practices. Through clear communication, detailed documentation, and proactive follow-up, the healthcare team can learn from the incident and enhance the overall quality of patient care.

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9. An alarm on an IV pump starts beeping. The patient’s IV bag is empty, but there are no further orders for another bag. What would you do next?

When an alarm on an IV pump starts beeping and I notice that the patient’s IV bag is empty without further orders for another bag, my immediate response is to ensure the patient’s safety and address the situation promptly. The first step is to silence the alarm to reduce any stress it might cause the patient while I assess the situation. I would then close the roller clamp on the IV line to prevent air from entering the tubing and potentially causing an air embolism, which could be dangerous.

Next, I would check the patient’s current condition, including their vital signs and overall status, to ensure that there are no immediate concerns related to the cessation of the IV infusion. This is important because the patient might have been receiving fluids or medications that, if abruptly stopped, could affect their health. Ensuring the patient is stable provides a momentary assurance while I proceed with the necessary actions.

Following this initial assessment, I would review the patient’s medical records and the physician’s orders to confirm the original purpose of the IV infusion. This helps in understanding whether the IV fluids were for hydration, medication administration, or another purpose. If the records indicate that the infusion was for a time-limited medication or fluid replacement, and the treatment course has been completed, then it might be appropriate to discontinue the IV line following standard procedures.

However, if the infusion was part of ongoing therapy or if it’s unclear whether additional fluids or medications are needed, I would promptly contact the attending physician or the healthcare provider responsible for the patient’s care. Clear communication is crucial; I would provide them with the patient’s current status, the fact that the IV bag is empty, and there are no further orders for additional fluids. I would seek their guidance on whether to initiate a new IV bag or discontinue the IV line.

While waiting for the physician’s response, I would ensure that the patient remains comfortable and informed about what is happening. If the IV was providing hydration or essential medications, I would explain that the medical team is being consulted to determine the next steps, reassuring the patient that their needs are being addressed.

Once I receive instructions from the physician, I will proceed accordingly. If a new IV bag is ordered, I would prepare and hang the new bag following sterile procedures, ensuring the IV pump is correctly set to administer the fluids as prescribed. If the physician decides that no further IV fluids are needed, I would carefully discontinue the IV line, following protocol to prevent infection and ensure patient comfort.

Finally, I would document the entire process in the patient’s medical record, including the initial observation of the empty IV bag, actions taken to secure the IV line, patient assessments, communications with the physician, and the final steps carried out based on the physician’s orders. Accurate documentation ensures continuity of care and provides a clear record of the events and decisions made during the process. Through these detailed steps, patient safety and care quality are maintained effectively.

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10. You are caring for a patient who is nearing the end of life. They are anxious and express fear about dying. How would you provide comfort and support to this patient and their family?

“In my experience as a nurse, providing compassionate care to patients facing end-of-life challenges is both a profound responsibility and privilege. Recently, I encountered a situation where a patient nearing the end of life expressed significant anxiety and fear about dying. I’ll outline how I applied the STAR method to provide comfort and support not only to the patient but also to their family during this delicate time.”

“The patient, an elderly individual with terminal cancer, was admitted to our hospice care unit. They were experiencing increasing physical discomfort and emotional distress, particularly regarding the uncertainty and fear associated with dying. The family members were visibly distraught and seeking reassurance about the patient’s comfort and dignity in their final days.”

“My task was to address the patient’s anxiety and fears about dying while supporting their family members who were struggling to come to terms with the impending loss. It was crucial to create a supportive environment that honored the patient’s wishes and provided compassionate care.”

“I began by spending dedicated time with the patient, actively listening to their concerns and fears. Using therapeutic communication techniques, I acknowledged their emotions and provided reassurance that their physical comfort and dignity were our top priorities. I discussed the patient’s goals of care and preferences for symptom management, ensuring they felt empowered and in control of their situation as much as possible.”

“Simultaneously, I engaged with the family, offering opportunities for them to share their concerns and fears openly. I provided information about what to expect in the dying process, addressing their questions with empathy and honesty. Collaborating with the interdisciplinary team, including palliative care specialists and social workers, we developed a comprehensive care plan that incorporated spiritual and emotional support tailored to both the patient and their family.”

“As a result of these actions, the patient visibly relaxed as their anxiety decreased, allowing them to express gratitude for the compassionate care they received. The family members also expressed appreciation for the support and guidance provided during such a difficult time. By actively listening, empathizing, and ensuring open communication, I helped foster a sense of peace and dignity for the patient while supporting their family’s emotional well-being throughout the end-of-life journey.”


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