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Questions to Ask in a Nursing Job Interview (RN)

by Elizabeth Russ

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    00:01 Let's jump ahead to the glorious point in your near future where you have a nursing interview.

    00:07 And the person has spent forever interrogating you during this interview, and then they flip the tables back at you and then they say, "Do you have any questions about working here?" And friend.

    00:18 You have a lot of questions.

    00:21 You don't have to ask them all.

    00:22 That might seem... That might be aggressive.

    00:24 But please ask at least some of these.

    00:27 They're a great way to get a feel for the unit.

    00:30 And I asked basically none of these in my interview for my first nursing job, and that is a choice that I regret.

    00:36 So here is the list in no particular order, just kind of feel and what you kind of want to ask. Ready, set, let's go.

    00:43 How long do people usually work here? If the answer is: "we are a launching pad type of a unit" or "people don't really stay for that long, but it's really nice to get to know new people" that is almost never a positive answer.

    00:59 I would look somewhere else if I were you, if they say any of those words.

    01:03 "What does orientation look like? Can I extend my orientation if I don't feel really ready at the end? Will it all be with one or two people so that I have some continuity?" An orientation that is fixed and inflexible, allows for no personalization and doesn't place your safety at the forefront.

    01:20 It's also super helpful to have the same one or two people training you the whole time so that they know what you still need to learn and what you already know.

    01:29 And any orientation that they throw at you as a new grad that is less than six weeks is just dangerous. Six weeks feels dangerous.

    01:37 But if it's shorter, no, no, that's not good.

    01:40 "What are the nurse patient ratios?" This will depend on your unit.

    01:44 But in general, for med surg, you would ideally want to see like 4 to 5 patients per nurse. In the ICU, 1 to 2, progressive care units, 2 to 3, and Peds 3 to 4. This will depend on the support staff available to you, and in an ideal world, that's what the ratios would look like.

    02:00 If they're spouting off wild numbers like eight patients or something, just no, thank you. No.

    02:06 No, thank you. Speaking of support staff, it's super helpful to find out what type of interdisciplinary team is available to support you in your patient care.

    02:14 Do they have techs? Do they have CNAs? And if so, what is the ratio of CNA to nurse to patient? Are there lift teams to help move patients? Is there a Phlebotomy or an IV team? Or are you drawing all of your labs and doing all of your own IVs? This will all play into how many patients you have and what their acuity is and how much work you actually have to do per person.

    02:36 If you have six patients and you are doing all of the things that acuity is high and that's that's yikes.

    02:43 Versus if you have 4 to 5 patients who are a higher acuity in med surg, but you also have a CNA, a phlebotomist for labs and an IV team that is so much more manageable.

    02:53 "What are the unit's opportunities for leadership, such as committees?" Do they let you, the staff nurse, get involved on the unit or is that just a management thing? This is a really great way to make a change on your unit and get leadership experience that looks awesome on your future resume building.

    03:10 If the answer to this question is no, then it kind of begs the question, "why don't you involve the staff on matters that affect their care directly?" If they don't have an answer to that one, or at least a good one, also look into that. "What are the five most common diagnoses you see on this floor?" This is going to give you a good idea of the patients that you'll be taking care of, and you can decide if that's something that interests you at all.

    03:37 You can also ask about some of the most common types of care and procedures that you would be doing as a nurse in that unit due to those diagnoses.

    03:46 Another one is, do you volunteer one day to become a charge nurse or are you voluntold? "How long do people usually work here before becoming a charge nurse?" I have worked on units where I was told I had to become a charge nurse and I was way, way, way, way, way too new to be doing that.

    04:03 And I have also worked on a unit where you had to volunteer, so you had to actively want that position. And it was definitely a much nicer experience to be the one where you were saying, "I want to do this.

    04:14 I've been here a while. I feel comfortable" versus, "Oh my gosh, what is happening?" "What does scheduling look like? Do you self schedule? How far in advance are you getting your schedule? Are you working twelves? Are you working eights? How do holidays work?" These questions can honestly be saved until you have a job offer if you would like.

    04:33 But honestly, I just flat out ask them in my job interview after my second one.

    04:37 On my first one, I asked no questions there.

    04:39 I was not the wisest.

    04:41 You have this.

    04:42 Because those questions were really important to me, and I didn't want to create the illusion that having no life outside of work and all of that was okay.

    04:51 But you do you here.

    04:52 But this will eventually become helpful to know so that you can kind of figure out what your personal life looks like.

    04:57 And then we kind of want to know what's the unit like in terms of, like, crisis? "How often do rapid responses in codes happen?" If you work in an ICU, this isn't as applicable since they run all of their own codes and there's no such thing as a rapid response team or a code team when you're in critical condition because you handle it yourself.

    05:16 But if you work on a general floor, this really gives you a good picture of how well managed the patients are in general and how things are going.

    05:24 If there is a constant stream of rapid responses in codes, then that is likely a sign that patients in general are being pretty poorly managed and that there is chaos abrewing.

    05:35 A unit that is staffed with enough nurses and providers that are experienced and will be able to see a lot of these signs of decompensation coming, and they will be able to intervene before it becomes a serious emergency or a code.

    05:48 A totally new team of staff will not be able to see those signs as easily, and you will have a lot more patient emergencies, RRTs and codes because they just don't know. So that's another kind of sneaky way to see where your unit is in terms of maturity and safety.

    06:04 "What is your favorite thing about this unit?" This is a fun one.

    06:06 And also, "what is your least favorite thing?" What is something you could say that as "What area do you have room for improvement on?" Get out your BS detector with this one because they're probably going to say their favorite thing might be one of those like switch rooms where they'd be like, "It's really great how we pull together as a team in hard times." And friends, that's not a compliment. You do not want times to be hard being the highlight, so that's a compliment, or it's a bad decision in disguise.

    06:33 How do they stay up to date with the latest evidence base in nursing research and apply it to the unit's practice? This just sounds fancy, but honestly, it does, it gives you insight into how important research is and implementing that into the whole hospital is.

    06:49 And if they're doing that and focus on it, it's usually a good sign.

    06:52 And perhaps the most important question you can ask is, "When can I shadow?" Do not, I repeat, do not take a job, if they will not let you shadow. What are they trying to hide if they won't let you in there before you start working there? It is so important to see how the unit runs without a manager.

    07:11 And while you are shadowing, you can ask all of the nurses, like, what the real deal is.

    07:15 And I promise you they will tell you.

    07:17 It's very important to shadow.

    07:18 Please do not take a job without one.

    07:20 Just if you do anything else, just do that.

    07:22 Now, let me know if you can think of any other important questions that you think you should ask in interviews. These are just some of my favorites to kind of scope out the situation.

    07:30 And to summarize the red flag answers, I'll do a quick rundown of those in the next section.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Questions to Ask in a Nursing Job Interview (RN) by Elizabeth Russ is from the course Applying for Your First Nursing Job (RN).


    Author of lecture Questions to Ask in a Nursing Job Interview (RN)

     Elizabeth Russ

    Elizabeth Russ


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