Let's jump ahead to the glorious point in
your near future where you have
a nursing interview.
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
You have a lot of questions.
You don't have to ask them all.
That might seem... That might be aggressive.
But please ask at least some of these.
They're a great way to get a feel for the
And I asked basically none of these in my
interview for my first nursing job, and that
is a choice that I regret.
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.
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.
I would look somewhere else if I were you,
if they say any of those words.
"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
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.
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.
But if it's shorter, no, no, that's not
"What are the nurse patient ratios?" This
will depend on your unit.
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.
If they're spouting off wild numbers like
eight patients or something, just no, thank
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.
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.
If you have six patients and you are doing
all of the things that acuity is
high and that's that's yikes.
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
"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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Are you working twelves? Are you working
How do holidays work?" These questions can
honestly be saved until you have a
job offer if you would like.
But honestly, I just flat out ask them in my
job interview after my second one.
On my first one, I asked no questions there.
I was not the wisest.
You have this.
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.
But you do you here.
But this will eventually become helpful to
know so that you can kind of figure out what
your personal life looks like.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
"What is your favorite thing about this
unit?" This is a fun one.
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."
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
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.
And if they're doing that and focus on it,
it's usually a good sign.
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.
And while you are shadowing, you can ask all
of the nurses, like, what the real deal is.
And I promise you they will tell you.
It's very important to shadow.
Please do not take a job without one.
Just if you do anything else, just do that.
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
And to summarize the red flag answers, I'll
do a quick rundown of those in the next