25 Acute Care Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from an acute care nurse, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Acute care nurses work in hospitals and other medical facilities to provide care for patients with serious, life-threatening medical conditions. These nurses must be able to think quickly and make decisions in high-pressure situations.

If you’re interested in becoming an acute care nurse, you’ll need to start by passing an accredited nursing program. Once you’ve completed your education and obtained your nursing license, you can begin applying for jobs. Many acute care nurse positions will require you to go through an interview process.

To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of common acute care nurse interview questions and answers.

Common Acute Care Nurse Interview Questions

1. Are you comfortable working in a fast-paced environment?

The interviewer may ask this question to determine how you handle stress and pressure. They want to know if you can adapt quickly in a high-pressure situation, as working in an acute care setting often requires quick decision making and problem solving skills. In your answer, explain that you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment because it allows you to use your critical thinking skills and stay focused on the task at hand.

Example: “I am comfortable working in a fast-paced environment. I find that when things get busy, my adrenaline kicks in and I become more focused on what I’m doing. I have found that I perform better under pressure, so I welcome these types of situations. I feel like I can make quicker decisions and solve problems more efficiently.”

2. What are some of the most important skills for an acute care nurse to have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills necessary to succeed in this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few of your strongest skills and how they relate to acute care nursing.

Example: “The most important skill for an acute care nurse is communication. This is because we work with many different people from various backgrounds, so being able to communicate effectively is essential. Another important skill is problem-solving. In my experience, acute care nurses are often tasked with solving problems quickly and efficiently. I find that having strong critical thinking skills helps me solve these issues more easily.”

3. How would you handle a situation where a patient or their family members were upset with you or another member of the medical team?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to diffuse a tense situation. In your answer, try to show that you can remain calm under pressure and use your communication skills to resolve the conflict.

Example: “If a patient or their family members were upset with me or another member of the medical team, I would first apologize for any misunderstanding and then listen carefully to what they have to say. If there was an error in treatment or diagnosis, I would explain how we plan to prevent it from happening again. If the issue is more complex, I would offer to speak with them privately so that I could better understand their concerns.”

4. What is your process for documenting your observations, assessments and interventions for each patient?

The interviewer may ask you this question to understand how you organize your documentation and the time management skills you use when working with patients. Use examples from your experience that show your ability to prioritize tasks, manage your time effectively and document information in a clear and concise way.

Example: “I find it important to document my observations, assessments and interventions for each patient every two hours or more often if needed. I also like to take notes on any changes in the patient’s condition throughout the day so I can refer back to them later. This helps me remember details about the patient’s care plan and ensures I’m following all of the hospital protocols.”

5. Provide an example of a time when you went above and beyond to provide exceptional care to a patient.

When answering this question, it can be helpful to provide specific details about the situation and how you helped your patient. This can help interviewers understand more about your experience as an acute care nurse and what skills you have that may benefit their facility.

Example: “When I was working in a hospital setting, one of my patients had been admitted for several days due to a serious illness. The patient’s family members were very worried about his condition and wanted to know when he would get better. I explained to them that we were doing everything we could to make sure he got well as soon as possible.

I also told them that I would keep them updated on his progress throughout the day so they knew exactly what was happening with him. They appreciated knowing the truth about his health and understood that there wasn’t much else we could do at that point. After a few weeks, he was able to go home.”

6. If a patient came into the emergency room with a broken arm, but you noticed they were also having trouble breathing, how would you address the issue?

This question is a great way to test your critical thinking skills and ability to prioritize tasks. It also shows the interviewer how you would communicate with other medical professionals in the emergency room. Your answer should include specific steps you would take to address both issues at once, as well as any communication you would have with other staff members.

Example: “If I noticed that a patient was having trouble breathing while they were waiting for treatment on their broken arm, I would immediately call over another nurse or doctor to help me assess the situation. Together, we would determine if there are any underlying conditions causing the patient’s difficulty breathing. If not, we would focus our attention on treating the broken arm first before moving onto addressing the issue of breathing.”

7. What would you do if you suspected a colleague was not following proper infection control procedures?

This question can help interviewers assess your ability to work as part of a team and communicate with others. In your answer, try to show that you value teamwork and are willing to speak up when necessary.

Example: “If I suspected my colleague was not following proper infection control procedures, I would first approach them privately to discuss the issue. If they were aware of their mistake but continued to make it, I would report the situation to my supervisor so they could address it. If my colleague was unaware of their mistake, I would explain how important it is to follow these procedures for patient safety and offer to provide additional training.”

8. How well do you perform under pressure? Can you provide an example of a time when you had to prioritize multiple tasks in a short period of time?

Acute care nurses often have to work under pressure. They may be responsible for the well-being of multiple patients at once, and they must make quick decisions that can affect a patient’s health. An employer might ask this question to learn more about your ability to handle stressful situations. In your answer, try to explain how you manage stress and prioritize tasks effectively when time is limited.

Example: “I am able to perform well under pressure because I am used to working in fast-paced environments. During my last job as an acute care nurse, I was caring for three patients at once. One of them had just been admitted to the hospital, so I needed to get her vital signs and assess her condition before administering any medications or treatments. I prioritized these tasks by assessing the most urgent ones first, then moving on to the others. This helped me ensure all of my patients were receiving proper care.”

9. Do you have experience working with patients of all ages?

The interviewer may ask this question to see if you have experience working with patients of all ages. This can be an important skill for acute care nurses because they often work with a variety of patients, including children and the elderly. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention any specific skills or training you have that help you work with different age groups.

Example: “I do have experience working with patients of all ages. In my previous role as an acute care nurse, I worked in a pediatric unit where I cared for both newborns and teenagers. I find that having experience caring for such a wide range of patients has helped me develop some valuable skills, like being able to communicate effectively with patients of all ages and using techniques that are appropriate for each patient.”

10. When performing assessments, what is your process for determining the severity of a patient’s condition?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your critical thinking skills and how you prioritize tasks. Your answer should demonstrate that you can make decisions independently, but also collaborate with other healthcare professionals when necessary.

Example: “When performing assessments on my patients, I first take their vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse rate. These are important indicators of the patient’s overall health status. Next, I perform an initial assessment of the patient’s condition by asking them questions about their current symptoms and medical history. This helps me determine whether they have any preexisting conditions or if there is anything else that might affect their treatment plan. Finally, I use all of this information to decide which course of action would be best for the patient based on their current condition.”

11. We want to improve our patient satisfaction rates. What strategies would you use to make our patients feel valued and heard?

Patient satisfaction is an important metric for many healthcare facilities. Interviewers want to know that you can help improve their patient satisfaction rates by making patients feel valued and heard. Use examples from your experience where you helped a patient feel more comfortable or listened to them when they had concerns.

Example: “I think the most important thing I do to make sure my patients feel valued and heard is to listen to them. When I first started working in this field, I noticed that some nurses would rush through conversations with patients because they were busy doing other things. I made it a point to slow down and really listen to what my patients were saying so that I could address any of their concerns or questions.”

12. Describe your process for calming down a nervous or anxious patient.

When working with patients who are anxious or nervous, it’s important to be empathetic and compassionate. Interviewers may ask this question to see if you have experience calming down a patient in need of reassurance. In your answer, try to describe how you would use your interpersonal skills to help the patient feel more comfortable.

Example: “When I notice that a patient is nervous or anxious, I first make sure they know that I understand their feelings. Then, I explain what we’re going to do next and why. For example, if they’re getting an IV, I’ll tell them about the medicine they’re receiving and how it will help them feel better. This helps reassure them that everything is under control and gives them something else to focus on.”

13. What makes you the best candidate for this acute care nurse position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. Before your interview, make a list of all the skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for this role. Focus on highlighting your most relevant experience and soft skills.

Example: “I am passionate about helping others, which is why I became a nurse in the first place. Throughout my career, I have developed strong communication and problem-solving skills, as well as excellent time management abilities. These skills are essential for working in a fast-paced acute care setting where patients often need immediate attention. My ability to work under pressure while remaining calm and collected makes me the best candidate for this position.”

14. Which medical software programs are you most familiar with?

The interviewer may ask this question to determine your level of experience with medical software programs. If you have previous experience using specific software, be sure to mention it in your answer. You can also use this opportunity to explain why you prefer one program over another.

Example: “I am most familiar with the Meditech and Epic Systems software programs. I worked at a hospital that used both systems for patient records, so I had plenty of opportunities to learn how to navigate through them. While both systems are very similar, I find that I prefer the Meditech system because it’s more user-friendly than Epic. The Epic System is great for large hospitals, but I think smaller facilities would benefit from the simplicity of the Meditech system.”

15. What do you think is the most important aspect of being an acute care nurse?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to get an idea of your priorities as a nurse. It’s important to show that you understand what it takes to be successful in this role, and how you plan to do so. When answering this question, make sure to emphasize the skills and qualities that are most important to you personally when working as an acute care nurse.

Example: “I think the most important aspect of being an acute care nurse is having compassion for my patients. I believe that showing empathy and kindness can help ease their stress and anxiety during a difficult time. In my last position, I was able to use my communication skills to comfort a patient who was scared about her upcoming surgery. She told me later that she felt much calmer after our conversation.”

16. How often have you had to administer medications to patients?

This question can help the interviewer determine your experience with administering medications to patients. If you have never administered medications, you can explain what other responsibilities you had that were similar to this role.

Example: “In my previous position as an acute care nurse, I administered medications to patients every day. I was responsible for checking patient records and ensuring they received their correct dosage of medication at the right time. I also communicated with doctors about any changes in a patient’s condition or if they missed a dose.”

17. There is a shortage of acute care nurses in the area. How would you promote our facility as a place of choice for patients?

This question is an opportunity to show your interpersonal skills and ability to market the hospital or facility you are interviewing for. It’s important to be honest in your response, as it will help you develop a strong relationship with patients who choose to come to your facility.

Example: “I would promote our facility by offering excellent customer service and ensuring that we have highly-trained nurses on staff. I believe that if we can provide a positive experience for patients, they will want to return to us when they need care again.”

18. What is your experience with coordinating care between multiple healthcare providers?

Acute care nurses often work with other medical professionals, such as physicians and physical therapists. Interviewers ask this question to learn about your experience working in a team setting. Use your answer to explain how you collaborate with other healthcare providers. Explain that you are willing to take on additional responsibilities if necessary.

Example: “I have worked with multiple healthcare providers throughout my career. I find it helpful to meet with all of the relevant parties before developing a treatment plan. This allows me to understand each provider’s perspective and develop a plan that meets everyone’s needs. In my previous role, I was responsible for coordinating care between three different acute care units. I found this responsibility challenging but rewarding.”

19. Describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision regarding the care of a patient.

When an interviewer asks you a question like this, they want to know how you make decisions and whether or not you can handle making tough choices. When answering this question, it’s important to show that you’re able to think critically and weigh the options available to you.

Example: “When I was working in the emergency room, we had a patient who came in with symptoms of both a heart attack and a stroke. The patient was elderly, so we knew if we treated them for a stroke, there was a chance they wouldn’t survive long enough to recover from the treatment. However, if we didn’t treat their stroke, they would likely die within a few days. In this situation, I decided to treat the patient for the stroke because it was more urgent than the heart attack.”

20. How do you handle situations where a patient’s family members disagree on their treatment plan?

As an acute care nurse, you may encounter situations where a patient’s family members disagree on their treatment plan. The interviewer wants to know how you handle these situations and ensure that the patient receives the best possible care. In your answer, demonstrate your ability to communicate with patients and their families while maintaining professionalism.

Example: “I always make sure to speak with all of the patient’s family members before making any decisions regarding their treatment plan. I explain my reasoning for each decision I make and ask them what they would like me to do. If there is still disagreement after this discussion, I will refer them to the doctor so they can discuss it further. This ensures that everyone understands why we are taking certain actions and gives the doctor the opportunity to convince them of his or her opinion.

21. What strategies have you used in the past to ensure that all patients receive equal, quality care?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to provide quality care for all patients, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. Use examples from past experiences where you’ve helped a patient receive the best treatment possible despite financial constraints or other challenges.

Example: “In my last role as an acute care nurse, I had a patient who was uninsured and couldn’t afford her medication. She was in pain and worried about how she would pay for her medical bills. I spoke with our hospital’s social worker, who connected me with a local charity that provided free medications to low-income patients. The patient was able to get her medication and continue her treatment plan.”

22. Tell me about a situation where you were able to provide compassionate care to a patient during an emotionally challenging moment.

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your interpersonal skills and how you interact with patients. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to be empathetic, compassionate and supportive of a patient’s needs.

Example: “When I was working in the emergency room, I had a patient who came in after being involved in a car accident. The patient was accompanied by his wife, and they were both visibly shaken up from the experience. As soon as I introduced myself to them, I made sure to speak slowly and clearly so that they could understand what I was saying. I also asked if there was anything I could do to make their stay more comfortable.”

23. Do you have any experience working in a rural or underserved community?

If the position you’re interviewing for requires working in a rural or underserved community, employers may ask this question to make sure you have experience doing so. In your answer, share any experiences you’ve had with working in these communities and how they prepared you for this role.

Example: “I do have some experience working in a rural community, although I haven’t worked there exclusively. When I was an acute care nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, we opened up a satellite clinic in a nearby town that didn’t have many healthcare resources. This gave me valuable experience working in a more remote setting and helped me develop my skills as a leader.”

24. In what ways can acute care nurses help reduce medical errors and improve patient safety?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of how you can improve patient safety and reduce medical errors. Use examples from your experience as a nurse to explain the steps you take to ensure that patients receive safe care.

Example: “I believe that nurses play an important role in ensuring patient safety by following protocols, communicating with other healthcare professionals and providing feedback on ways we can improve our processes. In my last position, I worked with several colleagues to create a new system for tracking medications so that we could better monitor which medications were administered to patients and when. This process helped us identify medication errors and develop strategies to prevent them.”

25. Describe how you would collaborate with other team members to develop an effective treatment plan for a patient.

Collaboration is an important skill for acute care nurses to have. Collaborating with other team members allows you to develop a more comprehensive treatment plan that can help patients recover faster and reduce the risk of complications. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention specific examples of how you’ve worked with your colleagues in the past to create effective treatment plans for patients.

Example: “In my previous role as an acute care nurse, I often collaborated with my fellow nurses and physicians to develop patient treatment plans. For example, when working with a physician on a patient’s treatment plan, I would provide them with information about the patient’s current condition and any symptoms they were experiencing. Then, together we could discuss different treatment options and decide which one was most appropriate.”


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