17 Head Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

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

A head nurse is responsible for managing all nurses and nursing staff on a unit, as well as providing leadership and direction. They also work with doctors, patients, and families to create and implement care plans.

If you’re looking to become a head nurse, you’ll need to be able to answer questions about your experience, leadership style, and ability to handle difficult situations. You’ll also need to be familiar with the latest medical technologies and treatments.

To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve compiled a list of common head nurse interview questions and answers.

Are you comfortable giving direct feedback to your nurses when necessary?

As a head nurse, you may need to give feedback to your staff members about their performance. Employers ask this question to see if you are comfortable giving constructive criticism and how you would do it. In your answer, explain that you understand the importance of providing direct feedback in a respectful way. Explain that you will use specific examples to help your team member improve their skills or work ethic.

Example: “I am very comfortable giving my nurses direct feedback when necessary. I know that sometimes we all need someone else’s perspective on our actions. I always try to be as kind and respectful as possible when giving feedback. However, I also make sure to provide specific examples so my team member can learn from their mistakes. This helps them improve their skills and avoid making the same mistake again.”

What are some of the most important qualities for a head nurse to have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the qualities they’re looking for in a head nurse. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention some of the skills and traits that are listed on your resume or cover letter. This can show the interviewer that you possess these important qualities.

Example: “I believe that one of the most important qualities for a head nurse is being organized. As a head nurse, I would need to delegate tasks to other nurses and ensure that all patients receive the care they need at the right time. Being organized can help me keep track of everything going on in the hospital so I can make sure everyone is doing their job.”

How do you handle difficult situations with patients or their families?

As a head nurse, you may encounter challenging situations with patients or their families. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the skills and experience needed to handle these types of scenarios. In your answer, share an example of how you handled a difficult situation in the past. Explain what steps you took to resolve the issue.

Example: “In my previous role as a registered nurse, I had a patient who was very upset about her diagnosis. She wanted me to tell her that everything would be okay, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t true. Instead, I told her that we could work together to find the best treatment plan for her condition. This seemed to calm her down, and she agreed to start her treatment.”

What is your process for delegating tasks to your staff?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your leadership style and how you interact with other members of the healthcare team. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation in which you delegated tasks to staff members and what the outcome was.

Example: “I find that delegating tasks is an important part of my job as head nurse because it allows me to assess each member of my staff’s strengths and weaknesses. I also use delegation to help build confidence in my staff members by giving them opportunities to take on new responsibilities. In my last role, I noticed one of my nurses had been working at the hospital for quite some time but hadn’t yet taken on any supervisory roles. So, I asked her if she would like to try managing a few patients while I observed. She agreed, and after a week or so, she felt comfortable enough to continue leading those patients.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to manage a difficult patient case.

As a head nurse, you may be responsible for managing difficult patient cases. Employers ask this question to learn more about your leadership skills and how you can handle challenging situations. In your answer, try to explain the steps you took to manage the situation while also highlighting your interpersonal skills.

Example: “In my previous role as a registered nurse, I had a patient who was very upset because she wasn’t able to see her doctor that day. She kept calling me over to complain about everything from the food to the temperature of the hospital. I calmly explained to her that I couldn’t do anything about these things but offered to call her doctor if she wanted. Eventually, she calmed down and agreed to wait until later in the day to speak with her doctor.”

If a patient had a poor experience with one of your nurses, how would you handle it?

Interviewers ask this question to see how you handle conflict. They want to know that you can resolve issues and keep your team happy. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to ensure the patient had a positive experience with the hospital in the future.

Example: “If a patient had a poor experience with one of my nurses, I would first listen to their concerns. Then, I would speak with the nurse about the issue. If it was something they could improve on, I would give them feedback and help them develop strategies for improvement. If the problem was more serious, such as if the nurse was rude or unprofessional, I would have a conversation with them about the importance of professionalism. Depending on the severity of the situation, I might even terminate their employment.”

What would you do if you noticed a pattern of nurses consistently making mistakes while on the job?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your ability to identify and solve problems. In your answer, describe a situation in which you noticed a problem within the nursing staff and how you fixed it.

Example: “In my last role as head nurse, I noticed that several nurses were making mistakes when administering medications. This was causing some patients to experience side effects from their treatment. After discussing the issue with the rest of the nursing team, we realized that many of us had been using different methods for calculating dosages. We developed a new training program to teach all employees the proper way to calculate medication dosages and implemented a system to ensure that every patient received the correct dosage.”

How well do you handle stress?

As a head nurse, you may be responsible for managing the stress of your staff. Employers ask this question to make sure you have strategies for handling stressful situations and can help others do the same. In your answer, share two or three ways you manage stress in your life. Try to relate these methods to how they might help you handle stress at work.

Example: “I think it’s important to find outlets for stress that are healthy. I try to exercise regularly because it helps me relieve stress and gives me energy throughout my day. Another thing I do is take some time during my shift to meditate. It only takes five minutes, but it really helps me clear my mind and focus on what I need to do next.”

Do you have any experience using staffing software?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn about your experience with technology and how you use it in your daily work. If you have used staffing software before, share what type of software you’ve used and the benefits of using it. If you haven’t used any kind of staffing software, explain that you are open to learning new technologies.

Example: “I have worked as a head nurse for five years now, so I am familiar with many different types of staffing software. In my previous role, we used an online scheduling system where nurses could see their schedules at least two weeks in advance. This helped us plan our lives better and reduced stress because we knew when we would be working ahead of time. It also allowed managers to make last-minute changes if needed.”

When is it appropriate to call in a nurse from outside the hospital to help with a patient?

This question can help the interviewer determine your level of experience and how you make decisions. It’s important to show that you know when it’s appropriate to call in a nurse from outside the hospital and when it isn’t.

Example: “If I have an experienced nurse who is available, I would first ask them if they are willing to take on the patient. If not, then I would look at my current staff members’ schedules and see which ones are free. If there aren’t any nurses available, then I would call in someone from outside the hospital.”

We want to improve our patient satisfaction scores. What would you do to improve this area?

Patient satisfaction is an important metric for many healthcare facilities. The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your approach to improving patient care and overall facility performance. In your answer, explain how you would use your leadership skills to implement a plan that improves the quality of care patients receive and their overall experience at the hospital.

Example: “I believe that patient satisfaction scores are directly related to the quality of care we provide. To improve our patient satisfaction scores, I would first assess what areas need improvement. Then, I would create a plan with my team to address these issues. For example, if we have low nurse-to-patient ratios, I would work with management to hire more staff or find ways to better utilize existing staff members. If we have long wait times in certain departments, I would develop a system to track wait times and ensure all patients receive timely care.”

Describe your process for giving a patient’s family updates on their condition.

The interviewer may ask you this question to understand how you communicate with patients’ families. This is an important skill for head nurses because they often have to explain medical information to family members and other people who are not familiar with the terminology used in healthcare. In your answer, describe a specific situation where you had to give updates on a patient’s condition to their family.

Example: “I always try to meet with family members as soon as possible after I learn about a patient’s condition. I find that it helps them feel more comfortable if they know what to expect before I tell them any details about the patient’s condition. When I first meet with family members, I usually just give them an overview of the patient’s current condition and then offer to answer any questions they might have. Then, throughout my shift, I check in with them regularly to update them on any changes in the patient’s condition.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. When answering this question, it can be helpful to highlight a skill or experience that makes you unique from other candidates. You may also want to mention any skills you have that will help you succeed in the role.

Example: “I am passionate about patient care and always strive to provide excellent service to my patients and colleagues. I believe that having a positive attitude is important for providing quality care, so I make sure to remain upbeat even when working long shifts. Another reason why I would be an asset to this position is because of my extensive knowledge of medical terminology. I took several classes on anatomy and physiology during my nursing program, which has helped me understand complex medical conditions.”

Which nursing certifications do you have?

Employers may ask this question to see if you have any certifications that are relevant to the position. If they haven’t listed which certifications they’re looking for, it’s a good idea to research what nursing certifications their hospital offers and mention those. It can also be helpful to mention any other certifications you have, even if they aren’t related to nursing.

Example: “I am certified in CPR, first aid and as an emergency medical technician. I’m currently working on my registered nurse certification through the American Nurses Association.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of communication between nurses and patients?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your communication skills and how they can impact the overall care of patients. In your answer, try to emphasize the importance of clear and compassionate communication with patients and their families.

Example: “I think that patient-centered communication is one of the most important aspects of nursing because it allows me to understand my patients’ needs and concerns. It also helps me develop relationships with patients and their loved ones so I can provide them with emotional support as well as medical care. When I communicate clearly with patients and their families, I can help them feel more comfortable and confident in our hospital’s care.”

How often should nurses perform check-ins with patients?

The interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of the best practices for patient care. Your answer should include a specific time frame and an explanation of why it’s important to check in with patients regularly.

Example: “I recommend that nurses perform check-ins with patients every two hours, or more often if needed. This allows us to monitor their progress and ensure they’re comfortable. It also gives us the opportunity to address any concerns they have before they become emergencies. For example, I had a patient who was experiencing pain during her sleep cycle. She didn’t want to take any medication because she was breastfeeding. Instead of waiting until morning to address the issue, I checked on her at midnight and learned about her discomfort. We were able to find a solution so she could get some rest.”

There is a new treatment for a common condition that affects many of your patients. How do you educate your nurses about the new method?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your leadership skills and how you would implement change in the workplace. In your answer, demonstrate that you are able to communicate effectively with your team members and encourage them to learn new information.

Example: “I would first make sure I understood the treatment myself so I could explain it clearly to my nurses. Then, I would schedule a meeting with all of my nurses to discuss the new method. During the meeting, I would give an overview of the new treatment and then break into smaller groups for discussion. This allows me to gauge everyone’s level of understanding and provide individual support as needed.”


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