Top 5 Nurse Interview Tips

Since graduating nursing school I have been working in geriatrics. I have spent the last couple of years as a quality assurance, workplace safety coordinator, wound care, and charge nurse. Yes, all at the same time! A little over a month ago I was contacted by another local long term care/skilled nursing facility. They had an opening for a co-director of clinical services (aka director of nursing). This position would oversee the skilled unit as well as quality assurance and infection control. Stay tuned as I will go into more detail about my position in a later post. I set up the interview and it went great; I was offered the position a few days later and accepted it! I start this Wednesday, I am equal parts nervous and excited. Nursing has so many opportunities and specialties that it is not uncommon for nurses to switch specialties or jobs, so along with that comes job interviews. Interviews can induce some anxiety so I have put together a list of top 5 tips for your next nurse interview.

  1. Do your homework. Research the company. Research the specialty. Head into the interview knowing what you can about the company, the specialty, and the position.
  2. Mock Interview. Research common nursing interview questions. Using a word document type the question and then come up with your own answers. Have a mock interview and go over the questions and answers, you can do this by yourself. Basically study this, that way you won’t draw a blank during the interview.
  3. Dress Professionally. The majority of nurses spend their time in scrubs but when it comes to the interview it is best to dress in professional business clothes. Black dress pants, shoes, and blazer with a colored or patterned shirt underneath always looks great and professional.
  4. Know statistics. Know basic facts and statistics related to your job. For example if you work in quality assurance know your current re-hospitalization rate, for infection control know your infection rate. If you’re working the floor brush up on latest trends and findings related to your specialty.
  5. Be prepared. Bring copies of your resume, references, nursing license, and relevant certifications to the interview. Also bring a pen, one you have made sure works. Put these in a nice black leather padfolio, that way you will have paper to take notes on or write down questions. Many interviews these days include a panel of people not just one person, in my experience there will be anywhere from 1-5 interviewers. You should have that many copies of your resume with you.

Nurse Panel Interview


A Look Into a Woman’s Heart

February is Heart Month! Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, but did you know more women die of heart disease per year than any other cause of death, including breast cancer? Each year, 455,000 women die of heart disease as compared to 410,000 men. Moreover, heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, equating to the death of approximately one woman each minute.

Women are not only more likely to die from heart disease; they also have higher mortality rates due to complications after a heart attack. Though this might be frightening to hear, this reality is due to the misconception that men’s and women’s hearts are the same and that their symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are the same. A 2011 study focused on heart disease and women, conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), found that women were twice as likely to die within one year of having a heart attack than men who also suffered a heart attack.

When UnityPoint contacted me about sharing this I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As a registered nurse I know this, but it’s important for everybody to know. People need to take extra steps to take care of themselves. Starting with a healthy diet, exercise, and annual physicals!

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Don’t Be That Nurse.

The Complainer. Don’t complain about everything, everyday. There’s always that one nurse that complains about EVERYTHING, the food, the patients, the weather, the scrubs, the building temperature, the families, the other nurses, the meds, the treatments, everything I mean it. This gets real old, real fast. Pull up your big girl panties and GROW UP.

The Know-It-All. And there’s always the one that knows everything. Super nurse 3000. They’ve been there done that and better than you… You need to be a team player if you’re going to work in nursing healthcare. Sure it’s great to offer advice or constructive criticism, but not if you’re only doing so to hear yourself talk. You’re not better than everyone else, come back down to reality.

The Drama Queen. The one that turns everything into a huge deal. Freaking out, running around. Getting in a tizzy over something minor. Not using any critical thinking. Basically they’ve seen too many episode of ER and Gray’s Anatomy. One of the most important skills you will need as a nurse is the ability to stay calm in emergency and stressful situations. You need to be able to function and get things done for your patient.

The Lazy One. Then we have the one that wants to do nothing. Delegating everything to the CNAs. Trying to get out of everything. Leaving treatments for oncoming shifts. Get with the program, you need to be there for your patients and their families. I’ve seen several reasons why this happens; the one that doesn’t think they need to do it, the burnt out one, the one who needs to retire, and the one who is just generally lazy in every aspect. Somethings I do question how some people completed nursing school and passed boards. Nursing and lazy should never be used in the same sentence.

What are other traits to avoid picking up as you become a nurse?

don't be tachy

What they won’t teach you in nursing school.

Once you graduate nursing school, pass NCLEX, and get your first job you will realize just how unprepared you really are. In fact, you will probably wonder ‘what did I just spend the last several years in school doing?’. You’ll feel kind of like you did at your first clinical, but just a lot more in debt. Clinicals aren’t that realist and don’t prepare you for all that much. Even though you get to do stuff in clincials, it’s just not the same in the real world. Thank God for orientation at your job, or those first couple weeks would be pretty terrifying. No doubt, they’ll still be pretty nerve-wracking. Not to mention that first day on your own. Don’t worry though, you’ll be able to look back at all this one day and laugh. Maybe. That or have PTSD like nightmares. Now that I’ve totally freaked you out, I’ll continue with a list of what you won’t know.

  • How to order from pharmacy. Seriously, this is SO easy but I never did it in clincials once. This depends on where you work but in LTC it usually consists of writing the med or sticking the refill stick off the med onto a pharmacy order sheet and faxing it to the pharmacy.
  • How to use the ER box. There will be that time in the middle of your med pass when you realize, ‘shit, nobody ordered his new coumadin dose’. Well luckily there’s a magic treasure box in the med room. It holds the most common medications that cannot be missed (antibiotics, coumadin, antianxiety, etc.).
  • Paper charting. They pretend like they teach you this is nursing school. They don’t. Hospitals are all using EMR these days. You know what needs to be wrote, but you need it to sound professional. So do what any other well-educated person would do: read the previous entries to learn proper charting format.
  • Falls. I didn’t experience one in nursing school. Definitely ask during your orientation so you have an idea or what to do. Otherwise, most places have a protocol/checklist of some sort so you’ll know what to do. PS: You will have a mini-heart attack when your first fall happens. Just sayin’.
  • Deaths. This is always hard to deal with. And nothing makes it any easier. Except knowing they aren’t suffering anymore. Again ask for the procedure while you are still completing orientation so you’re not lost when it happens and you’re on your own.
  • How to call a doctor. Sure you know how to pickup the phone and dial the number. But what do you say? What do you need to know? Think about what you’re going to say before calling so you don’t sound like a blubbering idiot. Also, make sure you have the chart, current med list, recent labs, and a recent set of vitals. Don’t put off calling because you’re nervous.
  • Tape. Holy shit, who knew there was so many different kinds of tape?
  • Removing sutures. I’d never removed stitched or staples in clincials. One day I needed to remove 30-some staples from a mans hip. Hmmm. Well apparently they make these pretty neat little gadgets, they’re basically the same thing as your standard household staple-remover – in scissor form. Presto, staples go buh-bye.
  • Giving report. You need to give the next shift the appropriate information in a quick and to-the-point manner. Condition changes, new meds, any procedures, vitals, heads-up on any issues, etc.
  • Time management. It’s quite a change going from one or two patients to 60 (I am a charge nurse in charge of 60 residents, 2 nurses, and 7 aides). My floor nurses each have 30 residents to medicate, complete treatments, and chart. It’s ALL about time management. Or in the hospital it’s quite a jump from being a student nurse to two patients to being fully in charge of 6.
  • Routine. There’s a basic routine on how to get things done. Sure, everyone has their own version and you will tailor what you learn to fit your needs. But you’re going to have to hit the floor running, nobody’s going to baby you, they’re too busy with their own stuff.
  • Dementia patients. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much reorientation you try it’s not going to work. Actually, sometimes it’s even worse to try to reorient them. If they think it’s 1954 and they’re late for school, let them think that they’re not hurting anything. Don’t over-medicate to make your job easy, but remember those PRNs. You have to keep your resident safe. If he’s trying to crawl out of bed and hitting at the CNA because he ‘needs to go milk the cows’ and nothing is helping it’s time for a PRN so nobody gets hurt.
  • Multitasking. You will need eight hands. Channel your inner octopus.
  • Breaks/Meals. There’s a good chance you won’t get any breaks when your start your first job because more than likely you’ll be a little behind. And everyone will have those nights where you are so behind and it’s so crazy that you punch out for supper just to go back to work, clock-in 30 minutes later, and go to back to work. Always eat before going into work, you never know what will happen.
  • Shifts. Just because you are scheduled for an 8 or 12 hour shift doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to leave in exactly 8 or 12 hours. And god-forbid the night shift nurse calls in and nobody will cover for her. Hello, long night.
  • Stress. Nursing is a stressful job. This is something clinicals just won’t prepare you for. There will be days you breakdown on the way home. Positive stress-management techniques are needed, that’s for sure.
  • Boxing. No, not to knock out that bitchy nurse, but to dodge that left hook from your agitated dementia patient.
  • Red Tape & Politics. Nursing is one of the highest regulated professions. There are so many rules and regulations. And at times that can be hard to deal with.
  • State Inspections. Clinicals won’t prepare you for this. It’s scary. Having someone watching your every move making sure you don’t make one tiny mistake. Just take a deep breath, relax, and do your thing. Because YOU know what you’re doing!
  • Stocking the cart. You will always be a lancet short, with no alcohol wipes, and just finishing a stock bottle of Tylenol. Get used to it now, the shift before you isn’t going to restock the cart.
  • Drama. Yes, in nursing school you get a touch of the drama but just wait until you are thrown to the wolves on your first day. But I guess when it’s a predominately female profession you’ll have that. But I have noticed (at least in LTC) the drama is more with the CNAs and you’re left refereeing them like a teacher on the playground.

Even though this may sound like the most horrifying job on the planet and you’re in the process of calling your college to change majors, DON’T DO IT! It really is one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. You get to make a difference in people lives everyday. You save lives.


How to Really Work with Doctors.

As I was reading though blogs today I can across an article titled Working with Docs written by a fairly new nurse. It was written like there was a strict protocol needed in order for a nurse to call a doctor, how doctors are on a different level – untouchable, and made it sound like unless your patient is coding don’t bother calling. This is NOT what new nurses need to hear. No doubt she did make some very good points about what you need to do before calling the doctor such as having the patient’s chart, recent vitals, labs, and med list available before you call and knowing if anyone else needs to talk to the doctor before hanging up. She also touches on how in the beginning it is so nerve-wracking to call the doctor- which is totally true. In reality a good portion of what was written was relevant and pertinent information. But one paragraph was not. It was almost written in a degrading meaner towards nurses. Here it is:
“Doctors are very, very busy.  Do you think you’re busy as a nurse?  So are docs, but in a different way.  They work on less sleep with much more responsibility.  We get to clock out and completely forget about the patient’s we just took care of.  They are on call overnight and still expected to come in the next morning, even if they were in surgery for hours or had to come in for a consult overnight, then come in the next day to round on all of their patients. Don’t immediately page them with every single question.  Don’t you hate 10 calls/questions when you’re trying to assess, document, and medicate your patient?  It’s the same thing with doctors.”

I would just like to point out some things. Nurses are very, very busy. Yes, I am a nurse, and I am busy when I am working. Yes, doctor are busy as well, but I don’t see how it’s so different. And they work on less sleep? Why would a doctor automatically work on less sleep? Especially when they aren’t working shifts. Plus it’s not like the same doctor is on call night after night. And seriously, how often are they called in? Obviously this will very by geographical area & type of hospital. And I would say level of responsibility is pretty even. Since nurses do almost EVERYTHING for the patient they are responsible for doing it and making sure it’s correct. Just because a doctor ordered something doesn’t mean it’s correct. Even though the doctor order something YOU as the nurse are just as responsible if something was incorrect and still given/completed. Because that’s part of the job, you’re supposed to catch it. But the line that really bugged me the most out of this whole post was “We get to clock out and completely forget about the patient’s we just took care of”. What what WHAT!? I don’t think most nurses are sitting there watching the clock to run out the door & we don’t just forget our patients. We bring our work and feelings home with us. Doctors see/deal with way more patients than nurses do, so let’s be real they aren’t sitting at home thinking about some patient. And they aren’t patiently sitting at home in case they are called in, they’re off do their own thing. Nurses are on call as well, don’t forget that. Especially surgery nurses, as doctors and surgery was pointed out in the original post. AND TO ALL THE NEW NURSES READING THIS: IF YOU ARE QUESTIONING SOMETHING OR HAVE A GUT FEELING – CALL THE DOCTOR. Don’t let people with this same opinion that doctors are untouchable scare you. It’s the difference between life & death. Yes, don’t call the doctor for something stupid that can wait, but if you’re worried about something do it. Doctors are just people and they are no better than nurses. Once you realize this you will be set. And yes, getting 10 phones call while you are busy with patients is annoying. But for real, we as nurse put on out big girl/boy panties and deal with it. Plus, you’re not generally calling the doctor 10 times in a short period of time anyways. Doctors will call or talk to nurses for their opinion, because they are the ones dealing with the patient on a daily basis. And you are aloud to question medications and order, but do so with caution. Don’t question an order because you want to play doctor, but do question an order if say the patient is in renal failure and the med shouldn’t be given to anyone with kidney problems. We have all helped each other out. Doctors have said that nurses saved their ass nursing residency and into their first years of practice. Remember your first days on the job and how unprepared you really were? Well doctors are the same.

I guess my main problem with this was that it makes it sound like you should never call a doctor. That’s not the case, and new nurses need to know that it’s OK to do so. Doctors and nurses are on the SAME team, we all work together. Before calling the doctor I always consult with my coworkers to make sure we have brainstormed everything, but then I call if necessary – no big deal. But you do need to have your information ready and know what you need to say/ask. Most doctors will sound like you are bugging them when you call, but whatever don’t let it bother you. Just be respectful and get to the point. Being on call and receiving phone calls IS part of a doctor’s job and they knew that going into med school. Plus, whatever they’ll get over it.


No, 60 is not my age or the temperature outside. It’s the numbers of hours I will have worked this week. Including 10.5 hours tomorrow and 17.5 hours on Thursday. Too bad Uncle Sam likes overtime so much, darn! This doesn’t include any hours at the shop, etc. just strictly nursing hours. The joys of being a nurse…Image