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How to Interview a Charge Nurse

by Ellie Williams

A charge nurse leads a specific department within a hospital or other health care facility. She’s responsible for everything from supervising employees to dealing with the concerns of patients and family members, so when evaluating applicants it’s important to seek someone who’s well-rounded. During the interview, consider every aspect of a candidate’s background, personality and skills.

Formalities

Get the basics out of the way first so you can spend the bulk of the interview on more in-depth questioning. Make small talk to establish rapport and put the candidate at ease. Introduce your facility and its policies and describe what’s expected of the charge nurse. Assess the applicant’s personality, motivations and working style. Open with the long-trusted “Tell me about yourself” and ask her why she chose nursing as a career and how she decided which area of nursing to focus on. Discuss credentials such as certification in a particular nursing specialty or prior management experience.

Assess Clinical Competency

Once you’ve verified the candidate possesses the key qualifications, explore her clinical knowledge in greater depth. Ask behavioral questions that require her to provide detailed and concrete examples. For example, describe a set of symptoms and ask her how she would evaluate and treat the patient. Ask her for examples of difficult cases she’s encountered at previous jobs and ask her what steps she took and what the outcome was. Or, ask how she would proceed if she and a fellow nurse disagreed on a patient’s diagnosis or the appropriate treatment.

Evaluate People and Communication Skills

The charge nurse works closely with physicians, fellow nurses and other members of the health care team. Because of this, it’s crucial that she get along well with others, be willing to put aside her ego for the good of the patient and the team, and that she’s skilled in both verbal and written communication. Ask her how she would resolve conflict between two of her staff nurses, or how she would discipline a nurse who oversteps her authority or doesn’t fulfill her job duties. Ask how she would address an upset family member’s concerns and what she would say to ease the person’s worries.

Get Others’ Opinions

Because treating patients requires a team approach, it’s important to find a charge nurse who will fit in with the rest of the group. Introduce the applicant to the people she’ll work alongside every day. Ask three or four of them to participate in a panel interview, especially if you’ve progressed to the second or third round of interviews. Use their feedback to gain a greater understanding of the applicant’s personality and skills, and to determine if she’ll make a natural addition to the team or potentially cause friction.

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