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Questions to Ask During a Nursing Job Shadow

by Jill Leviticus, studioD

Job shadowing can help you decide if nursing or a job at a particular hospital or facility is the right one for you. Shadowing allows you to observe the workload and demands of the position. The nurse you shadow can provide valuable information regarding the benefits or drawbacks of the position if you ask the right questions. Bring along a notepad and paper and use them to write any questions that arise during the day.

Ask the nurse where she attended nursing school. Find out about her first job and ask how long it took to find that job. Information about the nurse’s background, education and experience can give you insight into nursing career paths.

Find out what she did to overcome any problems and ask how helpful her fellow nurses and other staff were to her as a new nurse. Although everyone’s experiences will be different, learning about her struggles might help you avoid future pitfalls.

Discuss the techniques and methods you observe. A working nurse might not perform a task exactly the way you learned it in nursing school. Find out why she performs the task in a different way and why she finds it more helpful.

Ask how many patients the nurse cares for during a shift, what type of illnesses or injuries she sees on the unit, and how nurses interact with other hospital departments to provide patient care.

Observe charting and other paperwork procedures. Ask what type of computer software the hospital uses for charting and how difficult it was to learn that system.

Learn about the hospital’s training classes and opportunities. Ongoing training is an important part of your nursing career, and constant medical advances mean that there’s always something new to learn. Find out if the nurse thinks the hospital provides adequate training and ask if it offers tuition reimbursement.

Ask what the nurse does and doesn’t like about her job. Find out if she thinks she will still be a nurse in five years. Honest answers to these questions can help you form a realistic view of the nursing profession, although answers might vary depending on the nurse’s personality and overall experience.

Discuss the hospital’s support of its nurses. Find out if she feels that the hospital is responsive to concerns, needs and suggestions.

Items you will need
  •  Notepad
  •  Pen


  • You might have questions regarding some of the things the nurse does as you observe her performing patient care and other tasks. The Amherst College Career Center recommends that you ask questions during lunch or another free time. The nurse probably won’t have time to adequately address your question if she’s busy interacting with a patient, and you’ll probably get more detailed information if you wait to ask the question when she has adequate time to answer it.


  • Don’t form an opinion based on just one shadowing experience. Shadow several nurses who work in different departments before you decide which type of nursing experience would best suit your interests and experience.

About the Author

Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.

Photo Credits

  • Wendy Hope/Stockbyte/Getty Images