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Questions to Ask in a Job Interview for an Emergency Nurse

by Ruth Mayhew

Asking the typical interview questions, such as "Why do you want to work for County General Hospital," barely scratch the surface if you're looking for emergency room, or ER, nurses. Even first-time ER nurses will have answers for wanting to join a health care facility where competency and quality of care often are judged by the speed with which she renders nursing care. Out-of-the-box questions that pertain directly to ER nursing experiences will glean information helpful to making a hiring decision.

Work Environment

Working in the ER requires nurses who can quickly assess or triage patients while maintaining a calm but attentive demeanor. It doesn't sit well with ER patients if the nurse mirrors the angst that many patients have when they receive emergency treatment. The fast-pace work environment is more than some ER nurses want from their nursing career and the type of trauma and urgency they must deal with can be a 180-degree change from a registered nurse who works, for example, in a dermatologist's office. Behavioral interview questions can best shed light on whether the nurse has the demeanor, core competencies and interest in working in the ER.

Behavioral Interview Questions

When you pose questions to ER nurse candidates, ask how they'd respond to physician-nurse communication or what are the best practices for dealing with a patient in distress, which often is the case in the ER. For example, you could ask, "Tell me about a time when a patient who was suffering from a life-threatening injury could not be restrained so that he could receive treatment. How did you handle communicating to the patient in a manner that would permit the health care team to administer treatment?" Also, questions such as, "How do you keep an unflappable persona in an environment where many of the tasks need to be accomplished in a rush?"

Clinical Expertise or Situational Interview Questions

Questions about an ER nurse's clinical expertise typically would be called situational interview questions, where the candidate explains how she performs a process or what steps she uses to complete her nursing duties. A question for an ER nurse candidate could be, "How do you prioritize your steps in providing care?" Advanced-level nurses or those who have worked in ER units before may be more comfortable with questions about patient assessments, such as, "Aside from the typical triage questions, what questions would you focus on if a middle-age man, who appears to be in a high-stress condition, comes to the ER with chest pains and shortness of breath?" Be careful about asking nurses about diagnoses because that's beyond the scope of many nurses' work.

Gratification from Nursing

Practically every recruiter or nurse manager will ask questions about why the candidate chose nursing as a career field, but ER nurses may have more to add to their reasons for choosing an area where their decisions may literally affect a patient's life. In a March 2010 "Reader's Digest" article titled, "15 Secrets the Emergency Room Staff Won't Tell You," it suggests health care professionals in this area of a hospital prioritize patient treatment above money. If the nurse is transitioning from another area of nursing, ask questions such as, "What interests you about ER?" or "During clinical rotations during your nursing school studies, how many opportunities did you have to witness ER treatment or the way an ER operates?"

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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