Nurse Manager Interview Questions
A Nurse Manager acts as a supervisor and advocate for quality patient care. They collaborate with a clinic or hospital’s healthcare staff to create a team of experienced, dedicated nurses that provide exemplary care, reduce the number of return visits and promote a healthy, positive life for everyone who comes in contact with them.
A Nurse Manager combines their experience as a medical professional with strong leadership and communication skills. They hire new nurses, observe current nurses on the job and provide feedback to improve nursing operations. Their diligence ensures the facility’s nursing team always operates according to regulatory standards. For the best results, consider hiring a candidate whose background includes both hands-on nursing and supervisory/managerial experience.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests, and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Nurse Manager interview questions to help you get started:
1. How did you begin to transition from applied nursing to management?
What you want to hear: The ideal candidate will have years of both clinical and managerial experience. They should unify their passion for nursing with a desire to improve the conditions of the workplace for patients. Strong responses will touch upon their nursing experience, examples of leadership in the workplace, and the events that ultimately inspired them to pursue a management role.
Red flag: Inexperience or lack of self-awareness will not bode well in a position that requires enduring attention to detail. Nurse Managers need to be confident in their own abilities and understand their journey, so they can help the nurses they supervise.
2. What kind of patients did you commonly work with as a nurse?
What you want to hear: A nurse will either specialize in a particular area of medicine, in which the type of patients they treated share commonalities, or they could have a diverse background from working in hospitals, urgent care settings or general practices. Depending on the type of healthcare your facility provides, it may be beneficial to hire a candidate whose prior work experience reflects the current patients your staff treats on a daily basis.
Red flag: Nurses who do not find it easy to describe their patients or summarize their past work experience could be too inexperienced for the role. Hiring nurses with diverse backgrounds and, in some cases, specialized experience will ensure they are able to relate to the nurses they manage.
3. What qualities do you have that make you a good nurse and even better manager?
What you want to hear: When someone wants to enter a higher level of work, they must be able to identify their strengths and carry them from one position to another. Responses should touch upon effective communication skills, being a good multitasker, paying attention to small details, and working with a team.
Red flag: If a candidate omits any of the aforementioned skills, they will likely lack the strong personality and abilities it takes to serve as a manager. You can only afford to hire people whose experience is accompanied by self-awareness and confidence.
4. What are some difficulties you experienced as a nurse? How would you train your team to handle such difficulties effectively?
What you want to hear: The rewards of being a nurse are not easily earned; a qualified candidate will recognize many of the challenges that come with the job, be it burnout from long shifts, job hazards, emotional grief and guilt from patients’ death, or lack of respect in the workplace. All of these are very real and valid experiences that need to be addressed from a position of wisdom and empathy.
Red flag: A candidate who downplays the challenges their job brings is not likely to provide the level of support a team of nurses needs to thrive. Understanding the challenges of being a nurse enables your Nurse Manager to identify when a member of the team is struggling and provide much-needed guidance.
5. If the facility is short-staffed, how do you maintain patient care standards?
What you want to hear: Prioritizing assignments and informing the nursing director are important first steps when confronting a staffing shortage. The Nurse Manager should ensure patients are cared for by order of necessity. They should also encourage their team to work together, keep a positive attitude and allow them to take short breaks when they can. Staying motivated and finding solace in each other’s struggles helps prevent burnout and poor work performance.
Red flag: The candidate whose response fails to mention the importance of prioritizing or finding possible solutions to the staffing shortage may not provide the level of problem-solving skills and focus you need. It is also not enough to identify staffing schedule challenges; the best managers also strive to address concerns related to their staff’s well-being.
6. What are some factors you would consider when selecting assignments for a staff nurse?
What you want to hear: A qualified Nurse Manager recognizes the unique qualities, strengths and experience of each nurse on their team. They should consider the type of care a patient needs and ensure that nurses are familiar with the unit or there is cross-training in place. They should also strive to assign nurses to patients who are all in close proximity to one another in order to maximize floor efficiency and improve patient care.
Red flag: The candidate who fails to list important aspects of assigning staff nurses to patients could inadvertently cause challenges in the workplace. Possible consequences of poor management in this position include reduced quality of patient care and higher stress for the entire nursing staff.
7. What steps do you take to ensure a healthy work environment for your staff?
What you want to hear: Because their job is rooted in caring for others, nurses need managers who act as advocates for their wellness in the workplace. Candidates should reference guidelines established by the American Nurses Association in their Nurses Bill of Rights, which includes opportunity to provide ethical care, freedom to negotiate their employment, and ability to voice workplace concerns without fear of retribution.
Red flag: A candidate who focuses too heavily on the business side of nursing is more likely to overlook practical problems and barriers to job satisfaction. Quality managers understand that employee care, safety and happiness are fundamental to meeting objectives. Beyond that, they should have the desire to create a positive work environment for their fellow nurses because they genuinely care about their well-being.
8. Do you think it is more important to be a good nurse or a good manager in this role?
What you want to hear: The answer is both. Being a good nurse helps a manager empathize with their staff. Their shared experience helps them identify problems more easily and respond with a greater level of compassion and understanding. Being a good manager enables them to provide high-level, focused team-oriented solutions.
Red flag: Failure to connect nursing and management experience into one cohesive work style will ultimately result in poorer work performance. Candidates must be not only passionate about caring for patients but also know why that matters as a manager.
9. What steps would you take to improve nursing education and retain staff?
What you want to hear: Nurse managers who prioritize education and opportunity are more likely to keep staff on-board. Training initiatives that include tuition reimbursement for degree advancement and technology skills training can benefit nurses while reducing turnover rates.
Red flag: Candidates should be responsive and proactive in their jobs, meaning they know there is a responsibility on their end to keep nurses engaged and loyal to the facility. Failure to take interest in this aspect of the job can result in poor work conditions, lower job satisfaction and more frequent resignations.
10. How do you evaluate a nursing team’s performance?
What you want to hear: Evaluations and performance reviews help nurses improve systematically. Self-evaluations, peer review and direct assessments help align a facility’s staff with nursing professional standards and provide the highest quality of patient care. Management skills carry over into evaluative measures by collaborating with HR and finding ways to improve poor results rather than simply reprimanding them.
Red flag: Avoid hiring a candidate who fails to see the importance of nursing evaluations or does not mention any specific evaluative techniques. They will be unlikely to identify patient care risks in the workplace and could ultimately fail to enforce nursing standards that protect patients health and well-being.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Nurse Manager position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Combine management skills with professional nursing experience.
- Are articulate, direct and approachable communicators.
- Value teamwork and demonstrate the qualities of a good leader.
- Recognize common challenges that impact clinical operations and know how to develop solutions.