13 questions nurses should ask during a job interview
As you seek out nursing jobs, now is the time to find out about things like overtime policy—not after a 16-hour shift.
If you’re a nurse, you have the good fortune of being very much in demand.
With health care providers dealing with shortages stemming from an aging population and increased coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be a million job openings for nurses by 2022.
All of those opportunities make it even more important for you to to ask plenty of questions during interviews, since you may have your choice of employers. You have the leverage to be more choosy about fit.
Make sure to put these 13 questions to your interviewer:
“What’s the culture of your facility?”
Culture in a nursing unit or medical practice is paramount, says nursing career coach Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC who works in Albuquerque. How the group works together and collaborates says a great deal about the organization. “If the response is amorphous and vague,” says Carlson, “they probably don't pay much attention to workplace culture, much to their loss, and potentially yours, as well.”
“What kind of training do you provide?”
You need to know whether you’ll be thrown directly into the fire or if you'll have your hand held for a little while, Carlson says. “If they can't give you a straight answer, or they evade the question, you can bet that they have no formal program in this regard, and you'd better be careful and be circumspect about working for them.”
“Is there a probationary period?”
Find out when you’ll be counted as a real staff member, says nursing career coach Carmen Kosicek, RN, MSN, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “If they say pretty darn quick, that tells you that staffing ratios are horrid, because they need people so badly.”
“What qualities and skills are you seeking?”
Besides helping you present yourself as an ideal candidate, this kind of question can give you insight into the organization’s culture, Carlson says.
“What is your tuition-reimbursement policy?”
If you’re interested in continuing your education, this perk can be very valuable. Not only should you ask about how much is included in the policy, you should also find out when new hires are eligible, and what kind of education it applies to, Kosicek says.
“How long are your shifts?”
Most hospitals offer 8- or 12-hour shifts, but knowing the difference is important in case you’re expected to pick up half-shifts, Kosicek says. This can help you determine your expected workload if you take the job. And if it’s high, but you want the job, there are ways to cope.
“What is your overtime policy?”
You’ll need to know whether the organization’s overtime policy applies to any time after 40 hours in a week, or 12 hours in a shift, or some other arrangement, Kosicek says. “A lot of people work three 12-hour shifts, so if you pick up extra hours after that are they overtime, or do you have to wait until you hit 40 hours?”
“How much of the staff works overtime?”
The answer gives you a sense of how stretched employees are. “If the answer is 60%, that says they’re short-staffed,” Kosicek says.
“What are your staffing ratios?”
Asking about overtime can provide insight into staffing, but asking this question directly is useful as well, Kosicek says. If the ratio is one nurse to 30 patients, you’ll need to find out if there are other support staff assigned as well.
“What are the on-call requirements?”
In addition to your regular shift, you may be required to be on call. Find out if this is required on top of a 40-hour week, Kosicek says. If you already know that the organization has a lot of overtime, there may be departments that mandate on-call shifts. Ask how many people are required to be on call, and how much they pay for on-call work.
“What is the weekend rotation requirement?”
Your weekend rotation requirement may be every other weekend, one weekend out of the month or some other arrangement, Kosicek says. Find out if it varies depending on the shift you work, and what the definition of “weekend” is.
“Which EMR system do you use?”
If the organization uses one you’re not familiar with, that will slow down your learning curve, Kosicek says.
“Do you supply scrubs?”
Some but not all facilities do, Kosicek says.
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