5 Interview Questions for a Nurse Practitioner

As the healthcare system grows and diversifies and physicians face increasing time constraints, the need for nurse practitioners (NP) — management level, advanced practice nurses — will only increase.

Joan Kuhnly, NNP-BC, RN, MS, IBCLC, assistant professor at University of Connecticut School of Nursing, has been an NP since 1991. Over the past few years, she’s seen a change in the type of interview NPs have to be prepared for.

“Nurse practitioners have to be ready to discuss what they can bring to the table in terms of their assessment and diagnostic abilities,” she says. “The interviews are now based more on responses to specific situations. Interviewers will evaluate a candidate by how well they address the problem they’ve been presented with.”

If you’re an NP, here are five types of questions you should be prepared for.

How would you respond to these three patients: the first patient feels a gush of blood, the second has ruptured and is in early labor, and the third has a question about prescriptions before going home.

While this question will vary by setting, an interviewer “needs to know if the potential hire can think critically,” says Kuhnly. “To assess the candidate, interviewers would want to find out who you would go to first and what you would do for each patient. A question like this speaks to both a person’s knowledge base and their ability to prioritize.”

Describe a situation where you had to ask for assistance with a patient and why.

Kuhnly notes that interviewers still ask about weaknesses but are no longer overt when doing so. “They expect you will expound on a specific experience but as I tell my students, NEVER describe it as a weakness. Turn the issue around and describe it as something you’re working on and create a positive. Administrators know you’re not infallible but they also need to know that you’re actively doing something to change a deficit.”

How do you see your role as an NP enacted differently from what you were doing as an RN?

Most advanced practice nurses began their careers as RNs. NPs write orders and RNs – unless they have high level skills – carry them out. Interviewers need to be sure you understand the new job description. “While interviewers want to be assured you’re not going to lose nursing perspective,” says Kuhnly, “they also want to make sure that once you’re staff, you’ll understand that you’re now focused on the curative. An NP’s care giving role is similar to that of an RN but operationally different.”

Thirteen patients enter a clinic’s triage with diverse issues that all need to be addressed. How do you manage the situation with the staff?

Again, a question such as this is situational to the setting, but its essence is about a person’s ability to get along with others. Communication skills are mandatory for NPs. “Managers want to see you have a good rapport and are part of a team,” says Kuhnly. “They’re not looking for people who shout orders, but individuals who understand the complexities of working with a staff.”

Give an example/s of how an NP’s communication with patients differs from that of a physician?

Physicians don’t do as much education and outreach as nurse practitioners. “For example,” says Kuhnly, “a physician may give a patient a food diary and tell him to bring it home and fill it out. A nurse practitioner will spend time with him, helping to make a plan and evaluating it when he brings it back in. Or if a mother brings her teenage daughter in to investigate methods of birth control, an NP will take time to speak with them, assess the situation and provide appropriate information. This enhanced level of communication is more expected of us.”

© HealthCallings.com, Dice Holdings Inc., 2011

Search for Nurse Practitioner jobs NOW!

Related articles:

Career Guide for Nurse Practitioners
Career Development for NPs
Different Paths to Autonomy: NPs, PAs

About Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson

Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson is a Los Angeles based writer whose work has appeared in the LA Times, Documentary Magazine, Movie City News, and more. Her stories have covered the gamut from IT and healthcare to music and culture. She’s been writing for 18 years.


  1. BY Valerie Bell says:

    I think this information was very helpful and I definately see how this applies to NPs. I am in the process of applying for a NP program as I believe they are very valueable to the healthcare field and the demand for NPs will only become greater in the coming years.—–

  2. BY poshdelilah says:

    This is very god information!.. Many Thanks!—–

  3. BY Audrey Adams-Thompson says:

    As a nurse-practictioner, our role is to Educate Educate Educate
    Educating client is key and critical, so that he/she can make informed choices/decisions—–