Pediatric nurses play such a vital role in the care and well-being of children. While you probably love to nurture and play with your young patients, you will also be the calm and creative presence they need to get tests taken, medicine swallowed, conflicts resolved, or complex information understood.
Your interviewer will be seeking someone with the right skillset, who strives to make a difference in the lives of children. Although you shouldn’t show up in your SpongeBob scrubs to demonstrate your devotion to kids, you will want to use your interview to showcase your light-hearted nature. With children’s lives placed in your hands, it’s also important to exude professional confidence and give the interview the seriousness it deserves.
Part of your interview may include standard nursing interview questions that any nurse might be asked, about things like work experience or your perceived strengths and weaknesses. But many of the questions should be tailored to your area of expertise.
To help you prepare, we asked Stacy Doyle, PhD, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, vice president of ambulatory services in the Department of Patient Care Services at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, to share some examples of questions that pediatric nurses typically encounter during job interviews.
8 Common Pediatric Nurse Interview Questions (& How to Respond)
1. "Why did you choose to become a pediatric nurse?"
This is where you can declare your passion for working with children. If you interacted with children in a past career and it solidified your desire to become a pediatric nurse, tell your interviewer about it, even if it was a camp counselor job. If you haven’t worked as a pediatric nurse but have experience in early childhood development as a nanny, preschool teacher, or Sunday school instructor, that’s worth mentioning because it shows you know what it’s like to work with children. And if there was a pivotal moment that led you to realize pediatric nursing was your calling during an internship or externship, talk about it. Your interviewer will want to hear your answer — and feel it. Make sure your voice and tone speak from the heart.
2. "Have you ever worked with a patient who didn’t want to do what you asked him to do when it was needed? How did you handle the situation?"
Your interviewer may also offer you a slightly different version of the same question, for example, to assess what you’ve done while working with a parent who did not consent to certain treatments for her child and how you resolved the situation. In either case, your interviewer will be seeking a response that demonstrates patience, respect, and empathy toward pediatric patients and their parents, as well as your ability to communicate effectively about an opposing point of view.
3. "Describe a decision that you had to make quickly regarding a patient."
If you’ve ever had a patient stop breathing or become unresponsive, describe the situation and the immediate care you offered. Your response to this question doesn’t need to include a life-or-death scenario. If you’ve used quick thinking in the past to successfully distract a fearful young patient from focusing on the flu shot she was about to receive, that can work, too. Your answer should show you’re able to rapidly assess a situation and then commit quickly to a course of action.
4. "How do you communicate important health information to patients and their parents in an age-appropriate manner?"
You’ll need to relate to children of all ages, so your interviewer will want to know how you speak when you’re addressing a toddler, a teenager, or a parent. Because some parents are very knowledgeable about health issues while others aren’t as medically savvy, your interviewer will also want to know how you share health information with both types of parents. And, if you’ve used age-appropriate analogies to explain sicknesses and/or treatments to children, an example could work beautifully.
5. "What fuels your passion for work?"
Treating seriously ill children, handling high patient loads, and dealing with personality clashes at work can cause stress. Your interviewer will want to know what positives make you excited to be a pediatric nurse every day. Share your thoughts, whether you stay motivated by helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders or you’re inspired by the patients themselves, who retain their childlike wonder, even when they aren’t feeling their best.
This is another topic in which words can come across as lip service if not said with emotion. Your compassion and passion will come through with your sincerity.
6. "How do you handle conflict, whether with an upset parent or a doctor?"
Your interviewer will want to know how you handle this type of pressure, because arguments and other verbal conflicts do arise. The way you work to resolve conflicts is important, but so is the manner in which you do it. Speaking calmly and honestly and taking a step back from the situation when needed can often help.
If possible, use a real example to show your thoughtfulness, self-control, and professionalism when faced with conflict.
7. "What was your proudest professional moment?"
Responses vary based on experience, but it would be appropriate to mention an award or recognition you’ve received. You might also mention a presentation you gave to peers or a committee on which you served that allows you to advocate for patients. Even a specific incident with one patient can stand out as an important moment in your career, and it can showcase your dedication to the job.
8. "How would others who have worked with you describe you?"
Think about what former colleagues would say about your communication style, your willingness to be a team player, your confidence levels, and your breadth and depth of clinical experience, then share your best insights. If you’re known as a particularly fun-loving nurse, as someone who interacts well with preschoolers or who’s sought out by adolescent patients, let your interviewer know. She’ll be looking for an honest assessment of yourself through the eyes of others, so don’t just focus on listing off all the accolades you’ve received. That won’t help her get a realistic picture of you as a professional and as a teammate.
Winding Down the Interview: Questions to Ask the Interviewer
When your interviewer wants to know if you have any questions, consider asking:
"What is the culture like in your practice?"
"What things do the other nurses enjoy most about working in your practice?"
"What resources do you have to support families?"
"Do you have a family advisory board or some way for families to participate in helping improve care?"
"Is there an in-house school teacher to tutor/teach at the bedside?"
"What activities are available for the kids, and who runs them?"
"What would you expect me to accomplish on the job during my first 90 days?"
"Do you offer opportunities for continuing education and professional development?"
Extra Interview Tips for Pediatric Nurses
Prepare for your interview by answering the questions listed above aloud. It may make it seem more like an interview if you share your responses with another person, but if you aren’t comfortable with that, talk to your reflection in a mirror. This should help you feel more confident on the day of the interview, because you’ll have already said the points that you want to make: that you’re passionate about being a pediatric nurse and your background and experience have prepared you for the position.
Dress professionally for your interview; business to business-casual is fine. A suit isn’t necessary, but it wouldn’t be inappropriate. If you wear makeup or jewelry, be sure it’s professional-looking and subtle. If you have any tattoos, consider covering them, if possible. Although tattoos and piercings are gaining more acceptance in the workplace, there are hospitals that still maintain strict policies against staff having visible body art of any kind. Be sure to look up the particular institution’s policies before you arrive so you know how to prepare.
When you meet your interviewer, try to seem confident but not overconfident. Make good eye contact, give a firm handshake, be inquisitive, and express your passion for working with children.
After your interview, send thank-you letters. It’s a small gesture, but it’s one that will impress your interviewer and leave them with a positive and lasting impression of you. Handwritten notes are the most personal and may be appreciated more than other notes, but even an emailed thank-you letter shows your interest and enthusiasm. Within the letter, mention some of the reasons why you believe you’re qualified for the job, and reiterate your interest in joining the pediatric team. Good luck!