When you’re interviewing for a position as a school nurse, it’s time to let your love for children — and nursing — shine through. Many school districts include nurses or health services coordinators in the job interview process, but the setup will vary. It’s likely you’ll be interviewed by school administrators with limited knowledge of nursing practices who focus on finding organized professionals who have a genuine care and concern for children’s well-being.
Your job interview may include questions about your work experience, your perceived strengths and weaknesses, or scenario-based topics. For the latter type of question, the interviewer typically gives you a hypothetical work scenario and you’re expected to explain what you would do in that situation and why.
To help you prepare, we asked Laurie G. Combe, MN, RN, NCSN, president of the National Association of School Nurses, to share her insights on the types of questions school nurses typically encounter in job interviews.
The following are the types of questions Combe felt crop up the most in job interviews, along with her tips for how to answer them. This will help give you a better idea of what to expect on the big day and how to prepare accordingly.
10 Common School Nurse Interview Questions (& How to Respond)
1. "Why are you pursuing a position as a school nurse in this school district?"
Your interviewer will want to know what you’ve learned about the district to which you’ve applied. Look at the website before your interview to gain an understanding of the district’s culture, its student population, and the community’s economic level. Another great place for insight on school culture is social media. Look for a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or parent-organized page on Facebook.
2. "What qualities do you have that make you the best candidate for the position?"
Explain your passion for working with children or that becoming a school nurse has helped you fulfill a professional goal, such as promoting a safe, healthy community for students to focus on their educational opportunities, and then share details about your experience.
If you’re interviewing without school nurse experience, explain how your background relates to a school setting. For example, if you came from a pediatric practice or had an internship or externship working with children, discuss the rapport that you had with school-aged patients and how that has lead you on this new path.
To learn about the realities of school nursing and make sure that you fully grasp the mission behind the position, visit www.nasn.org and The Framework for 21st Century School Nursing PracticeTM. Many nurses fail to understand the unique, complex role of the school nurse, so doing your research ahead of time can set you apart.
3. "How would you manage disagreements with school administrators?"
You may end up giving examples of disagreements you’ve had with staff before, how you’ve handled it, and lessons learned. You could also give your own personal process on navigating disputes with colleagues. Either way, the interviewer will be looking for clues about your character. She’ll want to know if you’re open to different points of view, if you’re compassionate, if you can understand other people’s priorities, and whether you’re willing to seek compromises when it doesn’t risk students’ health.
4. "A student comes to your office in the morning saying he missed breakfast. You know he eats his entire lunch and asks other students for their leftovers. Being tardy, hungry, and asking for food has become his daily routine. You’ve also noticed that his clothing is dirty, and he often wears the same shirt for days in a row. What resources would you use or recommend to assist this student and his family?"
Part of a school nurse’s role is serving as public health nurse for the school community. Your interviewer will want to know that you can assist students and families, providing them with appropriate community resources to help them meet their needs or overcome challenges. Discuss how you would discreetly talk to the student and the student’s family, name the services you’d suggest, and mention certain administration-run initiatives you could be a part of to ensure no child is hungry at school.
5. "What steps would you take to implement a severe food allergy plan?"
Many school nurses form partnerships with parents to help ensure the safety of students with severe allergies. Your interviewer will want to hear that your primary focus is on student health and safety, that you’re willing to work with parents, and that you have experience responding to anaphylaxis, if applicable.
6. "Tell me about a time in which you had to deal with an irate patient, family member, or physician. How did you handle the situation?"
It’s OK to come across as human when answering this question. Your interviewer will want to hear that you’re empathetic and respectful, with a desire to collaborate with others, and that you consider other people’s points of view.
7. "How would you respond if a parent approached you with concerns about the health condition of a child from another family?"
Confidentiality of student health information is of significant importance. Your interviewer will want to make sure you respond in such a way that you don’t share anything inappropriate with the parent of another student.
8. "A student just came to your office wheezing and coughing. Another student comes in dripping blood. A parent is here to discuss a health issue. And another student runs in to say another student has fallen in the gym. How would you prioritize care?"
This type of question will help your interviewer assess your clinical competence, your nursing knowledge and your judgment. Your interviewer will want to hear how you’ll triage students, tending to the most urgent cases first. Use clinical language here to reveal the depth of your knowledge and expertise.
9. "How would you implement a schoolwide program for vision and hearing screenings?"
School nurses often organize health screenings for the student body. Your interviewer will want to hear how you’ve planned such events in the past. If you haven’t done this before, she’ll want to know what resources you’d seek, whether it’s the district’s nursing supervisor, school staff members who were involved with similar events, or procedure manuals.
10. "What has been your proudest professional moment?"
Any number of responses could be appropriate. You could share a creative approach to problem-solving that worked well, details of a volunteer experience that changed your perspective, a presentation that you gave in your area of expertise, or your achievement of a professional lifelong educational goal. Whatever you say, your interviewer will expect responses that impacted your career or the community you served.
Winding Down the Interview: Questions to Ask the Interviewer
When your interviewer wants to know if you have any questions, consider asking:
How are school nurses in your district evaluated, and who completes the evaluations?
Are there benchmarks for growth for this position?
Will I be assigned a mentor? If not, who can I turn to for support?
Does the school district provide or pay for school nurse professional development?
What wellness programs are you hoping to implement in the next few years?
What are the biggest challenges your current school nurse has caring for the student body?
Before your interview, go over these questions and say your responses out loud, whether to a mirror or a friend. Think of the main points you want to get across in these meetings (like, your experience, your passion, certain programs you’d want to start), and work your answers around those topics. This will help you steer most questions around the topics you are familiar with, stay focused, and help with any interview-jitters.
On the day of your interview, dress professionally and keep your hair and accessories simple. You want to be more known for your experience than your earrings. If you have tattoos, you may want to consider covering them, if possible. Although tattoos and piercings are gaining more acceptance in the workplace, many schools still maintain strict policies against faculty and staff having visible body art of any kind. Be sure to look up the school’s policies ahead of time so you can dress appropriately. When you get to the interview, make good eye contact with your interviewers, smile, and give each a firm handshake.
Once the interview is over, follow up with a thank you email to everyone you met, and a handwritten note, if you want to go the extra mile. Make sure these reinforce your school nurse qualifications and your interest in working with that team. Good luck!