I have been asked to perform a procedure I have never done


I am new to nursing. I was asked in a job interview what I would do if I was asked to perform a nursing procedure that I have never done before. What is an appropriate answer to that?



429 Posts

Specializes in AGNP. Has 7 years experience.

Look it up in your hospital's policy & procedure manual or the published nursing skills text that your unit uses.


977 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg, ER, OR.

Yes! And don't be upset if you don't know something. Just be honest and admit it and then go look it up. Thats what the admin and Joint Commission want to hear!!!

Jules A, MSN

8,863 Posts

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I don't know if this is what they are looking for but I would have said, like AnnaN5 wrote:

I would look it up in the policy manual and whatever skills book the unit uses. If I was comfortable that I could perform it I would then ask for an experienced staff member to come in the room and observe my technique for assistance if necessary and feedback after the task was completed. What did you say?

CT Pixie, BSN, RN

3,723 Posts

Has 10 years experience.

I would have said, I would look it up in the policy and procedure book at the facility. As Jules said, if I were comfortable doing it on my own after reading the info I would then ask another nurse who was at the facility a while to observe while I did it. With that nurse there, if I were doing it incorrectly or there was another way it was to be done, s/he could inform me and give me suggestions, and stop me if I were about to hurt/harm the patient.

I would be sure to tell them that I would tell the person assigning the task, I have never done this before. Honesty is the best policy. I think they might have been looking for an answer along the lines of you would be honest and tell them you had never done it before and that you would ask for help if needed and not go blindly into the procedure and perform it, possibly harming the patient.

I am a new nurse (just coming up on 6 months under my belt) and there have been several times I have be asked to do something I had never done before or something that I had only done once or twice during school. I would rather be safe than sorry, and all my co-workers have been receptive to going with me to observe me do the task, or did the task and I observed, then the next time I would perform the task as they observed.

My number one rule that I always follow since I was in school and during my short time as a licensed nurse on my own...whenever in doubt....ASK...ASK...ASK.

Jules A, MSN

8,863 Posts

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

I'd also stay away from just asking to observe unless it was something really complicated. Personally from my experience with new employees I'd much rather someone indicate that they are willing to try than someone who seems to want to be spoonfed.

CT Pixie, BSN, RN

3,723 Posts

Has 10 years experience.

Yes, Jules, if the task is one that isn't too complicated, I'd rather try it myself than watch someone else. The thing is with my learning style is I learn best by listening, watching, trying in that order. But the more basic or easier things I can get along with just having someone walk me through by speaking it and I do it myself.

I am with you, I'd rather someone want to try it themselves instead of being spoonfed. I actually have seen one nurse I work with who has a procedure she has to do q3 wks. Every single time, she goes to another nurse and says "I;ve never done this myself, can I watch you do it? then I can do it next time" When that next time rolls around she claims, "oh, I know you showed me last time, but its been so long since then that I totally forgot what to do I'd rather watch then do it myself next time". :banghead:

This nurse has been a nurse 6-9 months LONGER than I, she's been at the same facility since the day she got her license, she came to me my first week on my own (mind you I was a licensed nurse all of 3 weeks at that time) and asked me, I explained everything I was doing as I did it, it is a procedure I was luck enough to have a lot of clinical experience with. Seems that ALL my clinical pts had this procedure done.

The last time I looked at her and said "Mary, you have been here over a year, you have had this resident and that procedure every 3 weeks, don't you think its time that YOU tried to do it yourself?" She huffed and puffed, muttered something under her breath and stomped off to the RN supervisor, who in turn told her the exact same thing I did. :yeah:

Specializes in Med Surg, Ortho.


Have you read your Nurse Practice Act lately? Do you understand your Scope of Practice? The Nurse Practice Act is a set of laws which protect the public from harm. It defines the formal education needed for a particular level of nurse and sets the regulations for licensure.

The NPA defines the nurse’s scope of practice based on the content of the formal education and level of nurse. It is different for an RN and an LPN/LVN. It is also different for a Nurse Pratitioner.

Know Your Scope of Practice

The Scope of Practice defines your role as a nurse for the locality where you are presently practicing. This can vary from one state or province to another. If you are a travel nurse, or are moving to a new state, you need to read and familiarize yourself with the NPA and Scope of Practice for that state or province before you begin work.

You may not use the excuse that you aren’t familiar with your scope of practice as it is part of your role as a nurse to know and understand it. The NPA and scope of practice can be changed as education requirements change. Read your NPA often and stay abreast of changes in your state or province.

Don’t Overstep Your Scope

You are also responsible not to overstep your scope of practice regardless of what your employer may ask of you. This can be especially important if you don’t work in a traditional healthcare setting. Even within a healthcare setting, employers are notorious for asking nurses to stretch beyond their scope of practice to perform duties which can be questionable. Your responsibility as a nurse is to protect the safety of your patients.


New nurses in particular can often be intimidated into performing skills that they have not performed before, or not been checked off on, because the unit is short staffed and there isn’t time to find a preceptor or supervisor to help you with the procedure. This is really unacceptable and nurses need to remember the first rule of all healthcare, DO NO HARM. Don’t perform something you have never done before without appropriate supervision!

I'd tell them and ask for someone to observe, and step in if I was doing something wrong.

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