ICU Interview Practice Questions and Tips!

If you're looking to prepare for an ICU interview, this list of practice questions and tips will help you walk into your interview confidently! Nurses Career Support Article

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ICU Interview Practice Questions and Tips!

Whether you're a new nurse looking to land your first job out of nursing school, a seasoned nurse making the transition to the ICU, or moving to a new ICU environment, the following list of questions can help you prepare! From knowing what to expect during the interview to being able to have time to reflect upon work experience, you can walk into your interview feeling confident and ready. Even if you're not planning to become a CRNA someday, these questions can help you no matter what your career plans are!

Hint- Practice answering these questions by recording yourself and re-watching the video, or have a friend or trusted coworker ask you these questions mock-interview style. You got this!

Questions You May Be Asked During Your Interview

  • How do you face conflict and produce solutions? Hint- Also worded as "How do you handle conflict with a coworker?
  • What would you do if you see a good friend or colleague making a clinical mistake?
  • What are some talents and skills you can bring to the team? Hint- Boast about skills you picked up in your previous experiences! 
  • What is your most difficult patient story? How did you overcome that situation?
  • Think of the most unstable patient you had. How did you help in treating that patient?
  • Have you worked with vents or tracks on your unit?
  • How do you handle code situations? What is your experience in EKG interpretation?
  • Any extracurricular activities on your unit (ie, council)? Hint- You have started asking about code meds & BLS stuff after some new hires didn't know how to do CPR, bagging breaths, etc.
  • Be familiar with various rhythm strips.
  • Tell me about a time you demonstrated extraordinary customer service for a patient.
  • Tell me about a time you worked with a patient and family from a different culture from your own and how it was difficult or how you altered your care for them.
  • Give an example of a time you had to divide your work responsibilities and explain how you did it.
  • Tell us about a time you demonstrated leadership.
  • Tell us about the most critical patient you've ever taken care of and what your priorities were.
  • Tell us about a time you had a difficult patient or family member and how you handled it.
  • Why this hospital?
  • Why are you pursuing critical care?
  • Why (ICU or a specific ICU specialty)?
  • Who is your biggest role model and why?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
  • Where do you see your nursing career going? What do you see yourself doing as a nurse in five years?*

*If you are planning to go the CRNA route, it's not typically recommended that you mention this during your interview. However, don't lie and say you want to be an ICU nurse for the rest of your career. Some nurses have recommended answers like, "While I may consider advanced practice nursing down the road, if I've learned anything so far, it's that career paths often take turns and go into unexpected directions. I'm trying to stay open to that while learning and growing where I am." You could also say, "I am open to what the future brings, but I am excited to learn and grow where I am, including continuing education (like certifications/classes through work), being a preceptor, etc."

Questions You Can Ask During Your Interview

It's always a great idea to have a few questions prepared to ask the person(s) conducting the interview.

  • What is the typical acuity like? You can also pressure test this question by asking what a rough average percentage of patients on that unit who are on a ventilator is. Are EVD's common on the unit?
  • How frequently are bedside procedures done at this unit (emergent EVD's, line/drain placements, etc.) vs. going to OR? (a unit in which you have exposure to lots of bedside procedures can really help you understand how to manage a patient closely, watching for subtle changes, helping out the MD/DO/PA/NP who's doing the procedure, which helps you gain rapport with them [think, letters of rec] and generally how to work as a team member in a scenario like that).
  • Do they keep all their tPA patients, or do they typically "drip & ship" (start tPA in that facility's ER, if indicated, then transfer them to another facility [likely a comprehensive stroke center])?
  • Are they a comprehensive stroke center and/or are they working towards becoming one (if they aren't)? Are they a hub for strokes, or do they ship out their more serious cases?
  • Does the facility just do "standard" OR procedures for neuro, or do they also have interventional radiologists who can do neuro procedures via IR (diagnostic, coiling, verapamil, etc.)?
  • What other types of ICUs are in the facility, and does the neuro unit ever have off-service patients (e.g., Med-Surg ICU pt or Trauma ICU pt) get admitted to the neuro unit? If so, does that happen often, or just once in a blue moon? If that patient has multi-factorial issues (e.g., stroke + other unrelated issues such as kidney failure), will the neuro still receive those patients, or would they be sent to a medicine/med-surg ICU?
  • Does the unit/RN fully manage patients post-op?
  • Does the unit ever do CRRT?
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