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ICU interview

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Specializes in ICU. Has 19 years experience.

Hey, guys! I have an interview coming up next week for an ICU. I’ve got over 10 years experience in critical care, but I’ve been away from it for 7 years now due to I went to drug rehab and I live in a big city where the job market is very competitive. This will be about my fifth interview for ICU in the last two years trying to get back into doing what I love. I really want this job!

Does anyone have any tips for my interview to make myself stand out? My extensive history, including 6 years of CVICU, which I think is one of the most difficult nursing jobs for critical thinking, doesn’t seem to have an impact on these managers. I had one manager make me feel like my skills were subpar because of being away for five years at the time. I actually was working at an LTAC that did critical care- we did cardiac drips, paralytic drips, propofol drips, vent management, chest tubes, etc. It just wasn’t acute setting like in a big hospital. They were long term critical patients. I told the manager this and he still said “but it was an LTAC”. 

What can I do to score this ICU job? I’m so nervous. I’ve never found it so difficult getting a job. I used to live in a smaller city where I pretty much got hired on the spot for what I wanted. Now  I live in a huge city where I have to really stand out. I currently work in a major hospital in telemetry and I hate it, but I thought just the name of the hospital alone and the reputation they have would help me get my foot in the door to my dream job. Thanks.


Specializes in oncology. Has 44 years experience.

3 hours ago, Milkofamnesia02 said:

My extensive history, including 6 years of CVICU, which I think is one of the most difficult nursing jobs for critical thinking

May I make a suggestion? All nursing jobs require extensive critical thinking, or the job would not require an RN.  Before you scoff  consider these positions. A home health job is tough because it is only you, and you alone to figure out the problem. A med-surg job is tough on critical thinking because you minimally have 6 patients with little time to spend on each one. There are not residents or even medical students to bounce your thoughts on. All lab data may be 8 hours old.  You better be right on your conclusions or your patient may be a rapid response.

In OB, there are 2 patients in that bed. You are critically thinking about problems that may be effecting BOTH.

I am not dissing your skills honed in CVICU nursing but trying to help you get perspective on how a nursing position in a unit with a special name, in a special area is not the most difficult in terms of nursing.  Readjust your elitist thinking. 

3 hours ago, Milkofamnesia02 said:

I currently work in a major hospital in telemetry and I hate it, but I thought just the name of the hospital alone and the reputation they have would help me get my foot in the door to my dream job.

Try to wake up from your dream and face reality. I wish you only well thoughts but time has moved on and there are already many graduates who have taken your place in CVICU. I sound mean here but I only wish you the best on your job hunt. 

Maybe they don’t understand your LTAC?  I know we wouldn’t never send anybody to LTAC on a paralytic.  They can go on vents, but generally they are on very basic gtts.  Maybe some fentanyl or precedex.  So maybe that’s the connotation people are grasping with an LTAC.  

You need to emphasize your previous experience and what all it entailed.  Show that you still have that critical care mindset.

All ICU’s require a critical thinking mindset.  I wouldn’t get bogged down into well, I was a cvicu nurse and that requires the most critical thinking.  Especially if you are interviewing for a different type of ICU.  

You are trying to sell yourself to this particular unit.  You have to sell what they need.  They won’t buy if they don’t need it.  I hope that makes sense.

A possibility: So I think the gap is significant. There will be a lot you can pick up where you left off, and then a lot that has changed--as far as protocols and metrics and nursing care expectations, especially.

I'd make sure you aren't overselling. You do have relevant experience, obviously. But sometimes people come back with the "but it wasn't X..." retorts when they actually feel that someone might not be being realistic enough.

You could try being very forthright about the things they might criticize or be leery about. If you sense that, verbalize them yourself by presenting them positively and making statements about how you can/will succeed.

Just an option to think about.

Good luck!!

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

You are making it to the interview stage, but you are not sealing the deal, so I think the concern here is your interviewing skills and impression.

Skills such as handling behavioral questions and being ready for questions like "what's your greatest weakness?" (not I'm a perfectionist- cliche alert- but something like "I always try to work on delegating, because I try to do everything myself. I have been purposeful about it and I realize that accepting help is as important as helping others and results in better patient care". In this way you have touched on a area for improvement but quickly segued to the positive.

There's so much else I'd like to help you with, but space limits. I do cover each and every expected interview question in my book, "Your Last Nursing Class" and there are articles here on line as well.


Best wishes 🙂






Specializes in Neurosciences, stepdown, acute rehab, LTC. Has 8 years experience.

Just be down to earth and honest about your work history and if they do choose to talk about the LTAC as though it didn't count, you can explain the similarities to ICU in your experience while still making it clear that youre willing to learn and adapt to any changes in the new environment. That gives both the weight of experience with the openmindedness of a new grad 

Edited by anewsns

I haven't been working regular inpatient jobs, out of NTICU x 5.5 years. We aren't wanted! New grads are fresh, cheap, & exposed to the latest order sets. I was turned down x2 in August and even crisis contracts won't accept me. I may just leave forever (sad thing in the current nursing shortage). To boost re-entry, here are my suggestions: get certified, be willing to work night shifts, consider working PCU/SDU first (yuck-I won't/can't do it myself). I also made it to the interview but not past. I really hope you make it back in.