Stumped by an interview question....."Tell me about an "Ah-ha!" moment

  1. I had an interview for a school nurse position 2 months ago and could not answer a question. I have been an RN for 27 years and have been subbing in 3 districts for a year. It was a panel interview with 5 people including the current school nurse.

    It felt like the Lightening Round of Jepoardy because they went around the table several times - one would ask a question and the next person would write down what seemed like every syllable I said. Then on to the next question....

    I felt like I was holding my own until I was asked "Tell me about an "Ah-ha!" moment that you have had in your career."
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    I did not have an answer and rather than sit there saying "uhhhhhh............uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....uhhhhhhhhhh ..."
    and torturing everyone in the room (including myself), I thought about it for a minute and simply said "Gee, that is a really good question. I don't have an answer for that right now but let's get back to it later.". The interview continued and it was not brought up again. I'm not beating myself up for this because I feel that I did the best I could under the circumstances and was enjoying the interview. The hardest parts for me were 1. this question and 2. the lack of "connection" I usually feel when I interview. With so many people going so quickly, it was hard to sense that part.

    Two months later, I still cannot think of a good way to answer that question and it is bugging me!

    (BTW, I did not get the job. When they called me to tell me so, they said the team was divided - half of them was seeking the same personality style as the current nurse and the other half wanted something different. In the end they decied to go in a different direction. But if things changed, blah, blah, blah....)

    How would you have answered something like that?
  2. Visit valeriecathleen profile page

    About valeriecathleen

    Joined: Feb '09; Posts: 23; Likes: 2

    9 Comments

  3. by   llg
    I can understand why you found the question difficult. Most nurses don't think of their practice in terms of "Ah ha" moments unless they have been educated to do so. As reflective practice becomes more commonly used as an educational strategy, I suspect that such questions will become more common and that the younger generation of nurses will be more accustomed to thinking of their practice in those terms.

    As an educator (and one very interested in reflective practice and experiential learning), it's a little easier for me to answer. I would pause and think for a minute ... and recall a situation in which I had learned a lot from an experience I had. The first one to come to mind is when I learned the importance of timing when discontinuing a ventilator on a patient for whom further care was futile. I remember that day in 1979 very vividly. Another instance came during my orientation as a new grad back in 1977. I remember how I learned to be "calm and still" during an emergency situation. (Both examples are long stories and I will spare you the details.)

    I can go through each stage of my 32 year career and discuss experiences that have taught me important lessons along the way. But that's probably because I have spent much of my career in Staff Development where the ability to tell stories about your practices comes in real handy -- and we are very conscious of our development as we develop ourselves as nurses.

    I hope this answer helps you to see the type of answer they were probably looking for. If you reflect on your career for a while, you can probably think of lots of times when you learned important lessons as you developed as a nurse.
  4. by   Needsmorechocolate
    I was asked this question recently in a school nurse interview also. The question was asked specifically to school nursing and what my a-ha moment was. After thinking for a moment I said my answer was when I realized that in school nursing the parents are more of a challenge at times than the students.

    It was honestly my first thought when asked the question. At first I thought it was a negative response, but the panel of teachers interviewing me agreed with me.
  5. by   luvschoolnursing
    I found interviewing for a school nurse position to be much more intimidating than any other job I had interviewed for. I had never been interviewed by SO MANY people at one time. In the hospital it was usually just a nurse manager. Also, I was more nervous because I never really wanted a job as bad because hospital jobs were so easy to come by.

    In response to your question, I would have said my ah-ha moment was after I began to work in school nursing, I felt like I could really make a difference in kids lives, following them long term and building relationships with them and their families. I never felt that way in the hospital. I felt more task oriented, like I worked in 8 hour chunks rather than long term.
  6. by   bergren
    My aha moments:

    I had a student that everyone else on the team was convinced was neglected. Underweight, listless, inattentive. My gut told me right away something else was going on. I made a home visit. Mom was not June Cleaver, but she was OK, fed the child, the place was clean. I documented what I felt were soft neuro signs and suggested a medical evaluation. She turned out to have a mild hydrocephalus with cerebellar atrophy that had not been noted or treated. After that day I trusted myself and my expertise to persist.

    An early intervention early childhood program, one twin healthy, the other undernourished, listless, again, every one suspected abuse, lack of bonding. Everyone on the team had only met the one twin. I made a home visit, and noticed the other twin was a LOT bigger than the child who came to school. I had worked neonatal ICU, and started asking questions about the birth, and the undernourished twin was tiny tiny at birth. The children had been born in a VERY rural hospital and had recently moved to town. I called the kids new pediatrician and we started talking, I told him I suspected the kids were not the same age. I felt the one twin was younger than the other. He agreed it could explain what we were seeing. Turned out , through paternity testing, twins were half brothers, two different dads, and according to mom's story of who was where when, the twins were 2 months apart in gestational age, one full term, one 8 weeks early, 32 weeks gestation.

    Another was a child that came often to the health office, frequent flyer, who after investigation, had been bullied at lunch. We changed his assigned lunch table and, aha, he never came back to the health office. Not all pain is caused by illness.

    The day I discovered that the "non-compliant" parent was illiterate.

    Lessons learned (ahas): a home visit is irreplacable, trust your gut (and your expertise), look further than reported symptoms - something is bothering a frequent flier, even if they can't express it, and look further into "noncompliance".
  7. by   llg
    As a staff development educator who tries (sometimes unsuccessfully) to teach nurses to reflect on their practice and learn from their experience, I love this thread and the responses above. It gives me hope to read so many wonderful examples doing exactly what I try to teach.

    I hope more people post their Ah ha! moments. We should have threads like this more often to help people learn to think like this.

    Thanks for starting the thread, valeriecathleen.
  8. by   Purple_Scrubs
    The big one for me was on my very first day as a school nurse, when my principal told me that I am the only healthcare provider that some of my kids ever get to see. Talk about a wake-up call and a ton of responsibility!

    Another was when I got a call from an eye doctor telling me that the kid I had been lobbying for over a year to get her glasses had 20/20 vision and had been faking at failing her eye exam!

    Yet another was when the chronic complainer and frequent flyer came in c/o dizzyness, and because I did not blow her off and did my full assessment (even though she was in almost daily with invisible scratches, 10-minute stomachaches, etc), I noted an irregular heartbeat and got her in to see a cardiologist and a heart condition was diagnosed.

    I am sure I will come up with more of them...
  9. by   morte
    i would find the question disconcerting.....and rather weird.....and would have no answer......i would hazard a guess that many ah ha moments are best forgot......as in things that were done wrong or things missed
  10. by   zenman
    Quote from valeriecathleen


    How would you have answered something like that?
    "Well, I just had one...just now when you asked the question!" or "When I was born, I thought, 'so this is what it's like.'"
  11. by   Lifes-a-Beach
    I went to a school nurse interview today and one question was "Tell me about your most recent professionally embarrassing moment." The interview was with a panel of about nine nurses. There were a lot of questions fired at me, but none were technical or questions that assessed nursing knowledge and skills directly. Most were problem solving, strengths, rate yourself on certain characteristics of a solid employee, etc.

    In general, I gave several questions that I think probably wiped me off the candidate's list. I'm crossing my fingers, though.....

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