Caring for people who suffer from mental anguish is difficult.

That is why mental health nursing requires strong, capable, and caring individuals to be there for patients when their world is crashing, and they cannot help themselves.

If you are that person, here are ten commonly asked questions and model answers to help you prepare for and ace the mental health nursing interview. 

Psychiatric Nursing Interview Question with Answers

1. What Motivates You to Keep Going As A Mental Health Nurse?

nurse counsel patient

Mental health nursing is not for everyone.

It is very tough to witness a broken human spirit and then help bring it back in patients who often are incapable of understanding what you are trying to do for them.

That is why interviewers need to ensure that they pick only candidates who are passionate about mental health nursing and can withstand the rigors of this job.


“I am motivated to keep going because my job gives meaning to my life.

I feel my purpose is to help those who cannot help themselves at a time when they get lose touch with reality.

My patients are very vulnerable, and even though I often spend my days calming agitated patients, I feel that this is what I was meant to do.”

2. Can You Share an Example of When You Interacted With Mentally Distressed Patients?

angry patient

Here the interviewer is looking for an answer that will show your skills as a mental health nurse.

Don’t be shy and provide detailed examples of how you acted in difficult situations to make sure you stand out from the crowd of applicants.


“As mental health nurses, we deal with mentally distressed patients every day, but there is one time that stands out for me.

I remember treating a homeless man who suffered from bipolar mood disorder and was manic.

He couldn’t afford medication to control his disorder and was brought to the hospital in an extremely agitated state.

He needed to be restrained, so we could administer the anti-psychotic medication and ease his panic.

I used my presence and soothing words to help him calm down further, and later, before the patient was discharged, he came to thank me for my patience with him that day.

It does make a difference if you treat even manic patients with kindness.”

3. We Offer Peer Mentoring Roles to Nurses Who Have Worked with Us For At Least a Year to Help Mentor Novice Mental Health Nurses. Are You Willing to Help with Such a Mentoring Program? 

Attracting and retaining mental health nurses is difficult, so the interviewer asks this question to determine whether you plan on staying in this role for a longer period or want to gain experience and leave.

By committing to help in an internal peer mentoring program, you show that you are a team player and serious about this position. 


“I would love to help in the mentoring program next year. I remember being a novice nurse and how stressful that was.

I am also grateful to the nurses who helped me develop expertise and become a better practitioner.

It is time for me to pay forward the kindness and teaching I received as a novice mental health nurse.”

4. If You Find That You Don’t Agree with Some of the Ways Nursing Procedures Are Done at This Institution, What Will You Do?

nurses talking

Employers love staff to use their initiative, and this question is designed to determine just how innovative and independent you are in your practice.

If you feel that a new approach to providing care would benefit the healthcare institution and patients, you can outline how you would address it.


“If I identified an area where mental health nursing processes could be improved, I would draw up a proposal and show it to my unit manager to discuss further.

If my unit manager agrees that my ideas have merit, I would then ask for help to present my ideas to the people who can implement change.

5. What Would You Do If a Patient Complained to You About a Colleague?

nurse dialysis with patient

This question aims to test your knowledge of internal procedures.

Usually, there are some differences between how things are done in various healthcare institutions but try to answer this one as best you can.

Emphasize the challenge that such a complaint can pose.


“I think each patient’s concerns and complaints should always be addressed.

Even though the veracity of patients in a mental health care setting can sometimes be questionable, all complaints about staff members must be investigated, and patients’ concerns must be handled seriously.

Usually, a policy spells out what to do in such a case. I would follow what the policy says.”

6. What Would You Do When a Patient Suddenly Becomes Threatening to Your Safety?

Psychiatric nurses sometimes must react to patients who can become dangerous to themselves or others.

The interviewer wants to know if you are prepared for what to do in such situations and how fast you can make decisions.


“I realize that working in mental health, the nurses can be exposed to risky situations, and being always aware is important to keeping everyone safe.

When the patient shows signs of aggression, I would quickly call my team members for help.

I usually try to avoid sedation if at all possible and instead try to use therapeutic interview techniques to diffuse the situation.

Still, I prioritize the safety concerns of myself and others and will use sedation when needed.”

7. How Do You Take Care of Yourself After Work?

nurse in library thinking

Mental health nurses need to have self-care rituals they practice to help them deal with the highly stressful work environment.

There is no right answer to this question. Simply let the interviewer know how you relax. 


“I find it easy to disconnect from the workplace after my shift.

I am lucky and live close to my work, so I walk home. The physical exercise of the walk home helps me gather my thoughts and relaxes me.

If I must use a car to get to work in the future, I will take a walk as soon as I get home after my shift so I can continue with this invaluable practice.”

8. What Would You Do When a Patient Refuses to Take Their Prescribed Medication?

Mental health facilities differ from other healthcare facilities because there are two types of patients present.

Some patients are there voluntarily, while the police or other bodies have committed others.

If the patient stays voluntarily, you cannot force them to take medication. You need to be aware of this, and the interviewer needs to assess your skills.


“If a patient refuses to take their medication, I will check their records to ensure they are here voluntarily.

I will give them a statement to sign that they refuse to take the medication.

This action puts the responsibility of their not getting better onto their shoulders.

I would make them sign it, but at the same time, I would also try to talk to them to explain what the medication does to their bodies and mind and remind them of the consequences of not taking their medication as prescribed.”

9. What Do You Think of Teamwork in Mental Healthcare?

Article Image - nurses

Teamwork is important in all nursing specialties. No nurse ever works alone.

Doctors or psychiatrists, physicians, and other healthcare team members coordinate care for each patient. When answering this question, try demonstrating how important teamwork is to you. 


“Teamwork is important because each patient sees many providers during treatment.

The best care can be provided if all medical providers collaborate to give the patient a unified, effective treatment plan.

Communication and good record-keeping are important to provide the best patient outcomes.

The patient wins when all team members support each other and work towards the same goal of getting the patient better.”

10. What Aspect Is Hardest for You in Mental Health Nursing Career?

The interviewer asks this question to probe for more information about your expectations of this position.

To answer well, include some of your strengths or skills that you use to overcome the challenges of this position.


“For me, it is hard when my patients go through setbacks. I always wish that patients could recover in a nice linear progression.

Small steps, but forwards. Still, I empathize with all my patients, including those stuck in this back-and-forth pattern.”

Key Takeaways

So, these are examples of ten questions that will likely be asked in the interview.

Now, you can work out personal answers to ensure you are relaxed and confident during the interview.

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