Nursing in a NICU can be amazing.
Your patients are tiny, and watching them grow and get stronger is fulfilling.
So, to help you land this dream job, we have prepared answers to possible interview questions for you to use as a guide when preparing for that important interview.
Common NICU Nursing Interview Questions and Answers
Here are some common questions you'll encounter during a neonatal intensive care unit interview.
1. What is your greatest strength as a NICU nurse?
A fairly straightforward question that you can expect in most interviews. Remember to tie in your “strengths” with the company's values.
“I have been a nurse for several years and know how to prioritize patients' needs to ensure they receive competent nursing care.
Through experience, I have learned to be organized and work systematically to deliver excellent care.
I also love babies and children and volunteer to babysit my sister's twin boys whenever possible because
I love taking care of them.
I am also a team player and have good communication skills to help me build relationships with my nursing colleagues and other health team members.”
2. How would you care for newborns suffering from respiratory distress?
Nursing premature babies require a thorough understanding of the medical conditions your patients present.
Each intervention can mean the difference between thriving and developing life-threatening complications.
The interviewer will need to test some of your current nursing knowledge to ensure you can safely care for this vulnerable patient population.
“Newborns suffering from respiratory distress may need to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe.
I would ensure that the ventilator works correctly and monitor the baby's condition periodically if it is stable or continuously if it is not stable.
I would also observe other parameters like the heart monitor and saturation levels and take corrective action as needed.”
3. If a particular treatment is not working, what would you do?
NICU nurses need to work as a team, so you need to show the interviewer that even though you are capable, you will collaborate with other team members to provide excellent care to your patients.
“If a baby's condition is not improving despite the treatment provided, I will chat with the attending doctor to gauge his views on why the treatment is not working.
I would go over the patient's chart to see if there is a possibility we missed something during the assessment or if there is a possibility of the patient being misdiagnosed.
If I find anything that would make me suspect something else is wrong with the patient, I will share my concern with the physician to discuss the possibility of amending the prescribed treatment.
If the patient is not responding because they are just too critically ill, I would support the family and try to prepare them for the imminent loss of their newborn.”
4. What equipment would you use in the care of a premature infant?
NICU is where you find many of the latest technological developments in the care of premature and sick infants.
All nurses here need to know how to work with ventilators that help babies breathe, incubators, feeding meters, etc.
When you answer this question, list all the main equipments you will need to care for a premature infant.
Add a rationale for each item to let the interviewer know you are familiar with most of the medical equipment used in the unit.
“Premature infants cannot control their body temperature effectively and, depending on the gestation period at birth, are in danger of developing respiratory distress.
Therefore, they will be nursed in incubators or sometimes in open beds with an overhead heating lamp to keep them warm.
They will also need a CPAP machine to provide oxygen to small lungs. If they cannot breathe independently, they will be connected to a high-frequency ventilator to keep their airway open.
Preemie babies will also need a heart monitor and a SATS monitor for continuous blood oxygen level monitoring to give them a high chance of survival.
They may also need IV's, and feeding pumps to ensure regulation of fluid in their tiny bodies.”
5. How would you deal with parents having a melt-down in the unit?
Having a baby in the NICU puts a lot of stress on the parents.
Sometimes, they cannot control their emotions and start shouting or crying uncontrollably in the unit, causing a disturbance.
As a nurse working there, it will be up to you to handle and diffuse such situations.
Let the interviewer know that you can resolve these stressful situations.
“Many parents become emotional and distraught and need emotional support when their newborn undergoes treatment.
I find it helpful, if possible, to take the parents to the “parent room” in the unit, where I can listen to their concerns and explain their baby's treatment plan to them.
I reassure them that sometimes it takes time for pre-term babies to show progress.
I also remain calm and truthfully explain the baby's current condition and prognosis so that they feel more in control of what is happening.”
6. How would you handle a situation where you disagree with the NICU physician about the prescribed orders?
Remember, the interviewer is not trying to trick you with this question, but you must be careful how you answer this one.
What you need to show here is that you are a confident practitioner and one who can follow directions.
If the interviewer feels your answer shows that you're likely to be a person who disregards authority, they may offer the position to another candidate.
“I had that situation when I worked in the Emergency Department. We were extra busy because some of our usual staff members were off sick on top of the many walk-in patients.
I took a patient's chart and checked the prescription, which did not look right.
I called the doctor who wrote the prescription, and he insisted that the medication dosage was correct.
It still did not look right to me, so I checked with my supervisor, who called the doctor, and the three of us discussed the prescription.
The doctor realized he had made a mistake, and the patient received the correct medication dosage.
Even though this event happened in the emergency department, I would follow a similar procedure in the NICU unit.”
7. NICU nurses need to know about many neonatal conditions. How will you be able to keep up-to-date with the medical knowledge required?
The interviewer asks this question to find out how passionate you are about the field of neonatology.
They want to know how you plan to continue learning and that you understand the importance of remaining current in the field.
Show the interviewer your enthusiasm and understanding of current research and how you use your knowledge to carry out everyday nursing tasks.
“When I'm off duty, I read medical journals focusing on neonatology to learn about current trends in the field.
I'm a member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses to remain aware of changes and innovations in neonatal care.
I also registered to attend a course next month focusing on breastfeeding and kangaroo care of pre-term infants.”
8. What course of action would you take when you find an unresponsive infant in your unit?
This question will gauge your knowledge of the current neonatal policies and procedures.
To answer this question, you must demonstrate how you assess the situation, determine key problems, and find the right treatment.
“I would remain calm, assess the infant for signs of breathing, and check their pulse and oxygen levels.
Next, I would determine if CPR is necessary and whether I will need any extra equipment, e.g., an intubation set.
I would also get my colleagues to notify the neonatal physician and determine the best course of action together.
After the infant becomes responsive, I would monitor the breathing rate and vitals to ensure they continue to respond to treatment. “
9. Working in a NICU can be stressful. How do you relax when away from your job?
It's easy for nurses to burn out when working in the NICU.
The emotional drama and the physical work can take their toll on an employee who is not emotionally mature and unable to step away from the unit and maintain their emotional well-being.
When answering the question, try to be honest and, if you can, showcase any team leisure activities you do to reinforce the idea that you are a great team player.
“To unwind after a hard day at work, I love to go for a long walk with my dog.
That helps me relax, and the exercise helps me work through any stress after an emotional day.
I also love playing ice hockey every Thursday at my local club.”
10. Do you have any questions?
If you want to make a good impression on your interviewer, have prepared questions you want to ask them.
By not asking them questions, you give an impression that you're not enthusiastic about getting this position.
The questions to ask the interviewer can be simple clarifications about the position or more in-depth questions about the hospital and whether it will be a good fit for you.
Here are a couple of example questions you could try out or prepare on your own.
- “What qualities are you seeking in the new employee in this position?”
- “What medical record system are you using in your facility?”
- “What type of orientation or training do you provide?”
- “What are the best things I can do to succeed in your unit?”
So now you have a good idea of what you can expect to be asked in an interview.
You can use the answers provided as a guide and change them to be relevant to your circumstances.
Good luck with landing the position.
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