32 ER Nurse Interview Questions (+ Sample Answers)

Stepping into an ER nurse interview is to navigate a critical juncture: demonstrating not just your clinical acumen but also the soft skills essential in an emergency setting. Preparation is your best ally, turning the spotlight on your ability to thrive under pressure and deliver compassionate care when it matters most.

  • For Candidates, this guide is your ally, offering insight into common interview questions and sample answers to articulate your experience, demonstrate your quick thinking, and highlight your compassionate nature in a high-pressure environment.
  • For Interviewers, it serves as a valuable source to create discerning inquiries that cut through to the essentials, finding candidates who don’t just have the skills but also embody the temperament needed in an ER setting.
  • For Mentors and Coaches, it provides a framework to help aspiring ER nurses understand the nuances of interview dialogues and present their best selves authentically and confidently.

This article delivers concise, practical guidance for ER nurse candidates, interviewers, and mentors. Expect to uncover tailored questions and sample answers that ensure preparedness, discern the best fits, and streamline coaching, fostering confidence across the interview process.

Table of Contents

Skill-Level Determiner Questions

1. Can you describe the process you follow when admitting a new patient into the emergency room?

This question evaluates the candidate’s knowledge of emergency room procedures and their ability to follow protocols while providing high-quality care.

A good answer should include:

  • A step-by-step account of the admission process.
  • Emphasis on patient safety and comfort.
  • Mention of important documentation and communication with fellow healthcare professionals.
Sample Answer: 

"Upon admitting a new patient, I first ensure that they're stable and I assess their immediate needs. Next, I take vital signs and gather their medical history—asking about allergies, current medications, and the nature of their visit. I document this information in their chart, communicate concerns to the physicians, and prepare the patient for examinations or tests that need to be performed swiftly."

2. How do you ensure pain is accurately assessed and managed in the ER?

This question evaluates the candidate’s approach to pain assessment and their strategies for delivering effective pain relief.

A good answer should include:

  • Use of pain assessment scales (e.g., Numeric Rating Scale, FLACC Scale).
  • Considering verbal and non-verbal cues in pain assessment.
  • Timing the reassessment following intervention.
Sample Answer: 

"I use the numeric rating scale to quantify pain levels and also observe non-verbal cues, such as agitation or grimacing. After administering pain meds, I reassess within the appropriate time frame to determine effectiveness and adjust the plan as needed, ensuring I'm advocating for the patient's comfort."

3. How do you maintain accuracy and attention to detail in fast-paced situations?

Accurate and detail-oriented performance is critical in emergency nursing to avoid medical errors and ensure patient safety.

A good answer should include:

  • Techniques or systems used to enhance accuracy.
  • Prioritizing tasks without compromising patient care.
  • Examples of how attention to detail has positively impacted their work.
Sample Answer: 

"In high-pressure situations, I maintain accuracy by following established protocols and using checklists. Prioritizing tasks allows me focus on what's most critical first. For instance, double-checking medication orders and patient information has helped me prevent errors on numerous occasions."

4. How do you prioritize patient care in a full ER with varying levels of acuity?

This question evaluates the candidate’s ability to perform triage, an essential skill in emergency nursing for determining the order of treatment.

A good answer should include:

  • Application of established triage protocols, such as the START method.
  • Consideration of both the severity of the patient’s condition and the resources available.
  • Adaptability to rapidly changing situations.
Sample Answer: 

"I follow triage protocols to categorize patients by urgency, focusing on life-threatening situations first. Meanwhile, I balance my attention according to immediate needs and resource availability, always prepared to reprioritize as new cases arrive or conditions evolve."

5. What strategies do you use to ensure accurate and timely documentation in a hectic ER environment?

This question assesses the nurse’s ability to maintain accurate records, a vital component of patient care and legal documentation.

A good answer should include:

  • Utilizing downtime effectively for documentation purposes.
  • Prioritizing documentation parallel to patient care when possible.
  • Regularly updating patient files to reflect real-time care events.
Sample Answer:

"I take advantage of any brief moments of downtime to update patient notes immediately. This real-time documentation ensures accuracy and I prioritize this to safeguard legal requirements and continuity of care."

Other Skill-Level Determiner Questions:

  • Can you walk us through the procedure you follow for an intubation in the ER?
  • What is your approach to patient education, especially under stressful circumstances?
  • How do you manage the care of multiple patients with varying acuity levels in the emergency department?

Behavioral-Based Questions

1. Describe a time when you had to deal with a highly agitated patient or their family member. How did you handle the situation?

This question seeks insight into the candidate’s ability to manage stressful interactions and de-escalate conflicts, which are common in ER settings.

A good answer should include:

  • Instances of active listening and empathy towards the patient or family.
  • Use of de-escalation techniques and maintaining composure.
  • Effective communication and resolution of the issue.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"When faced with a distressed family member concerned about waiting times, I took the initiative to address their unease. I engaged with them directly, explained how the triage system prioritizes cases based on severity, and kept them informed about their loved one's status. 

This approach, rooted in transparency and continual communication, diffused their anxiety and eventually, they recognized the value of our conversation, expressing their appreciation for the updates, which helped to ease their concerns substantially."

2. Describe a moment when you had to make a quick decision without the presence of a doctor. What was the outcome?

Emergency room nurses must occasionally make critical decisions on the spot. This question tests the candidate’s autonomous decision-making capabilities and judgment.

A good answer should include:

  • The thought process behind the decision.
  • Actions taken that aligned with best practices.
  • A positive patient outcome or a lesson learned if the outcome was not as intended.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"In a high-stakes incident where a patient exhibited symptoms of anaphylaxis and no doctor was immediately available, I stepped in and followed the emergency protocol: I administered epinephrine and prepared for intubation. My swift action stabilized the patient's condition, preventing further deterioration into shock. 

Upon the doctor's arrival, they acknowledged the critical role my decisive actions played in safeguarding the patient's life."

3. Describe your process for verifying medication orders and administering drugs under pressure.

Accuracy in medication administration is vital, and this question probes the nurse’s ability to maintain accuracy even when under duress.

A good answer should include:

  • Double-checking medication orders against patient records.
  • Adherence to the ‘five rights’ of medication administration.
  • Ensuring clear communication with the prescribing physician if any discrepancies arise.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"On an especially challenging shift that required precise medication administration under pressure, I upheld our safety protocols, double-checked all medication orders, and verified patient details, strictly following the 'five rights' of medication safety. 

When faced with an uncertain medication order, I didn't hesitate to confirm with the physician promptly. My diligent adherence to these practices ensured error-free medication administration and upheld patient safety."

4. Tell me about a time when you collaborated with a multidisciplinary team. What was your role, and how did you contribute to the team’s goals?

This question looks at the candidate’s ability to work well within a team, which is key in ER settings where collaboration is critical.

A good answer should include:

  • A scenario with collaboration among different healthcare professionals.
  • The specific role and contributions made by the candidate.
  • How these contributions supported the team’s objectives.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"A severe multi-vehicle accident tested our ER team's coordination and effectiveness. My role involved assessing patients rapidly, communicating clearly about their conditions, and prioritizing care delivery. 

Despite the chaos, my actions contributed to well-coordinated teamwork that led to optimal patient outcomes and demonstrated the impact of efficient communication and collaboration during emergency situations."

5. Describe a time when you had a disagreement with a colleague. How did you handle it?”

The purpose of this question is to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ability to resolve conflict.

A good answer should include:

  • Details of the disagreement and an understanding of the colleague’s perspective.
  • The approach taken to address and resolve the conflict.
  • The outcome that led to a resolution and maintained a professional relationship.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"During a disagreement with a colleague regarding a complex patient's care plan, I prioritized resolution for the sake of the patient's well-being. I facilitated a candid discussion in a private setting, encouraging open dialogue and collaboration, and we jointly consulted with the attending physician for clarity. 

Our actions led to a unified care plan, reinforcing the importance of teamwork and communication, and ultimately enhancing our approach to patient care."

Other Behavioral-Based Questions:

  • Recall a time when you had to communicate bad news to a patient or their family. How did you approach this?
  • Share an instance where you had to show resilience in your job. What happened, and how did you push through?
  • Describe a time when you effectively utilized feedback to improve your nursing practice.

Situational-Based Questions

1. Imagine you are the only nurse on duty when two critical patients arrive at the ER simultaneously. How would you handle the situation?

This scenario tests the candidate’s problem-solving skills and their ability to manage multiple patients’ needs effectively.

A good answer should include:

  • Immediate assessment of both patients to determine severity.
  • Calling for additional support while starting treatment for the most critical patient.
  • Prioritization and delegation of necessary tasks to available team members.
Sample Answer: 

"I would quickly assess the condition of both patients to determine who is more critical. While initiating care, I would activate the emergency response system to get additional help and delegate tasks accordingly once more staff arrived."

2. Imagine a scenario where two patients arrive simultaneously: one with a suspected stroke and another with severe chest pain. How would you assess and prioritize their care?

This question aims to evaluate the candidate’s ability to perform triage, a critical skill in emergency nursing, to determine which patient requires more immediate attention.

A good answer should include:

  • A systematic approach to triage based on the symptoms presented.
  • Consideration of the potential outcomes of both conditions.
  • Explanation of the rationale behind the prioritization.
Sample Answer: 

"I would quickly perform an initial assessment of both patients, looking for signs of stroke in one — such as facial droop, arm weakness, and speech difficulty — and assessing the severity of the chest pain in the other. 

Given the narrow window for effective stroke treatment, I would prioritize the stroke patient for immediate evaluation while ensuring the chest pain patient is also monitored closely and prepared for swift intervention."

3. How would you approach a situation where a patient is refusing treatment but clearly needs medical intervention?

This question measures the candidate’s ability to handle patient autonomy and informed consent while also recognizing the urgency of medical care.

A good answer should include:

  • Active listening and empathetic communication techniques to understand the patient’s concerns.
  • Education of the patient about the potential risks and benefits.
  • Consultation with legal or ethical resources if required.
Sample Answer: 

"My priority would be to understand the patient’s reasons for refusing treatment. I'd provide clear and compassionate information about the consequences and benefits of the treatment to help them make an informed decision. 

If they still refuse, I would document their decisions, consult with the healthcare team, and, if necessary, seek guidance from our ethics committee."

4. You’re treating an unconscious patient who arrives without identification. What steps do you take?

This question tests the nurse’s procedural knowledge when dealing with unidentified patients, focusing on confidentiality and ethical care.

A good answer should include:

  • Immediate medical care prioritized over patient identification.
  • Efforts to identify the patient using non-invasive means, involving law enforcement if necessary.
  • Adherence to hospital policies and protocols for unidentified patients.
Sample Answer: 

"I would first ensure the patient receives the necessary medical care. Simultaneously, I would have our support staff attempt to identify the patient through non-invasive means, such as checking for a medical alert bracelet. 

If unsuccessful, I'd follow our protocol which might include notifying law enforcement to help with identification while ensuring patient confidentiality and dignity."

5. What would you do if you’re administering medication and the patient has an unexpected adverse reaction?

This situational question assesses the nurse’s ability to respond swiftly and correctly to potential medical emergencies as a result of medication.

A good answer should include:

  • Immediate cessation of medication administration.
  • Assessment of the patient’s condition and vital signs.
  • Swift implementation of appropriate interventions and notification of the physician.
Sample Answer: 

"If a patient showed an adverse reaction while I'm administering medication, I would immediately stop the medication, assess their condition, monitor vitals, and implement appropriate interventions such as starting an IV line with normal saline and administering antihistamines or steroids as indicated. I'd also notify the attending physician immediately."

Other Situational-Based Questions:

  • How would you handle a situation where a language barrier is impacting your ability to communicate with a patient?
  • Describe the steps you would take if you identified symptoms of a highly infectious disease in a patient.
  • If you are assigned to a shift with insufficient staffing levels, how would you ensure all patients receive the care they need?
  • Imagine a family member of a patient is demanding immediate updates, but you are awaiting test results. How do you handle the conversation?

Organizational Fit Questions

1. What interests you about working in our emergency room, and how do you see yourself contributing to our team?

This question assesses the candidate’s knowledge of the hospital and their motivation while also looking at how they plan to integrate with the existing team.

A good answer should include:

  • Specific examples of what attracts the candidate to the organization.
  • Identification of personal strengths and how they will contribute positively to the team.
  • A focus on the values of the organization and how the candidate’s values align with them.
Sample Answer: 

"I am impressed by your hospital's commitment to community health and use of cutting-edge treatments. With my expertise in rapid assessment and my collaborative nature, I believe I can contribute to your high standards of patient care and enhance the teamwork in your ER."

2. How do you align your values and work ethic with the core mission of our healthcare facility?

This question determines whether the candidate’s personal values match those of the organization, which can indicate their potential for long-term satisfaction and contribution.

A good answer should include:

  • An understanding of the facility’s mission and core values.
  • Clear examples of how their values manifest in their work.
  • Explanation of the importance of alignment between personal and organizational values for job satisfaction.
Sample Answer: 

"I firmly believe in providing compassionate and equitable care to all patients, which is a core part of your mission. In my current role, I volunteer for outreach programs that bring healthcare to underserved communities. This aligns with your commitment to community health, and I would be eager to contribute to similar initiatives here."

3. What aspects of our hospital’s culture and patient care philosophy most resonate with you?

This question evaluates whether the candidate has done their homework on the organization and identifies with its unique culture and care methods.

A good answer should include:

  • Specific aspects of the hospital’s culture and philosophy that they admire.
  • Reflection on personal experiences that relate to those aspects.
  • Enthusiasm about contributing to and enhancing the hospital’s culture.
Sample Answer: 

"Your emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration impresses me. In my previous role, we implemented a team-based approach that improved patient outcomes and morale. I am excited about the opportunity to work in an environment that fosters such collaboration."

Other Organizational Fit Questions:

  • How do you handle stress and burnout, and what do you do to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
  • Can you give an example of how you’ve contributed to a positive workplace culture in the past?
  • What do you do when you encounter a policy or procedure that you disagree with?
  • How do you ensure you’re culturally competent when providing care to a diverse patient population?

Job Interview Tips

  • Concisely articulate your proficiency in ER procedures like triage and CPR, offering specific examples of your hands-on expertise.
  • Showcase your stress management skills by describing how you maintain composure and decision-making ability during high-pressure situations.
  • Demonstrate adaptability with stories of how you’ve navigated sudden changes and emergencies with quick thinking and problem-solving.
  • Arrive with organized documentation including your resume, references, and certifications to validate your qualifications for the ER nurse role.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author

Brenda Calisaan is a psychology graduate who strongly desires to impact society positively. She aspires to spread awareness and knowledge about mental health, its importance, and its impact on individuals and society.

She also has a passion for working with children and hopes to dedicate her career to positively impacting their lives.

Outside of work, Brenda is an avid traveler and enjoys exploring new experiences. She is also a music enthusiast and loves to listen to a variety of genres. When she's not on the road or working, Brenda can often be found watching interesting YouTube videos, such as Ted-Ed content.