Nurse Interview Questions About Patient Complaints

Demonstrating flexibility and empathy

Female nurse sitting at desk talking to male patient
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Nursing is definitely not an easy job. There’s a lot of juggling communication with doctors, patients, and their families, during very trying times. It may seem like someone is always complaining about something and the patient's stress can become your own when you're handling a barrage of complaints. If you have an interview for a nursing job, the interviewer will probably ask questions about how you handle patient complaints.

Essentially, the interviewer is trying to determine how well you handle stress and how you’ll treat patients and family members when they’re upset and have made a complaint. A nurse who does a bad job of handling a complaint may escalate the situation into something much worse, so it’s important to know how you’d assess and handle any such complaints.

Nursing Skills to Highlight During an Interview

There are two skills to highlight during an interview that can illustrate how you of a demanding job, and  to prepare for, flexibility and empathy:

Flexibility: Every day can be different on the job; you never know what to expect, and at the same time you have to keep everybody happy. As a nurse, you have to handle varying shifts, , paperwork, and dealing with physicians and families. Having a non-compliant patient who complains requires you to be flexible, think on your feet, and come up with solutions to his or her problems while keeping everyone happy.

Empathy:  Giving patients care and showing concern and empathy are inherent parts of taking care of people who are sick, in pain, or in crisis. Patients (and their families) need your attention but can be challenging when they complain, and may push your buttons, or test your limits. Nurses may also deal with compassion fatigue – essentially, an empathy burnout from helping people around the clock. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes patients' complaints are nothing more than a coping skill in a situation over which the patient has little control.

Interview Questions About Dealing With Patients' Complaints

If you’re nervous about your upcoming interview and aren’t sure exactly what to expect, you may benefit from a review of the following potential interview questions about patient complaints:

  • How would you handle a patient who complains indiscriminately about everything?
  • How do you handle a patient who voices dislike for the food and refuses to eat?
  • How do you handle a patient who subsequently has his family bring in outside food that is contraindicated because of his diet?
  • How would you deal with a patient who complains of pain?
  • How do you handle a patient who cannot have any additional pain medication?
  • How do you manage a patient's irritation when whiteboards aren't updated notifying him of whom his nurse on duty is?
  • How do you placate a patient who's disgruntled with her roommate?
  • How do you manage someone who complains about getting out of bed?
  • How do you encourage a patient who complains about taking care of his basic self-care?
  • How do you handle a patient who complains about her doctor?
  • How do you handle a patient who complains that his phone or television doesn't work?
  • Nurses or technicians have to do tests or draw blood in the middle of the night. How do you deal with patients who complain about interrupted or lack of sleep?
  • How do you handle a patient complaint about a noisy nursing station that irritates him or disrupts his sleep?
  • How do you deal with a patient who complains about your care, specifically?
  • What's your strategy for a patient complaining about inadequate response to her complaints?
  • What's your approach for a patient complaining about rude or inattentive staff?
  • How do you placate a patient complaining about long waits for tests?

Practice Makes Interview Perfect

Now that you have an idea of what questions to expect, take some time to prepare for your interview by practicing your answers. Say them out loud a few times – that way you’ll feel more comfortable when it’s time for your answers.

Even better, if you have a friend, colleague, or family member willing to pose as the interviewer. He or she can read each of these questions to you and you can practice your answers. Of course, you’ll be asked questions about a variety of things, so take some time to review this guide to .