Once you pass your nursing exam, all your hard work and dedication finally begin to pay off. Now, you’re ready to begin taking your first steps into your chosen career field of post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nursing.
But before you can head off to work, you have to ace one more thing: the nursing interview.
While that might sound stressful, there’s no need to worry. With some preparation, you’ll be ready to demonstrate your hard-earned experience and qualifications for the nursing role.
To take on your nursing interview with poise and confidence, you can also rely on knowledge of what that meeting might entail—namely, the most common interview questions for PACU nurses.
#1: Why Do You Want to Be a PACU Nurse?
While you’re likely going to be asked some specific and technical questions to test your nursing knowledge, some PACU interview questions are ones you’d be asked in any job interview. A common question is the classic query, “Why do you want to work in this field or why become a PACU nurse opposed to any other specialty?”
When a potential employer asks this interview question, they’re often trying to understand your long-term goals and commitment and feel out your passion and knowledge. So, it’s important to answer this question in a way that:1
- Shows you’ve done your homework – Tie your skills and knowledge about PACU nursing into the response you give to take your answer to the next level. Doing so lets your interviewer know that not only are you passionate, but that you also have the clinical experience and necessary qualifications to back that up.
- Discusses your long-term goals – Talking about your long-term career plans lets an employer know that you’re in this for the long haul and are committed to any potential career development opportunities their hospital or practice has to offer.
- Doesn’t just focus on yourself – It might feel natural to only speak from your personal perspective since the question is directed at you. But you know that nursing is about more than just you—it’s about the patient as well. Therefore, it can be helpful to talk about what you want to offer others as a nurse.
If your answer to this first question takes the above points into account, you can make a satisfactory answer into a sensational one that your interviewer will remember.
#2: How Do You Deal with Difficult Patients?
Another common job interview tactic is to focus on difficult situations that might come up so employers can feel out your problem-solving skills. In the specific case of interviewing for a nursing position, the interviewer is also trying to figure out how you’ll interact with your future patients.
They’re also trying to see if you have the following skills that are important for any PACU nurse:
- The ability to keep a level head
- A good bedside manner
When tackling this question, it’s best to have a specific story or example in mind. When you tell it to the interviewer, you should also explain in detail how you solved the problem and assured the comfort and safety of the patient above all. That way, you’ll be able to fully answer the question in a way that also highlights your problem-solving skills and nursing abilities.
#3: Tell Us About Your Training and Experience
This question is designed to probe your background and gives you a chance to show off your nursing know-how. You can use this question to stand out from the crowd and go into detail about any of the following:2
- Your nursing degree – You need either an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing to be qualified as a PACU nurse. You could discuss your education and schooling in more detail as part of the answer to this question.
- Your clinical experience – You can’t just walk into an interview with your nursing degree and be ready to start working. You need hands-on experience first, and you should mention it during your interview.
- Any additional certifications you have – If you passed a certification exam to become a Certified Post-Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN), that’s a major bonus to your credentials and merits discussion during an interview. This may play a part in negotiating your PACU nursing salary.
While the above credentials and experiences can be beneficial to discuss during an interview, this shouldn’t be the first time they come up. You should also list all of the above on your resume to ensure that you’re painting yourself in the best light possible as a job candidate.
#4: What Are the Signs a Patient Is Reacting Poorly to Anesthesia?
Aside from interview questions about your knowledge, education, and qualifications, interviewers may also ask questions specific to PACU nursing. These questions primarily aim to test your practical knowledge.
So, if your employer asks a question like, “What are the signs a patient is reacting poorly to anesthesia?” you’ll want to ensure you’re able to answer.
To tackle these kinds of technical questions, it’s best to prepare ahead of time and come up with some possible answers. The following tips can help you brainstorm excellent examples for this kind of question:3
- Use the STAR method – STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This acronym is designed to help you remember the four cornerstones of telling a story during an interview. When giving a technical answer, make sure you first describe the situation before identifying and describing any tasks you completed or contributions you made. Then you can talk about how you took action to achieve the end result. This method ensures you’ll be able to provide a detailed example that highlights your skills and contributions.
- Be careful when sharing real patient examples – If you’ve completed nursing school, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you how important HIPAA is. When you’re answering technical questions and sharing your real experiences, make sure to leave out anything that would breach patient privacy. You can even mention that you’re omitting certain information during your response—your interviewer will likely appreciate your discretion.
You can use the same tips for any other technical PACU nursing questions you might face during your interview. They’ll ensure you can provide a detailed, appropriate answer no matter the topic.
#5: Describe Your Time Management Skills
If you’re asked this question, you might be a little surprised at first.
But when you have many patients to care for who need medications and treatments on a specific schedule, managing your time well can be critical.
When answering this question, specificity is key. You’ll leave a better impression if you don’t just say that you have excellent time management skills. Instead, provide concrete examples of how you’ve managed your time in previous situations.
Excellent examples include any scenarios where you had to:
- Work in a place that was fast-paced
- Prioritize certain tasks over others
- Manage a job where there wasn’t enough time to complete all your tasks
- Handle lots of patients with specialized needs
Time management and prioritization are premium skills in a PACU nurse because you’ll be dealing with patients in the earliest stages of their recovery. Even if you know you can think on your feet, these tips will ensure your interviewer knows it as well.
#6: What is Your Favorite Part of Nursing?
Most of the questions you face will focus on helping your potential employer obtain a better understanding of your skills and qualifications. These questions enable employers to learn about the excellent level of care you’ll be able to provide. But they may want to learn about you as a person and potential colleague as well.
Questions such as “What’s your favorite part of nursing?” are a fantastic way to do that.
Although you might not have to worry as much about technical aspects with this question, some people can still find it tricky to speak about themselves. If you know your brain freezes up when you’re asked a personal question, you might find the below advice helpful:
- Talk to the interviewer like you would a friend
- Remind yourself of what drew you to nursing in the first place
- Find a specific, positive anecdote you can share that’s personal to you
- Talk about a mentor or teacher who inspired you to pursue nursing
By understanding your nursing aspirations, a future employer can make sure that you’re the passionate, thoughtful specialist their healthcare team needs. Giving a memorable answer to this question is a perfect way to put those qualities on display.
Don’t Forget to Prepare Your Resume, Too
As a hopeful PACU nurse, preparing thoughtful, insightful answers to interview questions can be a superb way to demonstrate your nursing skills, share your experiences, and even show employers your personality. But as you prep the perfect answers, don’t forget to prepare another key part of your application process: your resume.
Just like the answers to interview questions, you’ll want to tailor your resume specifically to the PACU nurse position you’re applying for. Here are a few points to make sure you cover:
- About – If you have an “about me” section on your resume, include a statement about your goals with regard to PACU nursing or nursing in general.
- Skills – Include any special skills, certifications, or training relevant to PACU nursing. Be sure to show how you qualify for skills mentioned in the job description.
- Education – Highlight any PACU-related coursework you have completed. You should especially include those mentioned as required qualifications in the application.
- Experience – Outline any previous positions you have held as a PACU nurse, and what your responsibilities were. If this is your first nursing position, be sure to include any clinical experience you gained during your nursing education.
Take Your Next Steps with Host Healthcare
What may seem like being asked all of the possible nursing interview questions in the world will be worth it once you start your dream career. At Host Healthcare, we want to help you take those next steps, especially if you are interested in pursuing travel nursing jobs specific to the post-anesthesia care unit.
Our travel healthcare professionals have priority access to jobs all across the country. That way, we can help you find the job you want in a city you’ll love.
Plus, we offer our travelers support on all fronts. From some of the best benefits out there to a support team of qualified recruiters, housing help, and support staff, we’ll be with you at every stage of the journey. With Host Healthcare, you can spend more of your time and energy on what you care about: your patients.
Once you’ve locked in one full year of staff PACU nursing experience, apply to Host Healthcare today and find the PACU nursing job of your dreams.
Ashleigh Murray, BSN, RN
Nursing Specialty: PACU, Emergency Trauma, Post-op, Pre-op, ICU float
After completing an emergency trauma nurse residency at a level-one trauma center and teaching hospital in Washington, DC, I dove hard into emergency trauma nursing. I absolutely loved everything about working in the heart of DC with my emergency room family. After some time, I decided I wanted to grow my knowledge base and see how the rest of the US handles emergency trauma, so I became a travel nurse. I absolutely loved it! I loved learning how different places handle different situations or how different parts of the country prefer certain medications over others to achieve the same outcome. Traveling made me want to learn other nursing areas, so after gaining the needed experience, I took some cool travel jobs in Pre-op, Post-op, PACU, and PACU with ICU floating. Many of these travel jobs turned into long-term staff residencies because I couldn’t help falling in love with each city, the hospitals’ staff, and the knowledge and skills I obtained in each place. Being a nurse has enriched my life, filled my cup by allowing me to help others, and provided me with so many adventures. I can’t wait for the next one!
- Zhang, Lily. “What to Say When Your Interviewer Asks ‘Why Do You Want This Job?’” The Muse. https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-steps-for-answering-why-do-you-want-this-job
- Guarniere, Amanda. “PACU Nurse: Everything You Need To Know (& How To Become One In 2021).” The Resume RX. https://www.theresumerx.com/pacu-nurse/
- “Common Nursing Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.” Aspen University. 2 July 2021. https://www.aspen.edu/altitude/common-nursing-interview-questions/