Last updated on January 10th, 2020 at 05:04 pm

After many years of hard studies, you earned your Mental Health Nursing degree. Now you finally meet all legal requirements to apply for the highest paying nursing job in the world.

Just one last step remains–the interview. Once you pass your final test, you will start doing the work you always wanted to do, caring for psychiatric patients. I will show you what to expect in this interview, what questions they will ask you, and how you should answer them to succeed. Enjoy!


Competition won’t be tough

Good news is that you won’t compete with dozens other applicants for the job (which would be the case if you wanted to work as a Pharmacist, or a Teller for example).

More people are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders each year. On the top of that, vast majority of these people remain patients for their entire life. Nurses are in demand, and they will continue to be.

Therefor it may easily happen that you will be the only candidate in an interview. In such a case it’s not about proving to be the best. It’s simply about proving that you know what psychiatric nursing is about, that you really want the job, and are ready for all difficulties it presents.

In many cases, the interviewers will pray that you do well, that you don’t disappoint in your interview. They want you, they need you, and they hope to hire you.

I wanted to write this to help you relax. This isn’t the most difficult interview in the world. Relax, be yourself, and show motivation. Things will be fine. Let’s have a look at the questions they may ask you.


Why do you want to work as a Mental Health Nurse?

You should not refer to the past, saying that you want this job because you’ve earned your degree in the field. It would indicate a must, something you had to do and not wanted to. You should rather focus on the future, and the present.

You can say that you register the development in our society, how all kinds of mental illnesses are on the rise, and feel a calling to help these people, and perhaps even help to stop the trend (though it will be very tough to stop it).

You can also say that you feel very close to psychiatric patients (perhaps someone in your family suffers from depression or schizophrenia), and that’s your motivation to learn more about the field, and to be active in it.

Try to show some enthusiasm. They should feel that you really want the job, and look forward to doing it.

nurse is administering an injection

How do you imagine a typical day in work in our hospital (psychiatric intensive care unit, or other setting)?

The key is to show the interviewers that you see the complexity of this role, and all things it encompasses. Mental health nursing isn’t only about administering drugs, and watching whether patients do not fight each other in the ward (though I saw many nurses who did nothing more).

It’s much more than that.

Say that you plan to talk to patients, listen to them, try to understand their physical, social, and emotional needs, provide assistance whenever you can. Say that you plan to visit the rooms regularly to check on everyone, and won’t just sit in your office waiting for a buzzer to ring.

Reading the job description should also help you to understand your typical day in work…


How do you feel about working on a 12, or 24 hour shift?

Each job has some drawbacks. With nursing, perhaps the biggest drawback are the long shifts, which are both physically and mentally demanding.

Now, you should not wear pink glasses, saying that you will handle it will ease. It’s not as simple as that, and having unrealistic expectations about the difficulty of the job won’t help you in your interview.

Oppositely, you should say that you know it will be tough. Say that you expect to be tired on such a long shift, and will need your best to maintain concentration and stay vigilant. Nevertheless, you know this belongs to the job, and count with it, and unless you felt ready to handle long shifts (or at least try to handle them), you would not apply for the job.

Special Tip: You can also download the list of all questions in a one page long PDF document, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

psychiatric nursing interview questions, PDF

How important is teamwork for you?

In most hospital and community sittings you will share a room with several other nurses. You will cooperate together. For this reason, you can expect at least one question about teamwork, or about sharing office with someone, or about a good/bod colleague (Describe an ideal colleague, how do you feel about spending most of your time with another nurse, etc).

You should stress the importance of teamwork, and you should also say that you hope to support your fellow nurses in difficult times, that you hope to have good cooperation together. Nursing is not an easy profession, and shifts are better when you have nice colleagues around you…


It’s 1am, a patient is crying hard, and other people in the ward can not sleep. The pressure is escalating, and you happen to be the only nurse on shift. What would you do?

You may get several situational questions in your interview, and consider this one just an example. However, the key is to always show the right attitude, and offer a simple plan on how to address the situation.

In this particular case, you can say that as a first step you’d try to calm the patient down, talk to them, help them relax and fall asleep. If that doesn’t work, however, you should proceed with medications (pills or injection) that will ensure that they stop crying and the peace is restored in the ward.

You can add that you will make report for the psychiatrist, and suggest that they reconsider the treatment of the particular patient.

Informal talk in a nursing interview

A patient refuses his dosage of drugs repeatedly. What would you do?

This is a tricky situation. First and foremost you must consider whether the patient is in a hospital voluntarily, or whether they are obliged to stay by police or other legal body (conditions and legal rules for this change from one country to another, so check it before your interview).

If they undergo a voluntary treatment, you can not force them to swallow the pills. But you should give them a paper to sign, confirming that they refused the drugs. This moves the responsibility for the consequences on their shoulders.

You can also say that you will always try to explain the patient how the drugs help them, and why they should take them.


Other questions you may get in your mental health nursing interview

  • What do you consider the most difficult aspect of this job?
  • Describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service.
  • How do you feel about administering electroshock therapy (or help when it is administered)?
  • What is your opinion on straight jacket? Do you think we should use it in psychiatric ward, and if we do, in which cases?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • Describe a time when you experienced a conflict of your personal and professional interests. How did you get over it?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your patient. How did you manage to get your message over?


Conclusion and next steps

Interview in mental health nursing belongs to easier interviews. Nurses are in high demand, and unless you remain silent in your interview, or give them really bad answers, they will hire you, or at least give you a chance to prove your skills during probation period in the hospital.

Nevertheless, you should not underestimate your preparation. Read this article again, try to answer the questions, and research about your future place of work. It will all help you to relax, and to show your best self on a big day. I wish you good luck!


May also interest you:

  • Nursing interview questions – Education, experience, attitude, or motivation? Which one matters the most in nursing job interview? Advice for all kinds of nursing jobs, and a must read for every responsible job seekers.
  • Interview attire special tips – Some interview attire tips for the brave, and for people who like to experiment.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your interview.

Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of website.
Matthew Chulaw

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