Different healthcare professionals care for babies that need special assistance in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Nurses, pediatricians, respiratory therapists, dietitians, pharmacist, or even social workers–to name just the few. When we humans are born we are most fragile. If we are born prematurely, or are too small, with our organs not developed properly, or we suffer some birth defect, we will end up in NICU, where medical professionals try their best to make sure we survive this critical period, and can eventually leave the hospital with our mother.

NICU isn’t an easy place to work at. Births do not follow typical work schedule, and babies are simply babies :). The job is rewarding no doubt, but the reward comes with a price–high stress levels, night shifts, and often a need to get over emotional experiences, such as when a newborn dies, which happens in every NICU, including in the best hospitals.

Interviewing for any job in NICU, you will deal mostly with questions related to the problems of the job. They won’t question your qualification. If it wasn’t sufficient, you would not invite you to the interviews. Keep in mind that you may get a few questions related to your particular specialization (check Pediatric Nurse interview questions, or Respiratory Therapist interview questions to get an idea). In this article, however, we will focus on questions you may face interviewing for any job at NICU. Enjoy!


Why do you want to work in NICU?

You have a few options for a good answer. One is saying that you have a special feel for newborns, that you always dreamed of working with little children. You understand how neonatal care impacts the entire life of a child, because that’s when the most important body functions are formed, and if some defects develop (due to lack of care), it may impact the person for the rest of their life. Regardless of whether you will work as a nurse, dietitian, or social worker in NICU, you see a meaningful purpose in this job, and are strongly attracted to it.

Another option is referring to a personal experience. Perhaps your own child spent first few days in NICU, because it was born prematurely. The situation was critical but the staff did great job, and now your child is 100% all right, growing up and enjoying life. This experience transformed your view when it comes to your professional career, and you decided for NICU.

Sample answer:

I just love working with babies. Have empathy for them, and endless patience. What’s more, I understand the critical impact a good (or a bad) neonatal care has on the entire life of a child, and I see a meaningful purpose in this job. Last but not least, I meet the job requirements, and also I feel ready to handle the challenges this job presents.


How do you imagine your typical day here in NICU?

This obviously depends a lot on the role you will have in the NICU team. Social worker doesn’t do the same things as nurses do, or pediatrics residents. Read the job description carefully, and think about your day.

Having said that, regardless of your role you can emphasize certain things. First of all, teamwork. In any great NICU nurses, doctors, paramedicals and other professionals work as a team, helping each other, making sure that not only the child gets the best possible care, but also that parents are informed and remain as calm as possible, considering how stressful the situation is in general.

You can also say that you expect to be on guard always on the shift, because anything can happen at anytime, in any bed, and you simply cannot treat this as some other job in the hospital. The key is to show them that you do not idealize the job. On the contrary, you know it will be hard, you expect challenges and stressful situations, and you are ready to deal with them.

Sample answer:

I definitely imagine that I will have my hands full on the shift. As a nurse, I will check the bodily functions regularly, of each baby in the unit, and I will be ready to assist my colleagues with any task they may need. I also imagine that I will have some contacts with the parents, informing them about the health of their newborn, and counseling them. In general, I know it won’t be an easy job, and sometimes we will be under a lot of pressure. But it is something I accept, and believe to be able to deal with.

Do you have any experience working with newborns or small children?

No rocket-science here. Either you have experience, or you don’t. If you cared for newborns before, and this can actually include caring for your own baby, tell them about the difficulties you’ve experienced, but also about the joy the work has brought to you. You can briefly narrate your duties, especially if you worked in a healthcare setting before.

Lacking experience, the most important thing is to show your confidence. Sure enough, you haven’t worked with newborns before, but you know what the job in NICU entails. You talked with the people from the department, you read the job description carefully, and basically you feel ready to handle the job, with everything that belongs to it.

Sample answer:

I’ve never worked with babies before, at least not in a professional setting. However, I have talked to other nurses working here, and also to my friends who became mothers lately. Hence I believe to know what the job entails, on both physical and emotional level. And I feel ready to handle it.


How do you feel about working at night, Sundays, holidays?

Babies get born everyday, and working in NICU, you cannot expect to have free Sundays or to never come to work during Christmas holiday break. Of course, you won’t work every weekend. You will share shifts with your colleagues and there is some flexibility, but it is important to show your willingness to sacrifice something for your job, and for the newborn babies you will care for.

Sample answer:

I feel perfectly all right about it, because I understand someone needs to be in NICU 24/7. Some Sundays and holidays it will be one of my colleagues, on other occasions it will be me. What’s more, I also understand that if the unit gets busy, at any time of a year, I may need to do an extra shift. Seeing the meaningful purpose of this work and knowing why I apply for it, I do not see this as a problem.


Imagine that a parent is in extreme distress, constantly asking you for news about their baby, shaking. What will you do in such a situation?

The most important thing is to show empathy, and your emotional readiness to deal with such situations. Regardless of your position in NICU, interactions with parents will belong to your job. Tell the interviewers that you will try your best to calm them down, and ensure them that the entire personnel does everything possible to make sure their child will survive and thrive.

And if you are a bearer of bad news–a role nobody likes, you will bear them with sympathy, and will be ready to receive and process whatever emotional reaction comes from the other side. You can also say that you know such situations belong to the job, and that it does not discourage you from applying.

Sample answer:

First of all I understand them. I can imagine I would do the same if my child was hospitalized in NICU. Hence any reactions the parents show towards me–even hostility, I will accept, and always simply try my best to calm them down and ensure them we do everything within our powers to help their child. If I find the situation impossible to handle, I will ask more qualified colleagues to help me out–for example the social worker. In any case, I know interactions with parents form an important part of this job, and not every single one will be a pleasant interaction. I count with this aspect of NICU work, and it doesn’t discourage me from applying.


Other questions you may face in your NICU job interview

  • What does teamwork mean to you?
  • Tell us about a time when you felt helpless. How did you manage to get over the situation.
  • Imagine that you disagree with a treatment suggested by one of the physicians. What will you do?
  • Tell us about a time you felt overwhelmed with work.
  • Can you tell us more about your education and certification, in relation to NICU work?
  • Imagine that you are alone on a night shift. Suddenly two different children need your attention. What will you do?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What do you expect from your new colleagues here in NICU?
  • Tell us about your biggest fear.
  • After everything we discussed here, do you want to add something, or do you have any questions?


Final words

Interviews for jobs in NICU belong to interviews with average difficulty. On one hand, they won’t typically question your readiness for the job, when it comes to your education and certification. On the other hand, you have to convince them with your answers that you are ready to handle the challenges of the job, such as emotional encounters with parents, witnessing a child dying, having a conflict with an over-worked colleague, working on Christmas, and so on. I hope you find the task at least a bit easier after reading this article. Good luck to you!


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Matthew Chulaw
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