All of us search for a meaning in life. Some find it in starting a family and raising their kids, others in pursuing some higher ideals of science or religion. And many people actually never find their meaning. Working as a nurse, you have it easier than most of us. You help people overcome their suffering and bear with their ordeal. And sometimes you may save someone’s life with a good decision, or with a prompt assistance when you happen to be at the right place at the right time.

But is this what the interviewers want to hear from you, when inquiring about what nursing means to you? Or are they looking for something else in your answer? Let’s try to find it out together. We will start with 7 sample answers to the question, and then I will proceed with some points you should consider when deciding what to say in your interview, be it for a nursing job, or for a place at a nursing school (you can face this question in both interviews).


7 sample answers to “What does nursing mean to you?” interview question

  1. More than anything else, nursing allows me to fulfill my desire to help others, an honest desire I’ve felt for my entire life. I’ve always enjoyed helping people, be it my siblings, schoolmates, parents, friends, colleagues. Over the years I came to a firm conclusion that giving feels much better than getting, and in order to find my inner peace I have to do a job in which I will feel I am helping someone every day. Especially the vulnerable groups of society. If I get a chance to work in your hospital, my dream will finally come true, since you work here mostly with marginalized communities.
  2. It is simply my calling. Of course it is also a job, a means to earn a living and support myself. But speaking honestly, it is more than that. I’ve felt a calling to the profession since I was a kid and spent long months in a hospital, getting excellent care and attention from the nurses. It motivated me to follow the same career path, and I’ve clung to it ever since. Definitely feel that I am at the right place, doing the job I am good at, and would love to get a chance to demonstrate it also in your clinic.
  3. So far it is just a dream to me. I’ve spent a lot of time deciding about my studies, and what I want to do for a living. Considering pluses and minuses of each profession, because obviously a perfect job doesn’t exist, I decided to try to get to a nursing school. Of course, I also considered my strengths–communication skills, responsibility, emotional intelligence. I found them a great match for nursing. Everything considered I decided to apply with the best nursing school in the area, and here I am with you, interviewing for a place in the study program.
  4. Nursing is my way of paying back the favor I’ve received in life. You know, I’ve been extremely lucky. Born in a good family, we’ve never struggled with resources, and could pursue whatever we wanted to pursue as kids. But I did not live in my small bubble of careless existence. On the contrary, I’ve perceived all the things that were going around me. People living on the streets, people battling with all sorts of diseases not having an insurance, and so on, and so forth. I almost felt obliged to do something from my end to help them. Obliged, but also motivated, looking for a deeper meaning in my life. Nursing has given me both–an opportunity to help the ones who weren’t as lucky as I was in life, and a meaning to my everyday existence.
  5. To be honest, I still try to understand what exactly nursing means to me. This is my first job application, and though I had some hands on practice during the last two years at the nursing school, I haven’t got the real taste of the job yet. I know one thing: I enjoy the work and the challenges it presents. And I enjoy working with the patients. But what exactly does nursing mean to me and my life, I cannot tell yet. I am sure I will be able to tell it after first few months in the job.
  6. Nursing, and especially working in a nursing home, is my opportunity to work with the demographic groups I enjoy working with. I find it amazing that a good nurse, or a good social worker, can make all the difference in the last few years of life of an elderly person. All they need is a bit of attention and love… And I enjoy giving it to them, and find a lot of pleasure in this type of work. It is the main reason why we sit here together today.
  7. Speaking honestly, first and foremost it is a well-paid job that allows me to support my family. At the end of the day, unless we manage to support ourselves and our families, we may quickly end up on the other side of the barricade–needing help from someone. Nursing offers me a means to pay the bills and go to bed with a clear head. But it isn’t only about money. Nursing also gives a purpose to my everyday life, to each long night shift I spend in the hospital, to the struggle I often experience trying to help my patients, and to all challenges we face in this work. Because I understand how important it is, and that without nurses there won’t be any healthcare…


What they perceive should correspond with your words in a nursing interview

Interviewers observe way more than the words you say. When we talk about principal questions like this one, questions about your career choice, they want to hear some enthusiasm in your voice. They need to hear it in order to believe the authenticity of your claims.

Now it doesn’t mean that you have to shout or exhibit your enthusiasm in any other excessively expressive way. It is enough when they see some sparkle in your eyes, when they can sense that you enjoy talking about nursing, because that’s exactly what you want to devote yourself to in your life.

If possible, relate to your future place of work

Talking about nursing in general is great, but even better if you can refer to the job you try to get (or the school where you want to study, should you face the question in a nursing school interview). Are you going to work on the ICU? Explain how such an environment and what you can do there for your patients help you find the purpose in your everyday life.

Applying for a job in a nursing home? Refer to your work with the elderly people, explaining how such a work fits your personality and strengths, and how helping these people enjoy last years of their lives fulfills you.

Applying for a place in a study program? Explain them what motivated you to apply for nursing instead of some other field, but do not forget to refer also to their school, praising their study program, teachers, references, or whatever.


Not sure yet? Tell them that you are still trying to find the meaning

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, we all search for a meaning. And we can find it in different career and walks of life. Someone finds it while very young, while for others it can take years or decades. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So if you aren’t sure what nursing means to you, and none of my sample answers resonates with you, you can always tell them that you are still trying to understand what this career means to you, and hope to learn the answer soon. Of course, you should ensure them that you enjoy nursing and feel ready for the challenges of the job, regardless of whether you have yet understood what does the career mean to you….

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face in your nursing interview:

Matthew Chulaw
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