It’s the most common question any nursing major will receive during the interview process, whether for school or for co-op positions. “Why do you want to be a nurse” is ubiquitous, and with good reason. Your answer says a lot about you and your motivations, not to mention where your passion lies. I’ve heard many variations on a theme in the answers to this question, ranging from sincere to predictable and fake. Here are the two best ways to answer this question if you find yourself without a “classic” response!
1. The Heartfelt Approach
If you became a nurse because of a personal experience, this answer is for you! For example, if you spent time in the hospital when you were young due to your own illness or a relative’s, and that’s where you discovered your passion, your answer will come across as genuine and give the interviewer a great idea of who you are. But beware! This way of answering can backfire if you stretch too hard to make a connection. If you didn’t have an epiphany in the midst of a medical crisis, please don’t try to make one up. You will just come across as phony, and nurses can spot an exaggerated story a mile away.
Example: “When I was twelve, my best friend John was diagnosed with cancer. I visited him every day in the hospital and found myself fascinated by how the nurses cared for him. They saw him more than the doctors did and always took the time to make sure he was doing OK. I knew then that I wanted to be a nurse someday so I could help people the way my friend was helped.”
2. The Realistic Approach
Let’s face it, there are many benefits to nursing that have nothing to do with patient care. There’s the flexible scheduling, the many varied career paths and specialties, not to mention the job security. So if you became a nursing major for any of those reasons, good for you! These are perfectly valid reasons for entering the nursing profession. The problem, however, is that flat-out stating this in an interview makes you come across as caring only for the money, not the patients. Many interviewers see nursing as a lifelong passion, not “just a job,” so if the realistic approach is not taken tactfully, this answer could set a sour tone for the interview. One way to prevent this is to explain your evolving passion for nursing alongside your practical thinking, proving that you are pragmatic about your future career, but also have a passion for it.
Example: “I first applied to nursing school because I liked the flexibility involved in the profession and the job availability in my area. But now that I have been in nursing classes, I realize how much I love nursing in addition to all of the practical benefits it provides. I am excited about my career choice and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else!”
My story mixes the two, and I’ve found that my answer works because it feels real. I always had a passion for science and taking care of others from a young age. I also really loved working with kids in summer camps and after school plays. When high school started and I began thinking about my career and college, nursing jumped out at me. When I volunteered at my local hospital, it all clicked for me. I loved making people feel better, and to me, the nurses were superheroes. The same spirit of discovery that I loved about science is at the heart of nursing as a profession. Being a pediatric nurse means caring for the whole family, not just the patient, and that appealed to me. I applied to NU Nursing and never looked back because I knew I had made the right choice and found my life’s passion.
No matter what your reasons are for entering nursing, just know that this one question does not define who you are or who you will be as a nurse! Whether you decided to be a nurse for the practical benefits or the emotional rewards, what matters most is what you do at the bedside for the patient every day.
Julia Thompson is a second year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and is currently on her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com with any questions. You can follow her on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/juliavthompson) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/juliavthompson).