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How Would You Answer This Interview Question?

Dear Readers,

I’m asking your thoughts on how you would answer this question.

It’s a “prioritizing type situational” interview question that a reader shared with me.

Here’s the question:

You are on a Med/Surg floor and you are with a patient who is very emotionally unstable and crying uncontrollably when you receive two calls.

One is from a nursing assistant who suspects a lead is off on her patient but is not quite sure what the problem is and asks you to come check on the patient.

The other call is from a nurse who needs an independent double-check on the PCA for her patient who is in a lot of pain.

Who would you tend to first and why? Who would you tend to second and why?Decision Sign Representing Uncertainty And Making Decisions

Of course I asked for more background information, but (also of course!) the response was No…the applicant had to answer based on the above information only.

What do you think?

Thank You,

Nurse Beth


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

4 Comments on How Would You Answer This Interview Question?

  1. I guess my first thought is “what kind of lead is on a med-surg patient????”. As a cardiac nurse of 15 yrs i immediately assume to cardiac telemetry. I would want to better understand the context of practice environment before getting to interview scenarios much less taking the job!!!. I want to understand why we have telemtry on a general med-surg ward and I want to understand what roles and responsibilities “nursing assistants” have. In my hospital telemetry units are staffed by RNs and surgical wards by RNs and LPNs. If there is a huge mismatch in the acuity/complexity and the numbers of RNs I’m not sure I’d take the job.
    ABC’s first. The potential for cardiac arrythmia trumps all. If the other nurse can be sent without delay to check the lead I would send her and stay with the emotionally distressed pt. If telemetry patient is stable and has a rhythm, we should deal with the pain issue.
    Is PCA the pump the most appropriate action for this pt. in a lot of pain. Is there a more appropriate adjunctive ordered to get on top of the acute pain??? If so perhaps she could initiate that medication and we’ll do the pump as soon as we get the chance. If there is another RN on the ward she should be called upon to assist with the PCA.
    While this happens I am left to continue to deal with the emotional patient. It isn’t ideal to hand the emotional patient off to another Nurse to manage, further I am assuming the nursing assistant isn’t qualified to manage psychological/ psychaticic instability. However, depending on the level of instability would either have the assistant remain with the patient while I obtain any necessary orders/medication or I would have the another nurse do that while I remain with the patient.
    Hopefully the telemetry patient wasn’t coding or unstable. In that event….airway…..breathing…..circulation.

    • P.S. Forgot to say call the code. Lol

      • lol! Maybe the question came from a hospital like mine. On MedSurg we have some pts on”remote tele”. So they wear a transmitter and the signal goes to the monitor on the Tele floor. Not an ideal set up.

    • Best answer with rationale! You got the job, when can you start? lol Beth P.S. You sound like me. I’m sure I would like working with you 🙂

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