How To Answer “Why Do You Want To Be A Nurse?” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 10, 2021
Articles In Guide

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The nursing programs, the education, the many hours working on your resume and applying have paid off. You’ve been given the opportunity to interview for a nursing position — congratulations!

Now it’s time to prepare for the job interview. When you finally get your foot in the door, you should expect, among other common interview questions, to be asked “Why did you choose a nursing career?”

We’ll cover what interviewers are looking to hear, how to approach your answers, and show a few example answers to help get your own ideas going.

Why Interviewers Ask “Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?”

Nursing is a wonderful field with many diverse opportunities, yet the great rewards it offers come with many challenges. It’s’ not a career to take lightly. Therefore, the interviewer will want to know how serious you are about the position.

Nursing is a profession with a prerequisite for assisting others in potentially high-stress environments. So by answering this question, you are given the opportunity to highlight not only your skills, but more importantly, your passion for nursing and ability to keep cool under pressure.

Additionally, interviewers hope to learn why you got interested in the field in the first place. Telling a story about an impactful experience with a medical professional or about the sense of satisfaction you feel when helping a patient can help illustrate that you’re not only skillful, but have deep compassion for the people you’ll be working with.

How to Answer “Why Did You Choose A Nursing Career?”

It is important to be honest with your answer, but with an eye toward impressing the interviewer.

You may very much be taking this nursing job because it is a steady career with good pay and good growth opportunities (and that’s a fine thing to want for yourself!) But you should minimize that part of your reason altogether.

Even if the pay and opportunities are good for you, nursing is a challenging profession, and it will only hurt you in the long run if you cannot articulate more meaningful passions for the position. These passions are the ones that will carry you through difficult times.

And it’s a passion that your interviewer wants to hear.

So before the interview, ask yourself, putting money and career goals aside, why do YOU want to be a nurse? Is it because:

  • You want to help people?

  • The medical field excites you?

  • You have certain skills, such as communication or concentration under duress, that naturally fit the position?

Focus on these aspects of yourself when you are asked why you are choosing nursing as a career. As for the steps to answering “why do you want to be a nurse:”

  1. Start at the root. If you’ve wanted to be a nurse since you were a kid, start there. If you got into it medicine thanks to an impactful college professor, make that your starting point.

    The idea is that you don’t want to go back unnecessarily far, but you also don’t want to start in the middle. Not everyone can pinpoint an exact moment (and that’s fine), but try to reflect on what it was that drew you to nursing.

  2. Tell a story. Most interviewers prefer narratives over bullet point facts — especially with a personal question like this. Don’t feel like you have to make up some great tale about how a nurse saved the day when you were a child, but bring in real moments when it became clear that nursing was the career for you.

  3. Talk people and experiences. Nursing is all about building relationships, so your answer should touch on your empathy and ability to form bonds with the people you work with and serve. In this way, your answer will show that you want to be a nurse because you truly enjoy the process of nursing.

  4. Bring it to the future. Close your answer with a nod to the future and what you’d like to accomplish in your brilliant new nursing career. Bringing your answer from the past to the future shows that you’re forward-thinking and determined enough to make your dreams a reality.

Tips for Answering “Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?”

As you focus on your interests in the job, you may find several opportunities to help you give the best answer, they include:

  • Be positive. Nothing will concern an interviewer more if you are cynical and negative in an interview where the job requires a strong sense of empathy and selflessness. This does not mean you can’t, nor should, ignore the challenges of the profession. If you can reframe these difficulties with a positive mindset, a “can do” attitude, you will strengthen your impact in the interview.

  • Be concise. A long-winded, rambling answer may give the impression that you have not considered the question ahead of time. That said, if you rush through your words, you may concern the interviewer as well. So, don’t be afraid to take breaths or have moments of silence, but choose your words carefully and effectively. Concise communication is a huge part of the nursing profession so here is an opportunity to highlight that skill.

  • Use personal experience. When answering the question “Why did you choose nursing as a career?” it can really help to bring in a personal touch to the response. This creates a unique answer that can help you stand out among other candidates. The personal experience may also reveal a moment of inspiration pointing towards why you chose nursing as a career.

  • Remember the job description. Use skills required in the job description and apply them to yourself as you explain your interest in the field. Integrate them with care, you are not trying to restate your resume. Instead, consider how your skills have developed over time and how that relates to your interest in nursing. Remember, skills are developed through some kind of interest too.

  • Research the organization/department. Wherever you are applying to is going to have unique characteristics. Perhaps the organization focuses on low-income individuals or the elderly or intensive care patients. You may be able to bring this into your answer. Even if you do not, it is still good to give you context. By understanding where you’re applying to, you strengthen the explanation of why you are applying.

  • Practice your answer. Before the interview, practice this answer, preferably with someone else who can give you feedback such as a friend or family member. However, if you do not have that opportunity, practice in front of a mirror or, better yet, record yourself on your phone and listen back to what you said. In the end, you want to “train” for this question by giving yourself the opportunity to run through it a couple of times with the chance to tweak your response.

Common Mistakes When Answering “Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?”

  • Anything negative. A negative response will be a red flag for the interviewer. If you are one to complain or see the worse in a situation, this will make you a difficult coworker in an already difficult field.

  • Focusing on money or self-serving reasons. Even if the wages are an attractive feature to the profession, mentioning this as a reason will hurt you. The interviewer is looking for an answer that goes beyond your own needs.

  • Unrelated anecdotes. Don’t get caught up in telling stories about nursing that have nothing to do with you or the job. Remember to keep things relevant and concise.

Examples Answers to “Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?”

  1. “I have wanted to get into nursing since I was very young. One of my earliest memories is of a nurse taking care of me when I had to go to the hospital for stitches. She was so kind and gentle with me that I didn’t even cry or panic. I remember leaving thinking that was the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up. Ever since then, everything I have done has been working towards becoming a nurse.”

  2. “When I was in college I took a course on basic first aid and found it super interesting. I started signing up for volunteer first aid positions and some of my fellow volunteers were nurses. I was curious about their job and the more I learned about what they did the more I found myself excited by the prospect of helping people in medical situations. I made friends with these nurses and they helped guide me through application process.”

  3. “Medicine is such an exciting field, and one of the biggest joys of nursing is that I’m always learning new things. I know people who dread getting their necessary CEUs every year, but for me, it’s a perk of the career. For instance, just last year I completed my certification from the Wilderness Medical Society and can now serve as medical staff on the Appalachian Trail. But from Diabetes for APRNs to Nursing for Infertility courses, I’m always able to maintain my passion for nursing through continuous discovery and wonder at the medical field.”

  4. “I believe in helping people, especially in times of extreme need. When I worked as an EMT I was always the one asked to facilitate information between any involved party. I want to expand this skill and I think nursing is a good fit for me. My interests and experience with medical professionals are good for this job.”

Possible Follow Up Questions:

After the question “Why did you choose a nursing career?” there will most likely be follow-up questions. Here are some brief examples of what you can expect. This will help you prepare yourself for the direction the interview may take.

  • What do you think is most difficult about being a nurse? Why? Be aware of certain challenges of nursing ahead of time. Do some research. The worst thing you can do for yourself is be caught off guard on this question.

  • How are you at handling stress? Consider what techniques you use for reducing stress. It is going to be important to show your competency. Consider answering in a way that reveals you to be a team player and aware of the stresses of your coworkers as well.

  • What are your long term career goals? The interviewer is going to be gauging your seriousness in becoming a nurse. It is not a profession that you can just “try out”, so give an answer that shows sincere consideration for a long term medical profession. Note: This does not necessarily tie you strictly to nursing. Many managers and hospital administrators come from nursing backgrounds.

Final Thoughts

There are so many nursing jobs out there and nurses are in high demand. You will want to know what you’re getting yourself into before you are asked at the interview what brings you to the field.

Knowledge is power, so knowing your response to “Why did you choose a nursing career?” is crucial for success. This is your moment to shine and show why you are the best candidate for the job.

Those who are able to answer with sincerity and empathy are the types of nurses all organizations will want. So get yourself ready and figure out ahead of time why you want to be a nurse.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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