Got a Job Interview? Asking the Right Questions During a Pandemic

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

The COVID-19 pandemic has given nursing professionals a lot to think about when it comes to seeking new career opportunities. The job market is robust in many cities around the U.S., and nurses can find themselves in high demand. A job interview is a two-way street, and it couldn’t be more important to ask some prudent questions of any potential employer you’re vetting as a place to call your new professional home. Accepting a position in the midst of a pandemic can be fraught with anxiety, so the more information you have, the better you’ll feel before signing a contract.  

What has your organization learned from the experience of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

This open-ended question asks the interviewer to give you a bird’s-eye view of how the organization has responded. The answer could be very general, so a clarifying question may be needed. 

How have the priorities of the organization shifted in the context of the pandemic?

Opening up a conversation regarding how resources have been reallocated or how workplace protections for employees have been upgraded could be enlightening. 

What is your current approach regarding PPE? Are nurses and other personnel reusing N95 masks, for instance, and if they are being reused, what are your protocols for sanitizing masks prior to reuse? What others types of PPE are being employed?

We all know that PPE shortages have been reported throughout the country, and nurses give different reports about what their facilities have done. 

In a recent survey of 21,500 nurses by the American Nurses Association, one third of nurses stated that their workplaces were either “short” or actually “out of” N95s. The ANA reported that “68% of nurses say the practice of reusing single-use PPE, like N95 masks, is required by their facility’s policy, a 6% increase since May. Most are reusing masks for at least five days.” It was also noted that 55% feel unsafe using decontaminated masks. 

According to reporting on the ANA survey by MedPage Today, “the ANA called for federal leaders to approve full use of the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of PPE, pass the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act of 2020 or other legislation that achieves the same goal, and expand investment in testing and public health infrastructure. The ANA issued its warnings as unions representing nurses have filed lawsuits and workplace complaints accusing hospitals of failing to protect workers with adequate PPE, refusing to test workers, or requiring them to return to work while still COVID-positive.”

Do you have coronavirus testing protocols for employees? 

You have a right to ask a potential employer if and how they are testing employees for COVID-19. Testing protocols may likely be all over the map, so this is an important point to get clarity on. 

When a clinical or non-clinical employee tests positive for COVID-19, how many days are they required to quarantine at home before returning to work? 

This question is apropos based on the aforementioned union lawsuits against employers.

What are your protocols regarding visitors to patient rooms? Have they remained the same throughout the pandemic, or have you needed to update them? 

If you’re potentially taking a position on a high-traffic unit where visitors are common, knowing how you might be needed to enforce policies is something to take into consideration. 

What practices have you found most useful in your critical care units in terms of patient care and the safety of both staff, patients, and visitors? 

“Proning” patients in ICU is a very common practice, as is keeping IV and other equipment in hallways in order to decrease the need to enter COVID-positive patients’ rooms. 

Digging Deeper

There are many questions you might ask of a prospective employer during this time and you likely won’t have time or opportunity to ask them all. Be forthright, candid, and inquisitive. And remember, if you aren’t fully satisfied by certain answers, once you receive an offer of a position, you can leverage the fact that they want to hire you in order to dig deeper before you sign on the dotted line.  

Earn 4 ANCC Hours with our COVID-19 Pandemic Nursing CE Course

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