In the course of your career, there are several occasions when you are asked, “Why do you want to be a nurse?” The first is when you’re applying to nursing school. The second is when you’re applying for a nursing job. And the third you’ll probably pose to yourself throughout your career: Why nursing, and not something else?
Learning to deliver an authentic, compelling answer to this question isn’t just foundational for the interviews you’ll undergo in your profession. It’s also the key to understanding the values that motivate your daily work.
Below, we’ll look at two excellent examples of responses, why they perform well, and how to formulate one that can help put you on the path toward professional success.
Outstanding Answers to “Why Do You Want To Be A Nurse?”
Your responses to this hallmark nurse interview question will naturally hinge on where you are in your career. With that, let’s look at two exceptional answers—for a nursing school applicant and a professional registered nurse, respectively—to see what we can learn from each.
Applying to Nursing School
Nursing school interviewers want to know if an applicant is both a dedicated learner and academically prepared for the unique rigor of nursing school. They’re also looking for candidates who demonstrate nurses’ ideal demeanor—a problem-solver, genial and collaborative with colleagues, and genuinely compassionate towards people.
Here’s a shining example of an answer from an imaginary nursing school applicant:
“Science and biology always came naturally to me in school, but I wasn’t particularly interested in care work until later in life. While pregnant, I researched obstetrics and discovered a deep passion for the subject.
Nursing school would be a big career change, but I’m confident that my science-mindedness and passion for helping parents greet their babies would make me an excellent OBGYN nurse.”
Why it Works
There are several reasons why this response hits the mark for an Associate Level Nursing school or Bachelor of Science in Nursing program:
- Concision – The answer provides a succinct summary of a much more complex personal experience. It also gives the interviewer plenty of opportunities to ask more questions.
- Honesty – Many people arrive at nursing later in their lives or for complicated reasons. The applicant is candid about their circumstances and demonstrates how their lived experiences contribute value to the role.
- Specificity – This applicant uses their answer to showcase their interest in a nursing specialty. This shows the interviewer precisely what they want from their education, and their relationship to their interests may communicate that they’ll stay motivated in challenging environments.
Applying for a Nursing Role
Professional nursing interviews require a slightly more targeted approach since interviewers are looking for specific credentials and qualities that align with the role they’re looking to fill. In your answer, it’s critical to hone in on how your professional background fits the bill.
This is an excellent example of a response from a fictive candidate applying for a Nurse Educator role:
“I grew up in an under-resourced community, and many of my family and close friends weren’t educated or motivated to care for their bodies. My health suffered as a consequence, and it wasn’t until my early twenties that I started appreciating and taking care of my body.
I know I’d make an excellent Nurse Educator because I can relate to patients—a strength I discovered while working with young eating disorder patients in my previous role. In my view, that’s a critical trait for someone whose role is to inspire and support people in achieving well-being.”
Why it Works
This answer works well on several counts:
- Personality – Like the nursing school example, this answer brings a personal touch to the question by providing background. The applicant refrained from elaborating in too much detail, but they clearly have a personal relationship with their vocation.
- Conviction – Further into a nurse’s career, employers want evidence of leadership. This applicant is forthright in expressing their idea of what it means to be an exceptional nurse. They also position themselves as uniquely able to contribute that value to their role.
- Specificity – The second part of the response offers the interviewer a chance to inquire about this applicant’s specialty. Whether or not the role is specifically dedicated to patients with eating disorders or psychiatric conditions, this gives the candidate more opportunities to elaborate on why their experience matches employers’ expectations.
Answers to Avoid When Answering “Why Do You Want To Be A Nurse?”
To remain a competitive candidate for any level of nursing, it’s also helpful to know what answers are unlikely to pass muster—and there are a few responses that employers are likely to see as unconvincing. When preparing your statement, avoid delivering the following answers:
- “I want to help people” – An element of giving is inherent to all caretaking professions, and because it’s a given motivator, saying it will probably sound generic to interviewers. Instead, choose a scenario that shows rather than tells your interviewer about the altruistic aspects of your career choice.
- “It feels like the best next step for me” – Variations on this vague statement won’t work optimally when establishing your readiness for a science-minded, person-oriented career like nursing. Even if the sentiment is true, it’s essential to detail why nursing or this role is the logical next step for you: how it will help you actualize your professional potential and what you’ll contribute along the way.
Tips for Developing a Sound Personal Statement As A Nursing Professional
In nursing school and job applications, “Why do you want to be a nurse?” is likely just one of many questions you’ll encounter. Whether you’re asked to pen a personal statement or respond to those questions verbally, knowing how to prepare can help you present your best version of yourself.
#1 Anticipate Common Interview Questions
In preparing for your nursing interview, it’s wise to research some other questions commonly asked of candidates. Some questions that are routinely requested in nursing school interviews are:1
- What makes our nursing school a match for your career goals?
- What role would be most professionally and personally fulfilling in 5 years? What about ten years?
- From your understanding, what does a typical day of work as a registered nurse look like?
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to move through a problematic interpersonal experience, and how you handled it.
When applying for nursing roles, you’re likely to be asked questions like:2
- How do you approach disagreements or conflicts with colleagues?
- What aspects of your education have prepared you for this role?
- How do you communicate with patients and families with grievances about their care?
- Tell me about a high-stakes situation where you had to remain calm and the strategies you used to do so.
Considering how you’d answer questions like these can help you deliver thoughtful and efficient responses, opening up more bandwidth for your interviewer to ask questions tailored to your background.
#2 Lead With Your Story
Every person’s life journey is composed of a series of decisions, and those critical moments add up to a story. The same goes for your nursing career.
Before your nursing interview, take a moment to identify the most pivotal points of your nursing or educational career. You might reflect on the following:
- Early encounters you had with clinical environments or healthcare professionals
- Role models or mentors in your academic, personal, or professional journey
- Meaningful experiences (positive, negative, or both) that left an unforgettable impression on you and the meaning of care work
Even if you’re unsure of a single moment or episode where your ambitions originated, picking one experience to focus on will help structure your interview responses.
Most of us have many experiences that remind us why we do what we do. So long as you don’t fabricate that experience, it’s sure to come through for your interviewer.
#3 Highlight Your Values
Nursing can require a high degree of dedication and, at times, personal sacrifice. Ideally, your story should illustrate what makes those sacrifices worthwhile—the personal and professional values you hold that make nursing the right choice for you.
Let’s say you choose to share a personal anecdote about watching a sick relative recover from an illness. In this scenario, your values could be family, determination, and hope.
If you’re not sure what your core professional values are, consider the following list:
- Positive patient outcomes
- Professional success
- Knowledge and research
- Making a positive impact
- Mental health
- Human rights
The better you can contextualize your ambitions in the greater scheme of human well-being, the more authenticity you’ll lend your personal statement.
#4 Identify What You Want to Give (and How You Want to Grow)
Nursing is a selfless profession, but don’t be shy about getting specific about your personal objectives and ambitions. Illuminating what you want to contribute to your field and how you hope to grow as a professional is an opportunity to show your interviewer:
- Your awareness of current obstacles in today’s healthcare system
- Your familiarity with the unique needs of specific patient populations
- Any expertise you already have in your chosen (or desired) specialty
If there are any specific demographics, types of health conditions or nursing niches you’re drawn to, mentioning these is an excellent way to differentiate yourself as a candidate. Do your best to keep your answers succinct—if your interviewer wants to hear more about them, they’ll ask.
Further Your Nursing Education at Alliant International University
Since its founding, Alliant International University has offered students an education to help prepare emerging professionals for careers in mental healthcare, education, business, and more. But the Master's Degree in Nursing Direct Entry program at Alliant isn’t solely designed to furnish you with the real-world skills you’ll rely on in the healthcare sector—you’ll also graduate with a unique and an enduring sense of purpose.
If you’re beginning your path to becoming a nursing professional, apply to our Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program and gain hands-on experience under the guidance of our dedicated nurse educators.
- Indeed Editorial Team. “Interview Question: "33 Common Nursing School Interview Questions" May 17, 2022. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/nursing-school-interv…. Accessed February 1, 2023.
- Indeed Editorial Team. “Interview Question: "Why Do You Want To Be a Nurse?" July 8, 2022. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/interview-question-wh…. Accessed February 1, 2023.