Unlike in the acute care setting, a heavy patient load in the outpatient clinical setting is not so much life-threatening as it is just really bad PR. The nurse/patient ratio problem manifests itself by the daily appointment schedule being crammed with too many patient visits in a given time period. You need to ask your interviewers: “How many patients are seen per hour and how is that number determined?”
Because the nature of the nursing profession requires you to work closely with various physicians at all times, you need to know what they are like before you accept a position at any organization. Ask this question: “How do the doctors treat the nurses here?”
Continuing education, once you have obtained your degree and are a practicing nurse, is vital in order for you to keep current with the ever-changing set of skills and use of technology in the health care industry. Ask your interviewers: “Do you offer a tuition reimbursement program and schedule flexibility for continuing education?”
One of the contributing factors to the ongoing exodus of nurses from the profession is the problem of the decline in patient safety due to inadequate staffing levels in the acute care setting. It is difficult if not impossible to provide good nursing care to any of your patients when you are overwhelmed with more responsibilities than you can safely handle. You need to ask your interviewers: “What is your nurse/patient ratio and how is it determined?”
First impressions go both ways. While a prospective employer is sizing you up, you need to be doing the same thing to them. Pay close attention to the people you meet, from the receptionist, to your interviewers, to the managers and other staff you encounter. Look around at the general condition of the facility. Ask yourself: “Am I getting a good first impression of this place?”
Whether you are a new graduate, a nurse transitioning from one specialty to another, or you have years of experience in a particular specialty, you will require a new employee orientation period in order to be an effective addition to the treatment team you are joining. Ask your interviewers to: “Describe the employee orientation program and any training I would be receiving as a new member of the staff.”
If you are going into acute care nursing, you may want to consider working for a hospital that has obtained Magnet recognition. These facilities ostensibly have a vested interest in listening to, valuing, and utilizing the input of their nursing staff. If the hospital you have applied to is not a Magnet Hospital, ask your interviewers: Do you have any plans to seek Magnet recognition?
The employee turnover rate says a lot about an organization (or a department within it). If you accept a position with an organization or in a department that experiences a great deal of employee turnover, you will find out all too quickly just why they can’t retain their nursing staff, as you may be the next one to leave – voluntarily or otherwise. Therefore, you need to ask your interviewers: “Tell me about nurse retention here. How many people have held this position in the past year?”