How to Answer the Top 10 Veterinary Nurse Questions

So you’ve almost finished your studies to become a veterinary nurse, and you’re ready to start interviewing. Considering the nature of the job, you probably don’t need to wear a high-end suit. But you do have the right answers to the questions. Since preparation is key, here are some of the questions you can expect to be asked:

  1. Why did you decide to become a veterinary nurse?
    What they’re trying to find out with this question is whether you’re an animal person. There are a lot of unpleasant tasks associated with being a veterinary nurse, and your love for animals has to overcome that. You can’t just choose veterinary nursing because you couldn’t think of anything else to do; you have to have a passion for it.
  2. What do think a typical day on the job would be like?
    Your prospective employer wants to make sure you have a realistic expectation of what the job is like. It isn’t just sitting around cuddling puppies and kittens all day. It’s also holding down whimpering puppies for shots and empathizing with pet owners who are trying to determine the best course of action for their sick or elderly dog. You have to realize that there is good mixed in with the bad.
  3. How would you draw blood from a dog?
    With this question, your interviewer is trying to learn more about your technical competence. You should be able to describe, step-by-step, how you would do this (or any other) procedure.
  4. How would you handle a dog that tried to bite you?
    This question is designed to find out a couple of things: how you would handle a stressful situation, and whether you can balance responsibility with diplomacy. Your answer needs to involve standard safety procedures – like using a muzzle – while respecting the animal’s right to treatment as well as the owner’s pride. One good answer could be, “I would just say something like, “I’m sure he’s a sweetheart at home, but being here is obviously really stressful for him. Let’s take some precautions that will make sure we can do what we need to do to take care of him.” It would also be a good idea to reference learning that particular clinic’s policies.
  5. What would you do if an owner rushed in with a dog that was obviously seriously injured?
    The purpose of this question is to, again, get a feel for your technical competence as we as your ability to stay calm in stressful situations. As with other situations, you want to make reference to understanding and following clinic policies. But you also need to demonstrate that you know the steps you need to take to stabilize the animal before the vet gets there. Can you stop bleeding? Can you immobilize a break? Do you know what to do if the animal has eaten something toxic?
  6. What would you do if you couldn’t save the animal?
    You will very likely encounter a situation in which the dog or other pet can’t be saved. What would you say to the family? What would you do if you started to get upset yourself? Your prospective employer is probably trying to find out if you can deliver devastating news in a way that’s empathetic while not sugar-coating the facts. They also want to make sure that you realize the loss isn’t yours. Even if you’re upset, you can’t compare your feelings to those of the family. They’re looking for someone who can be compassionate without breaking down.
  7. How would you advise a family considering euthanasia?
    Your interviewer is probably trying to learn more about your ability to communicate both the facts and any other factors the pet owner should consider – without conveying your personal opinion. They want to know that you can objectively discuss things like whether the animal is in pain and what will happen if you do nothing.
  8. How would you work with a family bringing a pet in for euthanization?
    No family wants to euthanize their pet, but sometimes it’s the most compassionate choice. Sometimes an animal is in severe pain. Sometimes the animal may not be in pain but is clearly suffering from dementia – anxious and confused. Euthanizations won’t be uncommon, and your prospective employer wants to know how you’ll handle it. Your answer should focus on relating to the pet’s owners. Are they stoic and resigned? Sobbing and second-guessing their decision? One good approach is to ask whether they want to be alone after medication is administered or if they’d prefer to have someone stay with them.
  9. Tell me about the worst mess you’ve ever cleaned up.
    This is another one of those questions that’s designed to find out if your job expectations are realistic. Being a veterinary nurse can involve cleaning up urine, excrement, vomit, blood, etc. Your answer should offer assurance that you’re not squeamish. If you’ve ever cared for a baby that had a diaper mishap, that would be a good experience to talk about. If not, pick an experience that illustrates that you have the stomach to do what needs to be done.
  10. Are you available for night and weekend work?
    Not all vets offer emergency services, but some do. If you work for one of those vets, you may be called to meet the vet at the clinic for an emergency. The vet wants to know that, if he has to call you at 1 a.m. because a dog ate a pack of sugar-free gum, he can count on you to be there.

When you go to interviews for veterinary nurse positions, keep in mind that your prospective employers are looking for a combination of technical competence and emotional readiness. No matter how technically competent you are, you won’t do the vet much good if you can’t stand seeing an animal in pain. And, no matter how compassionate you are, you won’t accomplish much if you don’t know what to do. Make sure you’re prepared to answer both types of questions, and you should do just fine.


photo credit: flickr via Naval Surface Warriors, 2013