When trying to figure out how to write a nursing resume, it's important to keep in mind your primary goal: show all of your experience and education to set yourself apart and entice hiring managers to call you for an interview. But this focus on getting hired doesn’t mean that once you land a job you should forget about your resume until you start looking again.
Instead, as the nursing resume samples show below, your resume is a living document that you should continuously update. Once you understand the basic elements and common mistakes, you can look for ways to improve it, whether by earning an advanced degree, volunteering, or by joining professional organizations.
Did You Know?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of registered nurses to increase 15% from 2016 to 2026.i While that’s above average, the BLS expects nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners to increase 31% for the same time frame.ii In fact, two of the five fastest growing careers that require a graduate degree are nursing careers.
Nursing Resume Basics
There are 4 key areas that must be covered when writing your nursing resume.
- Locations you’ve worked
- Where you studied and degrees earned
- Your clinical rotations and how many hours you worked in each
- Your placements in school
Normally, the details of each are included in the nine elements of how to write a nursing resume, listed below.
#1: Contact Information
Your nursing resume should have all of your contact information front and center. After all, you want your potential employer to be able to easily contact you.
Some essential contact information includes:
- Phone number
You should also include any information that can help you stand out from other applicants, such as:
- LinkedIn profile URL
- Other social media accounts
- Personal blog or website
These are completely optional and should only be included if they are up-to-date and if you share or post about nursing, healthcare, or your specific field. If you only share posts about personal hobbies unrelated to nursing on your social media accounts, then you should not include them on your resume.
#2: Objective or Summary: Which Is Best?
A nursing resume objective is an opening statement that usually starts with the fact that you want to secure a job. Including one on a nursing resume was standard practice for a number of years, but this has recently changed. This is because your objective is fairly obvious—you’re looking for a job—and because they take up valuable space that could be used to distinguish yourself.
Instead, summaries are growing increasingly popular. A summary is an overview of who you are and the skills you bring to the table. They give you a chance to show your personality a bit more and imbed relevant keywords. As recruiters take an average of six seconds per resume, summaries allow them to scan your experience and skills to see if they should continue reading.
Resume Writing Tip:
Remember, keywords are not buzzwords! Saying that you apply synergistic synergy means nothing to a hiring manager. Try to include keywords that relate to your position and skills. Examples include:
- Patient assessment
- Specialized knowledge
#3: Relevant Nursing and Clinical Experience
When you’re writing your nursing resume as an entry-level nurse, your experience may only include clinicals and internships you completed while pursuing your degree. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to actively pursue these opportunities while in school.
On the other hand, if you’re an experienced nurse, you may have a number of positions to add, with a variety of responsibilities. Regardless, you should still add your clinical experience to show some of the specific areas you have worked in. This is especially important if you’ve earned an advanced nursing degree and have clinicals outside your specialty, as this will show your range.
#4: Other Employment Experience
Typically, other experience applies more to entry-level nursing resumes because you’ll want to show potential employers that you have practice working with a team. As the sample further down the page shows, this experience can be anything from your summer waitressing job to working at the admissions office at your college.
#5: Key Skills Summary
This section should further expand upon the skills stated in your summary. For example, if you are pursuing a job in gerontology, you may focus on skills such as pain management, psychiatric experience, and cardiovascular rehabilitation.
If you’re a student looking for your first nursing job, you may be applying to a wide range of postitions. In this case you may want different resumes for each. One of the best ways to learn how to write a nursing resume is to create a few and tailor each resume and set of skills to the role you’re applying for.
#6: Education, Licenses, and Certifications
When applying for a nursing job, one of the most important things is to show that you have the education, as well as the necessary certifications and licenses, for the position. Depending on your state, the position you’re applying for, and your experience, the requirements will vary.
For entry-level positions, you can always flush out your nursing resume with details about specific courses you may have taken. Remember, you’re trying to set yourself apart from the other candidates, so anything that helps you do that should be added.
#7: Professional Affiliations
Joining professional organizations could be a great way to keep up with industry standards, trends, and best practices. Plus, it might be a perfect opportunity to network with others in your field. List any and all affiliations relevant to healthcare, and especially to the position you’re applying for.
If you’re not yet a member of any, check out the recommendations further down this page and consider joining.
#8: Volunteer Work
One of the key skills of being a nurse is having a service orientation. In simple terms, that means you are actively looking for ways to help others.iii
As a nurse, your education and experience means you could help a variety of charities and nonprofits, but that doesn’t mean you have to volunteer strictly in your field. Other opportunities could range from serving at the local soup kitchen to working at fundraising events.
You want to have at least a few volunteering experiences listed to show that your passion for helping others extends beyond paid opportunities. Some charitable organizations that are great for volunteer nurses are listed at the end of this page.
#9: Awards, Honors, or Achievements
Don’t hide your achievements! Make sure to list all awards and honors that are relevant. You should also share some details about who gives the award or what you did to earn it.
For experienced nurses, this can go higher on your resume, even directly under your summary. That way, the recruiter or hiring manager will be enticed to continue reading.
Entry-level nurses may not have as many professional accomplishments, so the section can be lower on the page. But be sure to mention awards you won in school, such as graduating with honors, top of your class, or anything else that can set you apart.
Frequent Nursing Resume Errors
Unfortunately, many candidates make simple, avoidable mistakes on their resume that can automatically have them rejected for a position. Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR personnel are looking for reasons to narrow the pool of applicants and resumes. Simple errors are an easy way to do that.
That’s why one of the most important aspects of learning how to write a nursing resume is to identify common mistakes. These include:
- Irrelevant information, such as hobbies
- Poor job descriptions
- Lacking a cover letter when available
- Using an unprofessional email address (i.e. beachbum91 AT gmail.com)
- References or the line “References Upon Request”
- Adding salary desired or current salary
- Adding personal information
Make small changes to your resume to target specific positions. You might reworking your summary, move up and highlight relevant experience, or list skills related to that role.
Finding the Right Language
Your resume is how you market yourself to hiring managers, which is why clear, specific, and quantifiable language is important to distinguish you from other applicants.
Vague language, such as “assesses level of pain and pain management for patients” or “exercised professional skills related to the plan of care”, doesn’t effectively show hiring managers what separates you from other candidates.
Instead, show your experience in quantifiable language by answering the question, “How many?”. This gives your potential employer a better sense of your past job responsibilities and your skillset.
- Performed lifesaving interventions as part of multidisciplinary team in high-volume Emergency Department with 50 beds.
- Supervised 2 LPNs and 5 CNAs each shift, managed schedule, directed duties, and mentored to improve overall care.
Make sure that you’re properly expressing your experience and accomplishments to impress potential employers by giving hard facts and showing results.
Sample Entry-Level Nursing Resume
How to write a nursing resume for an entry-level position is slightly different than others due of your lack of professional experience. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any experience. You just have to show how your background outside of nursing can help you in the field.
Entry-level nursing positions could include certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or others. These might be good ways to gain experience while you pursue certification as a registered nurse (RN) or even an advanced nursing degree.
Resume Writing Tip:
For entry-level nursing resumes you should list past work experience unrelated to nursing. However, show some of the soft skills you may have acquired that can apply to a nursing career, such as critical thinking, conflict resolution, or teamwork.
You can also add a list of relevant courses that are focused on specific parts or expectations of a role. This is why it’s beneficial to have more than one resume.
Registered Nurse (RN) Resume Sample
When writing a resume for an RN position, especially for your first position after licensure, make sure to include your clinical rotations and nurse practicum. Also, include how many hours you completed and in what departments to show your various experiences.
The RN resume sample below demonstrates how to write a nursing resume that lists rotations and practicums.
Nursing Resume With Advanced Degree
If you have an advanced nursing degree, you’ll want to highlight your additional certifications, education, and experience. These will probably include leadership or mentor roles, as well as additional responsibilities.
How to Write a Nursing Resume: Tips for Formatting Your Resume
After making sure you have all of the necessary information, you need to check that your resume is formatted properly.
When writing a nursing resume be sure to have:
- 1” margins
- 12-point font
- Plain font, such as Times New Roman or similar
- No special formatting
- Your name centered on top of page
- Important information capitalized and highlighted in bold
- Consistency in formatting
- No more than two pages
- Name and page number on second page (if applicable)
Keep in mind that many resumes are submitted and transferred completely online now, which means you may never even have to print it. However, if you do have to mail your resume for one reason or another, make sure it is printed on high-quality bond paper, never stapled (use a paperclip), and never folded (use a large envelope).
During the interview process, it’s always a good idea to bring a couple hard copies of your resume in case you interview with someone who doesn’t have the digital copy. In this case the same printing rules apply.
Improving Your Nursing Resume
Your nursing resume is a living, breathing document and should continuously be updated. For instance, some nursing career coaches recommend that you update your resume every time you set the clocks forward or back for daylight savings.
But if you haven’t done anything to improve your resume, then you won’t have much to update. Therefore, you should always be considering ways to gain valuable experience or education to progress your career.
Pursue an Advanced Degree
One great way to improve your resume is to earn more experience and training by furthering your education. Each of the advanced nursing degrees below might help you specialize your knowledge, gain new credentials and study the latest best practices.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
- Nursing Specialties Graduate Programs
- Nurse Practitioner
- Graduate Certificates in Nursing
Confused which graduate nursing program to choose? Learn the differences between a DNP and NP to help find a perfect option for you.
You can also use our nursing resource center for graduate students to guide you through your courses and financial aid possibilities, as well as get advice from nursing students.
Join Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization shows your willingness to keep up with industry trends and best practices, and that you have a desire to meet others in your field.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of nursing organizations available for you to join. These range widely in size and scope. You might consider national or international groups with local chapters, specialty or focused groups for different nursing careers, or regional organizations.
- National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
- Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)
- American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- National Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE)
In order to find groups and organizations that are a good fit, take the time to research a few online and ask your colleagues, classmates, and professors for recommendations.
As a nurse, there are plenty of opportunities for you to volunteer and use your skills to gain valuable experience outside of your day-to-day responsibilities. This also shows that you’re concern for others extends beyond simply earning a paycheck.
Some charitable organizations you might volunteer with include:
- The American Red Cross
- RN Rescue Network
- Medical Reserve Corps
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
These are just a sample of the many organizations and charities that you can contact about volunteering. Plus, there are many others available outside of nursing or healthcare.
Do your research and ask your colleagues and professors for suggestions to find a good fit for you. Perhaps you could even volunteer as a group and make a day out of helping others.
Write Your Nursing Resume
Nursing is a complicated and constantly changing field, especially now as technology continues to play more of a role in day-to-day operations. That means employers, hiring managers, and recruiters increasingly value experience and education.
Showing skills and experience in a clear, concise, and easy to review manner is one of the most important aspects of how to write a nursing resume. Also be sure to double and triple check for simple mistakes, such as misspellings or grammar, to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward.
Then learn more about graduate degrees in nursing, specialties you’re interested in, and when various programs start by clicking on any of the sponsored listings on this page. After all, one great way to improve your resume and boost your career in nursing is by earning an advanced degree!
[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-6 [iii] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1171.00