How to Create the Best Nursing Resume

How to Create the Best Nursing Resume

You never get a second chance at a first impression, so it’s important to make a positive one. When you’re on the job hunt, your resume acts as a first impression for prospective employers. Employers use the information you’ve provided to better understand your qualifications, and to determine whether to move forward in the hiring process.

While you should use your resume as an opportunity to highlight your experiences and skills, you should also use it to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for a specific position. These seven tips will help you create a strong resume, so that you can land an interview for your preferred position.

7 Tips to Create a Strong Nursing Resume

When building your resume, you need to convey all your skills and experiences in two pages or less. RNs early in their career should be able to fit their information on a single page, while a second page is acceptable (and often necessary) if you’re an experienced RN with numerous certifications and/or specialties.

To make the most out of this limited space, follow these seven resume tips:

1. Include an objective statement

An objective statement will quickly give employers an understanding of who you are, and what you want to accomplish. This statement should be clear, concise, and specific. Use action words and quantifiable statements to stand out from the crowd. For example, “patient-focused nurse seeking R.N. position” doesn’t provide any quantifiable information and likely applies to most candidates. On the other hand, “emergency department nurse with 10 years of experience in triage seeking a position in E.R. management” provides more context to your skills, accomplishments, and even career goals. 

If you are a new graduate, state that here and describe the type of values you hold and what you ultimately see for yourself as a nurse. 

2. Be consistent with your structure

Using consistent, visually pleasing formatting will make your resume easier and more enjoyable for prospective employers to read. Apart from the header, all fonts and font sizes should be consistent throughout the document, just make sure the normal font is at least 10.5 point for readability. Make sure any bullet points (which are great for listing job tasks under work history) are also identical in style and indentation. Use borders or a single line space to separate sections of your resume. Finally, if you’re struggling to get everything on a single page, you can always widen the margins slightly.

3. Highlight skills and training

In addition to listing your job responsibilities under professional experiences, consider creating a separate section near the top of the document to highlight your most relevant skills. Focus on any “required skills” as posted in the job description. Displaying these prerequisite skills prominently on your resume will prevent employers from passing over you as they skim through all the resumes they received. 

“Preferred skills” are not required to apply for the position, but include them if you have them, as it will add to the strength of your application. You can highlight additional information beyond the required and preferred skills section. For example, knowing a second language or working with electronic medical records can help set you apart from the crowd.

4. Optimize keywords

Larger companies may use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that automatically look for certain keywords in your resume. Optimizing your keywords can help get you noticed by more organizations and prevent your application from falling through the cracks. 

5. Include all licenses, certifications, and credentials

Put your credentials (e.g., RN/LPN/MSN) behind your name to help employers find it quickly. Provide any additional information in a separate section, including national and state licensure, certifications or specializations, and expiration dates if relevant.

6. Share your education

Include all professional degrees you’ve earned or in the process of earning, with the institution’s name, location, and dates attended. If applicable, make a note of any specialty tracks or certificates you have earned.

7. List all relevant clinical/work experience

This section is the bulk of your resume, so be sure to include all relevant clinical and work experience. New nurses should include their clinical rotations as well as any other paid or volunteer work. When listing your professional experience, detail the type of facility and unit, your responsibilities and accomplishments, and relevant quantifiable data (e.g., the number of patients cared for). Note any additional duties beyond direct patient care, such as management or quality assurance.

Formatting Your Resume

Formatting your resume properly will make it simple and easy to follow for hiring managers.  Depending on what attributes you would like the highlight, you can format your resume several different ways.

  • Reverse chronological order: This layout outlines your career history, beginning with the most recent position at the top. Reverse chronological order formatting is recommended for most nurses, including new/less experienced nurses and those who are seeking similar roles to their existing position.
  • Functional: This layout focuses on detailing your relevant skills toward the top, with a much shorter section to list career history. Functional formatting is ideal for those who are changing careers and/or have large gaps in employment; however, ATS and hiring managers do not typically prefer it.
  • Combination: This layout borrows elements from both the reverse chronological and functional resume. Skills are typically listed at the top, with an additional section to highlight relevant work history. Combination formatting is recommended for nurses with experience in multiple specialties (or travel nurses with multiple completed assignments), nurses with multiple short employment gaps, and nurses looking to change specialties or careers.

Things to know about applicant tracking systems (ATS)

To reduce hiring managers’ workflow, many employers use ATS to quickly scan resumes. The ATS categorizes resumes based on the number of keywords, with a higher number of keywords netting a higher ranking. To increase your ranking, utilize the following kinds of keywords in your resume:

  • Simple headers: Use common terms such as “skills” and “professional experience” to accommodate the ATS. Include your city, state, and country (if outside the U.S.), as many employers filter by geographic location.
  • Clean, text-based formatting: Most ATS cannot process graphics or non-standard fonts, so they will automatically reject resumes containing them.
  • Keywords/phrases and industry-specific jargon: Use language directly from the job description, as well as relevant phrases in the nursing field. Be as specific as possible in your keywords and avoid abbreviations.

Having an organized and professional looking resume that tells your personal story is key. Managers are hoping to get a feel for who you are and your work ethic to see if you fit well with the organization’s mission. And lastly, make sure your voicemail greeting  is simple, states your name, and is professional.

Justine Nelson

Justine Nelson RN, BSN, has been a registered nurse for over 11 years with experience in home health, community health, school based nursing and healthcare based tech startups. Justine is passionate about developing new and innovative roles for nurses outside of traditional nursing roles. She currently serves as an RN content Specialist for Clipboard Health.

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