Resume tips for nurses

Stand out from the crowd and land quality interviews with these proven nurse resume strategies.

Resume tips for nurses

Your nursing resume is your ticket to a great job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that growth for nursing jobs will be much faster than most other occupations over the next 10 years. That’s great news for nursing professionals, but it’s not a green light to become complacent with your nursing resume. Always put your best foot forward on your resume to attract the most desirable job offers, secure promotions, and negotiate the highest salary. Read on to learn how.

Emphasize your strongest nursing credentials

Both new and experienced nurses know how important degrees, licensure, and certifications are to gainful employment and professional growth, yet these credentials are often buried at the end of the resume. Instead, pique readers’ interest by touting these credentials up front.

Certified health care recruiter Gwen E. Kearly, BSN, RN, serves as nurse and physician assistant recruiting manager for Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan. Kearly, whose department manages 600 to 900 external hires and approximately 500 transfers each year, recommends front-and-center emphasis of vital qualifications.

“If you’re a critical care nurse and you have CCRN certification, that’s important,” she says, adding that an effective way to highlight key credentials is through an attention-grabbing resume headline such as “CCRN since 2009.”

Other ways to showcase nursing credentials include:

  • Adding degrees and designations such as MSN, BSN, RN, and LPN after your name so they appear in large font at the top of your resume.
  • Including certifications and licensure in a qualifications summary below your resume’s headline.
  • Moving education and credentials to the first page if you have a two-page or longer resume.

Demonstrate you’re a top performer

Instead of using valuable resume real estate to describe day-to-day nursing duties, focus on your accomplishments at each employer or internship. “Accomplishments might include experience working with challenging patients, serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries, and treatment-resistant chronic conditions,” says Rebecca Barr, BSN, RN, CPN, an acute care nurse at Children’s Health Dallas.

Nursing awards are also impressive on resumes. Kearly looks for awards such as “nurse of the year” or a DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. “The DAISY Award is presented from the patient perspective. If I see that on a resume, I’ll think that person is doing great, they won a DAISY Award which is hard to get.”

Accomplishments aren’t limited to formal recognition. Think about ways you went above and beyond the call of duty, delivered exceptional quality care, increased patient satisfaction, streamlined processes, enhanced safety, or lowered costs.

Team-based accomplishments are just as resume-worthy as solo achievements, so contributions you’ve made as a member of a health care unit, taskforce, or committee are prime fodder for your resume.

Show that you’re well-rounded

While it’s important for nurses to have skills and training in their specialty areas, recruiters also look for candidates who are a good fit for the work culture.

“At University of Michigan, we look for a well-rounded candidate,” says Kearly, who suggests that nurses include community service and leadership experience on their resumes. “Did you volunteer for Habitat for Humanity? Were you on a mentoring committee in your school? Did you serve as an officer in your nurses’ association? That all demonstrates leadership.”

Giving back to the community reflects on an applicant’s character and can make the resume reviewer eager to talk to you. “I suggest that people highlight volunteer experience if they have it. I want to see the whole person, including what they do beyond work/school life,” suggests Mike Hastings, MSN, RN, CEN, president of Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).

Hastings recommends that nurses join professional associations and take advantage of member resources. In addition to showing that you’re dedicated to your nursing specialty on your resume, “one of the biggest benefits is the networking—at ENA, we are one big family and here to help each other anytime we can,” says Hastings. 

Put on a recruiter’s hat

Think like a recruiter by including details that will help them help you in your job search. “Give a brief description of employers, such as ‘300-bed rehab hospital,’ so we don’t have to look up particulars,” says Kearly, who reviews thousands of nursing resumes each year. “This helps me align your experience with specific job openings.”

Kearly also advises upcoming BSN and MSN graduates to specify the month and year they expect to earn their degrees. “Nursing has so many different graduating classes depending on which program you’re attending,” she explains, so if you say, ‘graduating in 2020,’ that could be any month between January and December.

Edit, refine, and update

A good nurse resume is constantly evolving. “I update my resume after any form of professional development, such as completing certificate courses, presenting or attending conferences, and any work with publications,” says Marissa Bartmess, BSN, RN, a student in the BSN to PhD Nursing Program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “It’s important to record the advances in your professional development as they happen for a robust and accurate resume.”

Just as important is making sure your resume is spotless. “One person misspelled their own name, people have misspelled Michigan,” says Kearly. Your resume reflects you, so take the time to proofread and correct any typos. Could you use some help smoothing out any remaining wrinkles? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression.