Resume advice for a career change in nursing

You need to know what hiring managers are looking for in their ideal candidates, so we asked experts to break it down for you.

Resume advice for a career change in nursing

Thinking about a career change?

Nursing is the largest of the health care professions and continues to grow, according to data reported by American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The benefits of a nursing career attract many to the field, including professionals from completely different career backgrounds, as well as nurses transitioning to new specialties. Career changes in nursing may seem daunting, but an updated resume targeted to your goal can make the process smoother. Here’s how to create a resume that opens doors to a new nurse career.

Do your research

You need to know what hiring managers are looking for in their ideal candidates, so research is always the recommended first step when writing a resume. Study job ads, paying close attention to requirements—from education, certifications, and licensure to experience and other qualifications.

Networking is another way to learn about what employers want. “Speak to managers and nurses working in the specialty area to obtain insider advice on how to make yourself the most attractive candidate,” says Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, and career coach at NurseKeith.com. Equipped with knowledge of desirable job requirements, you can start building your resume to highlight your matching qualifications.

Emphasize new nursing credentials

Career changes in nursing can happen whenever you're ready. Beth Weber, BSN, RN, was in her 40s when she decided not to delay her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse any longer. She went back to college, earning a BSN with honors from West Coast University and currently works as an acute care nurse in the Pulmonary Unit at Dallas-based Children’s Health.

Weber overhauled her old resume, crafting a document that emphasized new nursing credentials and clinical skills gained from capstone experiences and clinical rotations. She called out her new nursing credentials not only in the education section, but also in a compelling resume headline and qualifications summary at the top of her resume.

Megan Toler, BSN, RN-BC, CPN, who was recently promoted to charge nurse at Children’s Health, transitioned into new practice areas and health care environments multiple times over the course of her nursing career. To prepare for each career move, Toler proactively sought specialty training and added new credentials to her resume. Employers could see how dedicated, focused, and passionate she was to make the transition.

Get recommendations

Weber added excerpts from professors’ recommendation letters and preceptor evaluations into her resume. The endorsements allowed people who knew her to speak directly to prospective employers, convincing them that she would be an excellent addition to their organization.

“This strategy set my resume apart from others, and several interviewers even read the quotes out loud to the hiring committee during my interviews,” says Weber. “When aspiring nurses ask for resume advice, one of the first things I suggest is to harness the power of testimonials.”

Leverage transferable skills

Professionals new to the field of nursing may assume they should omit seemingly irrelevant work experience, but that’s not necessarily a good idea. “Downplaying a previous career is unnecessary,” according to Carlson, who coaches nurses in transition. “Many skills from professions and industries outside of health care are highly transferable to nursing, such as computer proficiencies, customer service skills, and demonstrated leadership strengths.”

Amy Love, RN, a.k.a. The Low Carb Nurse, is one of Carlson’s clients who started a wellness coaching service at CustomizedHealthandWellness.com. She credits Carlson as “a positive driving force in my growth as a ‘nursepreneur,’” and used his advice to update and refocus her resume by highlighting personal and professional strengths around her new career goals.

“One of the things I look for is overall experience, especially customer service skills,” says Mike Hastings, MSN, RN, CEN, and president of the Emergency Nurses Association. He explains that healthcare is very focused on the experience of the patient. “I can teach clinical skills, but I cannot teach how to be nice to someone. When I am looking at a resume or during the interview, I am going to be looking for these experiences,” says Hastings, who also serves as ED manager at Edmonds, Washington-based Swedish Medical Center.

Toler suggests repurposing qualifications from other fields: “When entering the field of nursing, don’t be afraid to highlight leadership skills, volunteer work, or paid employment unrelated to the medical profession. We all started with no nursing experience at some point, but your skills and character can be seen in other work you do, not just in healthcare-related endeavors.”

Get some reassurance

Stop doubting yourself. Career changes in nursing are not only common, but also a great move for a bright future. To make sure your resume is positioning your skills front and center, you should have a professional set of eyes review it for you. Need some help with that? 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. Take the first step today, and you'll be glad you did—so will the rapidly growing nursing workforce!