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5 keywords every nurse should have on their resume

Highlighting your clinical history and skills will help you stand out from the rest of the competition.

5 keywords every nurse should have on their resume

Although nursing is a broad field with countless specialties, there are some traits that are important for all nurses to have and highlight on their resumes.

The national demand for nurses over the next 10 years is not going to keep up with the number of nursing school graduates, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which means you need to have a resume that will get noticed when the competition heats up.

“As a nurse, you really need to highlight specific skills and experiences on your resume,” says Diane DiRocco, senior director of human resources at Laser Spine Institute in Florida. “It’s easy to want to let your job titles or former positions speak for themselves, but calling out particular job duties or areas of expertise will help get your resume noticed.”

These are a few must-have keywords on every nurse’s resume.


Your clinical experience may be the most important because it shows you’ve done more than just book learning. It’s where you can describe your hands-on experience.

“‘Clinical’ is one of the best words you can use. The connotation implies practical experience,” says Nick Angelis, a nurse anesthetist at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School). Avoid the phrase “experienced nurse” because it may just mean you’ve been working at the same place for too long.

“Clinical experience shows that the candidate in question can practically be trusted to be a valued employee, hopefully for the long term,” says Elena Rom, R.N. and CEO of Abcor Home Health in Chicago.


The best thing to do is create a summary of skills in the form of bullet points and place them at the top of your resume, DiRocco suggests. Ideally, you could detail those skills when you list your experience in the rest of your resume.

“Because Laser Spine Institute focuses on a specific type of medical care, words such as ‘specialty,’ ‘spine,’ ‘neurology’ and ‘orthopedic’ will always catch our eye,” she says. “Generally speaking, the more detailed you are, the better.”

The skills you list can be directed at the job you’re applying for, and don’t forget non-medical skills such as charting and experience with electronic health records, she says.


Your education matters, particularly if you’re just starting out, so include your school information and degrees you’ve received, as well as details about your specific training.

“Education lets HR managers know that the candidate has at least a theoretical understanding of their responsibilities as a nurse,” Rom says.

But beware of relying too heavily on education on your resume, Angelis says. “Use this word only if you've sprinkled in ‘clinical,’ because by itself it can imply the dreaded case of a brilliant, book-smart, hapless nurse.”


Certifications are not required to be a registered nurse, but if you’re practicing in a specialty function, your certification shows that you have that expert knowledge. Highlighting these on your resume proves your specialty skills and can show that you’re ambitious about your profession.

“We recommend that you highlight any licenses, credentials, certifications or associations that you may have, as this will give recruiters an idea of your work ethic and skill level,” DiRocco says. “Certifications are also critical because we need to know if the candidate is capable of performing the job at the level that’s needed for our ambulatory surgery centers.”


The most important people in a nurse’s job are the patients, so don’t forget to include information about your experience and beliefs surrounding patient care.

“‘Care’ is the important word here, so that nurse managers realize you’re not the bitter, cold-hearted type who will be difficult for patients and staff to get along with,” Angelis says. “‘Patient care’ also reminds managers that you have been at the bedside rather than just obtaining scholastic experience.”

Nurses who specifically call out their efforts in providing a better experience for the patient will always grab the attention of recruiters, DiRocco says. “Nurses who are able to go into detail about how and why their past experiences have shaped patients’ lives stand a better chance of fitting in with our culture than those who just list the duties they performed.”

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