Write a powerful qualifications summary on your nursing resume

A highly targeted resume summary section can give you a distinct advantage over other candidates.

Write a powerful qualifications summary on your nursing resume

Make your nursing credentials shine.

Resume objectives may no longer be a hard and fast requirement for every job or resume—the career summary (also called qualifications summary) is more common nowadays. When you're looking for nursing jobs, this section helps show off your vital signs to an employer. Although nurse resume objective examples are past their due date, here are some ways you can use a qualifications summary to get your expertise and goals across to an employer.

What is a qualifications summary?

Typically placed near the top of the resume below your name, contact information, and headline, a qualifications summary can be in paragraph or bulleted format. Imagine the summary as a virtual handshake, reaching out to the reader and briefly telling the story of why you are the perfect candidate.

A qualifications summary should communicate what makes your nursing credentials shine above others, says Cathy Lanzalaco, a certified professional resume writer and owner of Inspire Careers, a resume writing and executive coaching firm serving clients nationwide. “It explains your unique value offering up front and makes the reader want to learn more about you.”

What is not a qualifications summary?

Now that you know what a qualifications summary is, here’s what it isn’t:

  • An autobiography. Don’t let your summary take over half of the first page.
  • A keyword dumping ground. Include relevant nursing keywords in your summary, but don’t allow your summary to morph into a laundry list of all the healthcare terms you can think of or every clinical skill you possess.
  • A humdrum introduction. Your summary should be interesting and focused on how you would add value to the employer’s operation.

Why you should nix your nursing resume objective

Once considered a required section of every resume, objectives are now outdated. “Objective statements focus on what you as an applicant want, but a qualifications summary focuses on what you bring to the table and how this meets employers’ needs,” says Krystal Yates, a multi-certified HR expert, author of The Insider’s Guide to Your Dream Career, and founder of resume and career services firm EBR Consulting.

“When you break it down, everyone’s resume objective is the same—you are trying to land your next job. It is hard to stand out when you focus on that as your messaging,” says Yates. “When you focus on what makes you stand out, though, now you become memorable.”

Still, the resume should indicate a career goal, which can be stated in a headline directly above the summary. Lanzalaco offers the following example:

Patient-Centric, ACLS-Certified ER Nurse Leader | RN Since 2014
Caring, Compassionate Patient Advocate * Award Recipient, General Hospital “Nurse of the Year”

Tailor your summary to the career goal

A qualifications summary should reflect how successful your nursing career has been and speak to your most relevant expertise for positions you’re targeting, says Lanzalaco, whose earlier career includes 15 years as an RN for a major health system.

For those new to nursing, she suggests highlighting knowledge and skills gained from the classroom as well as clinical rotations and capstone experiences. If you’re a career changer, use the qualifications summary to bring out transferable skills gained from prior work, such as customer service, leadership, and multitasking strengths.

Lanzalaco says nurses should always include their most important credentials in the summary to make it easy for readers to determine if they meet education and certification requirements for the job target.

She also recommends including “the highest level of distinguishing information to help you stand out.” This could be years of experience; specific achievements or leadership in areas like healthcare governance, budget management, quality of care improvements, or accreditation success; and key contributions that can be quantified by metrics such as increased patient satisfaction scores, decreased injuries, or improved audit results.

Select words that align with your career goals, Lanzalaco says. “Use a job posting to determine the qualification highlights an employer is looking for so you can include those in your summary and show them how you are just what they need.”

Tout your achievements and most desirable skills

Career achievements usually appear in the experience section, but adding your top achievements in the summary reinforces that you are a dedicated, top performer. Lanzalaco suggests drawing quantifiable results and kudos from performance appraisals, peer reviews, and patient-feedback forms. “I love including something impactful that a patient, family member, or professional colleague said about a nurse in their resume.”

Yates says that a good qualifications summary focuses on both soft skills and hard skills. She recommends asking yourself:

  • What do your colleagues and managers say about you?
  • What makes you good at your job?
  • Do you have any unique experiences that the reader might value?
  • What specialties have you worked in before?
  • What makes you the professional that you are?

Overcome writer’s block

Writing about yourself isn’t always easy. “Get feedback from those around you,” advises Yates. Contact trusted work colleagues or review past performance evaluations or preceptor remarks to zero in on your top strengths. “Often the skills and characteristics that you take for granted are the ones that everyone else sees as special,” says Yates.

Sample summaries for nursing resumes

* Patient-focused and empathic registered nurse seeking position with growing medical practice. Bringing experience, care, and extensive knowledge to help improve the lives of patients.

* Compassionate and hard-working nurse looking for a position in a small-town hospital. Bringing my experience working in high-stress situations in the emergency room and other fields.

* Thoughtful, caring registered nurse seeks position working with special needs children. Offering extensive educational background, internships to help those who need it most.

* Ready to use my administrative skills and thorough sense of detail for a nursing management position. Seeking a growing or new medical practice to help build effective health care for all patients.

* Energetic professional seeking a nursing position in a medical clinic devoted to the public's access to health care. Bringing focus, attention to detail, and a caring smile to patients of all ages and needs.

* Established nursing professional looking for the opportunity to teach new and future nurses as well as offer effective and caring health care to patients in a large teaching hospital.

For a healthy job search, do this

There's a lot to remember when it comes to writing a nursing resume that will get you noticed, but it's definitely critical to getting your foot in the door. Would you like some help getting it in optimal shape? 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.