Nursing Resume Writing Guide

Nov 30, 2018
Student and professor aiding patient

A resume often serves as an organization’s first impression of you. It tells the recruiter or hiring manager objective information about you which can be used to decide if an interview is the appropriate next step. For this reason, your resume should professionally communicate the most important information about you, so the reviewer can make an educated decision. Nursing resumes will also need to feature professional licenses or clinical rotation experience. No two resumes are the same, but there are some guiding principles that you can follow when writing a nursing resume.

Step 1: Brainstorm

One of the best ways to craft a resume is by starting with a master list of your skills, knowledge, experiences, etc. The idea is that you will never throw this master list away, only add to it. From there you can pull items off your master list each time you need to make revisions to your resume.

Start with basic, objective things

What professional knowledge have you acquired? This can include education, licenses, or certifications. Next, list your skills: time management, attention to detail, etc. After that, think of all the accomplishments or awards you have been recognized for in both personal and professional environments.

Then move on to your experiences

List your student clinical rotations, work experience, volunteer experience, co-curricular activities, and any other experiences you want to include. Add the dates these experiences occurred so it is easier to remember years down the road.

Step 2: Skill Phrases

Now you need to provide detail for your experiences and relate them to the position for which you are applying. Beneath each related experience, you should have multiple “skill phrases.” The more significant the experience, the more skill phrases.

1. Begin with an action verb (Go to the Career Development tab on the theRock and scroll to the 24/7 Resources portlet, then click on “Handouts & tip sheets”- there is an Action Verb handout there).

2. Explain what you did and how.

3. The result/skill used.

Example: “Demonstrate attention to detail in administering medications and performing assessments.”

Step 3: Create your resume

The layout of your resume is entirely up to you, but it should be clean, easy to understand, consistent (spacing, formatting, fonts, etc.), and professional.

What should be included?

Below is a list of items that should always be on a resume and a list of items that are up to your discretion.

Essential Items

  • Name and contact info: This should include first and last name, daytime phone number, email address, and mailing address.
  • Education: Include your GPA, any significant academic awards and graduation date (or anticipated graduation date).
  • Licensure and certifications: If you have passed the NCLEX, include your RN license (and license number). If you have not yet taken/passed the NCLEX, write “Eligible for NCLEX test for RN” and include your test date (if known). Include any other related licenses or certifications.
  • Clinical experience: This is the biggest area that nursing students leave out—but it is the most important. Always include the number of hours you spent in a clinical rotation.
  • Any other related experience (E.g. CNA positions, PCA jobs, etc.)
  • Professional summary/objective: Most recruiters now prefer a professional summary over an objective, but it is up to you whether or not you include this section.
  • Academic and co-curricular activities
  • Awards
  • Professional memberships
  • Skills
  • Volunteer experience: If you have related volunteer experience, include it. Unrelated volunteer experience is optional.
  • Unrelated job experience: Depending on how much nursing-related experience you have, including unrelated job experience may be necessary to fill in employment gaps.
  • References
  • A chronological resume focuses more on dates, positions, and duties in reverse chronological order and is best suited for someone with work experience that relates to one's goals or objectives. This is the most common format for nursing resumes.
  • A functional resume emphasizes transferable skills, qualifications, and accomplishments and is good if you lack work experience or are trying to enter a new occupation.
  • A combination resume combines the best elements of both formats. It is a good choice for recent graduates with some job experience.

Optional Items

  • Professional summary/objective: Most recruiters now prefer a professional summary over an objective, but it is up to you whether or not you include this section.
  • Academic and co-curricular activities
  • Awards
  • Professional memberships
  • Skills
  • Volunteer experience: If you have related volunteer experience, include it. Unrelated volunteer experience is optional.
  • Unrelated job experience: Depending on how much nursing-related experience you have, including unrelated job experience may be necessary to fill in employment gaps.
  • References 

Select a resume format that will best highlight what you have to offer (See “Guide to Resume Writing” on the Rock for examples of all three):

Step 4: Tailoring the resume to the job

Many recent graduates make the mistake of sending their resume to as many employers as possible, without tailoring their resume before doing so. For example, if you are applying to a position at an assisted living home, your resume should highlight different skills and experiences than it would for a job in a NICU.

HINT: Use exact words (but not full sentences) from the job description. If you are being authentic about your abilities, you can use their language. Organizations often use a type of computer software, Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that will reject resumes that do not have enough keywords in common with the job description.

If you still need help writing a nursing resume, stop by the Career Development office for assistance.

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