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The Ultimate Guide to Nursing Resumes in 2024

41 Min Read Published July 7, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Nursing Resumes by Nurse.org

Expert Reviewed by: Amanda Guarniere, NP, Founder of the Resume RX

In 2024, a vague, uninspiring nursing resume just won't cut it. Recent years have fostered growing competition for the best nursing jobs, creating a greater need for nurses to learn how to write exceptional nursing resumes. With vast opportunities and diverse requirements from various employers, every nurse must put their best foot forward to market themselves for the best positions. 

However, this ever-changing world of online applications and robotic resume readers makes it more complex for nurses to get to the first rounds of interviews. This article will help you tackle the daunting task of writing a nursing resume that stands out. We'll help you build a better nursing resume by giving you an inside look at how robotic resume readers work and providing tips on how to make your resume, things you should and shouldn't include, and provide examples and templates.

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How to Write a Nurse Resume

Defining your personal brand as a nurse to make your resume stand out

Think of your job search as your own personal marketing campaign. And the product is you! Your resume is an advertisement for your professional nursing brand. A brand is more than a logo - it’s the overall impression you give your audience. In this case, your audience is a potential employer. 

As with any advertisement, the goal of your nursing resume is to pique your audience’s interest in a limited amount of time. It’s commonly said that hiring managers will spend less than ten seconds reading your resume. And in many cases, it has to first be screened by a resume-reading robot before it reaches human hands.

So, you must carefully curate your brand for these employers. Captivate them with your professionalism, unique skillset, experience, and personality using your nursing resume. These tactics may help get your foot in the door for an interview, where you can close the deal by impressing them in person.

Nurse Resume Research

The first and most important step in any marketing campaign is the research phase. The more you learn about potential employers, the better you can tailor your registered nurse resume to their requirements.

Initial Employer Research for Nursing Resumes

Before you begin tailoring your resume for specific jobs, take some time to answer the following questions about each company:

  • Who are they?
  • What is their company culture?
  • What do they struggle with as an organization?
  • What qualities are they looking for in a potential candidate?
  • Which of their desired qualities do you possess?

Researching Company Culture and Values

The internet has made it fairly easy to hop online and start your research right now from your mobile device. Employers' websites and social platforms will give you an inside glimpse at their culture and values.

Instead of simply reading a job posting, take a few extra steps to investigate the employer's online presence:

  • Check out the company website - what does their mission statement say?
  • See what they tweet about
  • Investigate what photos they post on Instagram
  • Learn about the articles they share on Facebook
  • Check their LinkedIn - do you have any connections at the company?
  • Look at their Google ratings

>> Related: New Graduate Nurse Resume Examples + Free Templates

Examine Required vs Preferred Nursing Qualifications

The research phase isn't just about investigating the company - you also need to understand the job description. Specifically, understanding the difference between "required" and "preferred" qualifications will help you build a tailored resume for each job:

Required Qualifications

These are just what they say - requirements. Those who do not possess these qualifications will not be considered. 

Preferred Qualifications

Skills that are desired but are not deal-breakers for the employer. You may still be considered even if you do not possess these. 

As you personalize your nursing resume to different opportunities, these qualifications will, in part, guide what you do and do not include. You should include any and all required qualifications if you want an employer to consider your candidacy. 

If you do not possess some or all of the preferred qualifications, you can apply anyway and still be in the running. However, including the ones you do possess on your tailored nursing resume is always the best practice.

Build a Master Resume

You may want a solid starting point from which you can use your research to build a dedicated resume for each position you apply for. Queue the "master resume," a comprehensive working document that highlights everything you've accomplished and every skill you've fostered as a nurse thus far. 

We recommend starting with a foundational nurse resume so that you can alter it for each role you apply to. This way, you won't be rewriting a new resume for every single position. But you'll also avoid submitting "cookie-cutter" resumes that employers won't bother looking at twice.

Use Research to Personalize Your Nursing Resume

Dale Carnegie once said that “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Personalizing your RN resume matters, with both how you mention and address the future employer and how to include your specific qualifications that match what they are looking for.

Using your research and leveraging your professional brand and personality to target your nurse resume could lead to the interview of your dreams. Not targeting it, however, could lead you on the fast track to nowhere.

Nursing Resume Readers & Robots

The internet revolution transformed the hiring process, impacting the entire labor market in a very short time. 15 years ago, printing your resume on off-white linen paper and hand-delivering it to employers was the status quo. But as little as five years later, doing so might only get you some perplexed looks and urges to apply online.

Technological advances will continue shaping the job market in 2024. USC Annenberg reports that up to 55% of companies are making investments in AI recruiting measures. But even now, many employers screen online applicants using resume-reading robots. 

This section explores how these bots impact the hiring process and how to get your nursing resume past them and into a real person's hands.

What Is a Resume Reading Robot?

The resume-reading robot is actually a program known as Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). How to get around resume reading robots for nursing jobs

ATS systems are highly technical but can only do what their program says, unable to come close to human discretion. So, knowing how ATS systems work can help you write a resume that passes their screening.

Here's a brief overview of how employers use ATS software to screen nursing applicants:

1. Knockout Questions

Recruiters can use an ATS to scan for keywords or "knockout questions" like "Do you have an active Washington State Nursing License?" These functions help them swiftly eliminate unqualified candidates.

2. Disqualifying Statements

They may also configure the ATS to include “disqualifying statements.” An ATS searching for these statements will automatically reject nursing resumes with certain keywords or phrases. 

For example, an ATS screening for bachelor's-trained nurses might reject resumes that mention an associate's degree. If you have both, consider listing only your BSN.

3. Keyword Screening

Finally, recruiters may use the ATS to find resumes with exact keywords or phrases. These may include qualifications listed in the job description, degrees, or skills. They can program the ATS to reject any application that does not include their specified keywords.

How Does ATS Work?

Not all ATS systems are created equally. They vary greatly in their functionality and behavior. Most ATS systems are programmed to score resumes according to keywords. However, they can be configured to search and score resumes based on various other criteria.

The results are imperfect. Some ATS systems can't differentiate between titles, such as Clinical Nurse II and Registered Nurse, or distinguish between the terms BLS and Basic Life Support. So how do you navigate these intricacies in your nursing resume?

Best Practice: Read the job description and use the exact wording for the qualifications listed that you possess.

If you use acronyms and abbreviations, make sure to spell out the entire word, followed by the shortened version. It would be disappointing to have all the requested qualifications but be filtered out by the ATS because you used only the acronyms when the robot was programmed for the full phrases spelled out.

What Are the Shortcomings of ATS?

The problem is that ATS does not ‘read’ a resume as a human would - it simply collects data. It doesn’t care about aesthetics, either. It is programmed by an employer to search for the right keywords, in the right order, on the right part of the resume.  

Also, the system can get confused pretty easily. For example, if the font is too fancy or if it encounters unrecognizable symbols, it may score the resume as ‘unqualified’ and move on to the next resume. It does what it is configured to do, nothing more and nothing less.

While ATS has streamlined the hiring process for employers, it’s also made job search extremely challenging for the job seeker. In fact, 94% of hiring professionals say that ATS has positively influenced their hiring goals, while 80% of job seekers say that their online job search is stressful.

What Other Hiring Technology Might I Encounter?

Recently, some employers have started to use artificial intelligence in a different way - during the interview process. Rather than having strict ATS filters, they offer more candidates the opportunity to interview, but there is a catch.

You don't interview with the employer but with a computer. In these one-way or “on-demand” interviews, you essentially get the opportunity to record your video response to interview questions. After you submit it, hiring managers or recruiters review the video responses before choosing the candidates for formal interviews.

Does Every Employer Use ATS?

While many employers use ATS, there are definitely employers who still rely on human resource professionals to screen resumes. In those instances, a human resources professional usually skims the resumes and invites the most qualified candidates in for an interview.

The problem here is that most employers will receive hundreds of resumes for a single opening. To get through the resumes quickly, the HR professional may resort to a simple scan of the resumes knowing that even qualified applicants may not make it. It’s simply a way to reduce the number of applicants.

In either case, the goal of the modern resume is to ‘sell’ yourself in an organized, targeted manner for a specific role. The best way to design an effective, attention-grabbing resume is by making strong assertions in the beginning followed by supporting evidence.

How to Get Past the ATS

DO:

  • Target your resume to the specific position. Do this by reading job descriptions and selecting keywords noted in the descriptions - competencies, skills sets, education, and experience.

  • Match individual experiences to keywords/key skill sets found within the job posting.
     
  • Research the employer and target the resume based on the facility's values and culture. 

  • Make strong assertions within the top ⅓ of the resume.

  • Follow those assertions with supporting evidence.

  • Include a “Professional Summary” if you are an experienced Nurse.

  • Only apply to roles that you match 100% of the “Required Qualifications.” 

  • Use simple fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.

  • Never use smaller than 10-point font. See Part 5 for more styling suggestions. 

  • Use simple black bullet (dots) points, not special bullet symbols.

  • Save your resume as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf format.

  • If using an abbreviation, always spell out the words followed by the abbreviation or acronym. You never know how the abbreviation was entered into the ATS. 

  • Use standard, simple section headers such as “Work History” or “Education.”

  • List specific skills, including: 
    • Settings you’ve worked in 
    • Patient demographics
    • Policies/procedures
    • EMR/EHR used
    • Medications administered
    • Equipment used

DO NOT:

  • Don’t use the same title as at your current employer if it is different from the title in the job description. Use the title in the job description. 

  • Don’t overload your resume with keywords. Use them appropriately. Overusing keywords will flag a resume and could cause the ATS to lower your score.

  • Don't forget to support the keywords you use with evidence throughout your resume.

  • Do not put your contact information in the header section because ATS will not see it.

  • Do not include tables because most ATS can’t read them. Other ATS can only read them if their operator programmed them to do so. 

  • Do not use creative section headers such as “Where I’ve Worked” because the ATS likely doesn’t understand what that means.

  • Don’t include a headshot, graphics, special fonts, photos, colored fonts, or unique bullets. 

  • Do not state, “References available upon request.” It takes up too much space and is unnecessary. If employers want references, they’ll ask. 

  • Don’t place skills at the bottom of the resume. Many ATS systems only scan the top ⅓ of the resume for keywords. If you have important keywords at the bottom, the ATS may not see them and could disqualify your resume. 

  • Don’t use “I” statements; resumes should be written in the third person. 

  • Do not rely on resume builder software. Stay in control of your registered nurse resume.

How to Spot an ATS

If you’ve ever visited a job posting and seen an “APPLY NOW” button, you’ve encountered the elusive resume-reading bot. ATS requires candidates to enter data on the front end. 

Maybe you’ve gone through the steps to create a login, complete the application and upload your resume. Perhaps you didn’t realize at the time that you were entering your information into an applicant tracking system.  

Raise your hand if you never heard back from an employer after applying online. Raise your other hand if you received an automated response “thanking” you for your interest and never heard back!

Now, keep in mind that it can be difficult to stand out when you are applying for a job online, especially when there is an ATS involved. As you consider your overall job search strategy, try to think of other ways that can increase your chances of getting a job. Don’t be afraid to ask your network connections for referrals and recommendations, or let friends and family know what type of position you are looking for and where. While your resume is absolutely important, it isn’t the only tool that can lead to you getting a job.

Creating a resume as a new grad with no nursing experience or with non-nursing healthcare experience can be challenging. Don’t worry, Nurse.org has two templates for you to choose from - depending on if you have healthcare experience or not. 

Get Your Free New Nurse Resume Template for Nurses Without Healthcare Experience!

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Get Your Free New Nurse Resume Template for Nurses With Healthcare Experience!

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Choose A Nurse Resume Format

Prior to ever typing words onto your resume, it’s important to first decide on a resume format. There are three types of resume layouts. While we highly recommend the reverse-chronological layout for most nursing professionals, we’d encourage you to make the best choice for yourself.

Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular types of resume layouts: 

1. Reverse Chronological Nursing Resume

This layout focuses on career history and lists jobs in reverse chronological order. We recommend this type of registered nurse resume for the majority of healthcare professionals and will focus the details of this article on the format. It is best suited for:

  • New nursing graduates
  • Nurses with fewer than 5 roles within the past 5-7 years. 
  • Travel Nurses with <10 completed assignments
  • Nurses with experience in only 1-2 specialties
  • Nurses applying for a similar role
  • Nurses wanting to show vertical career progression 

 

2. Functional Nursing Resume

This nurse resume layout places emphasis on skills and deemphasizes work history. However, it does not pass the ATS test well, and hiring managers overall do not prefer it. We recommend against this layout for the majority of nursing professionals. Typically, people who use this format are: 

  • Changing careers
  • Have large gaps in employment
  • Do have years of experience in the role in which they are applying

 

3. Combination Nursing Resume

This layout is a mixture of the reverse chronological and the functional resume. While it places emphasis on skill sets, abilities, and accomplishments, it also highlights applicable work history. We recommend combination resumes for nursing professionals with the following background, goals, and barriers: 

  • Nurses with experience in multiple specialties and/or medical professions
  • Seasoned travel nurses with >10 completed assignments
  • Nurses with multiple small gaps in employment
  • Nurses looking to change specialties
  • Nurses interested in changing careers

 

Writing a nursing resume can feel overwhelming. It’s no easy task! Nowadays, nursing resumes must be able to pass through resume reading software before it even reaches a recruiter. That’s why we’ve put together THREE nurse resume templates to cater to your unique professional needs and employment situation.

Get Your Free Nurse Resume Template! The Combination Template

By clicking download, you agree to receive email newsletters and special offers from Nurse.org. You may unsubscribe at any time by using the unsubscribe link, found at the bottom of every email.

Get Your Free Nurse Resume Template! The Functional Template

By clicking download, you agree to receive email newsletters and special offers from Nurse.org. You may unsubscribe at any time by using the unsubscribe link, found at the bottom of every email.

Get Your Free Nurse Resume Template! The Chronological Template

By clicking download, you agree to receive email newsletters and special offers from Nurse.org. You may unsubscribe at any time by using the unsubscribe link, found at the bottom of every email.

Nurse Resume Format & Design

The first formatting and design consideration you should make when creating your nursing resume is how well an ATS will read them. We recommend the following comprehensive design and formatting guidelines to appease common ATS systems:

Margins

Many experts believe you can achieve the perfect balance of text to white space in your nursing resume using the following margin settings:

  • Top Margin: 1"
  • Side Margins: .63"

Alignment

Left alignment is standard since that’s how most people (and robots) read. You may think a justified alignment looks tidier, but it can leave uneven gaps between words and ultimately make text harder to read. 

Length

In the nursing profession, length should not be the focus of the resume. While we recommend 1-2 pages, some nurses may have resumes with 3 (or more) pages.

Don’t stress over length too much. If the resume is slightly over the page amount by a few lines try changing the margin, font style, font size, or shortening statements. The bottom line is it should look visually appealing and should include keywords.

Font Style

We recommend Times New Roman or Arial to best utilize the functionality of the ATS. However, this is your personal preference. Take note that Times New Roman can be difficult to read if it is smaller than 11pt.

If you are striving for a resume that looks visually appealing when printed, there are great ways to achieve that without going overboard with design. For example, you could use the “small caps” feature for headings, which keeps the font the same but adds a bit more character and differentiation. Or, you could try a font pairing, using serif fonts for headers and sans serif for body text.

Important Note: Different font styles will take up different amounts of space. See how these identical statements look vastly different despite both being in 11 pt font:

Experienced Travel Nurse with 8 years experience in critical care nursing.

vs.

Experienced Travel Nurse with 8 years experience in critical care nursing.

Font Size

Throughout the resume, there should be different-sized fonts. We recommend the following for each section: 

Text Type Font Size
Name 18 - 22 point
Contact Info 10-11 point
Section Headers 12-14 point
Descriptions 10-11 point

It’s important to note that 10-point font should be the smallest size on the resume. 

Font Color

While some ATS systems claim to read colors, we encourage you to simply use black. 

Special Characters

We recommend keeping the resume very simple. Basic bullet points (black dots) may be used when desired. Simple lines are acceptable as well. 

Design Features to Avoid

The following design features are best left off the resume: 

  • Clip Art
  • Photos
  • Multiple font styles
  • Special characters

Writing Your Nursing Resume

As you’ve learned, ATS systems skim resumes and locate specific information in the correct order. We’d suggest using the following categories and section headers to optimize your nursing resume for ATS scoring.

Contact Information

This is the first section of the resume and does not require a title. Your name should be front and center. Don’t make the recruiter search for it. Make sure it’s the largest font on the page. While there are varying opinions on the exact placement of the name, we recommend a simple classic version in the following format:

Name

Your name should be the first thing a recruiter, hiring manager, or ATS system sees on your nurse resume. It should share a line with your nursing credentials and be in a bold, readable, 18-22 pt font. If you go by a different name, make sure to list both in this section.

Nursing Credentials

Your nursing credentials should directly follow your first and last name on a nursing resume. The preferred order to list these in is Highest degree earned, Licensure, then National Certifications.

We've included a credential quick reference guide below to help you fill out your resume perfectly.

City/State

The days of listing your home address on a resume are over - most employers don't need this information, and we advise against including it on your resume as a security precaution. However, this is a personal decision you can make at your own discretion.

You should never leave your location off completely because many employers have location parameters set in their ATS systems. Ensure you include your city and state in the contact information portion of your nursing resume.

Phone/Texting Number

Oh, technology! Yes, some employers will actually text their candidates. Make sure to indicate if you receive texts and whether the phone number is a cell phone or a home phone. This is a great time to make sure your voicemail message states your full name and is professional.

Email Address

It is in your best interest to ensure that you have a professional email address that does not reveal your age. Age discrimination is real, and listing your birth year or using an antiquated email service like AOL can definitely trigger it.

Your email address should include a variation of your name and some numbers if necessary. You can even make a totally separate email account and use it only for your job search.

LinkedIn Profile

If you have a LinkedIn profile definitely include it. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you could be missing out on opportunities. Now is the time to create one!

In your settings, you can easily create a shortened LinkedIn URL that doesn’t have a bunch of random numbers and letters.

How Your Digital Footprint Impacts Your Nursing Job Search

Though you may not list it, you should consider your social media and online presence when you complete the contact information portion of your resume. Potential employers will likely look you up online. Many Recruiters tell us that looking a candidate up on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter is one of the first things they do. So, make sure everything you post online is what you would want an employer to see. 

Additionally, online behavior can benefit you. Do you have a nursing-related website or blog? Are you an Instagram celebrity? Maybe you created a successful YouTube channel when you were a newbie nurse. Include all this on your resume if it relates to nursing. This is all part of your unique brand!

Nursing Resume Credential Quick Reference Guide

According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (AACN), the preferred order is Highest degree earned, Licensure, and National Certification.

Educational degrees include doctoral degrees (Ph.D., DrPH, DNS, EdD, DNP), master’s degrees (MSN, MS, MA), bachelor’s degrees (BS, BSN, BA), and associate degrees (AD, ADN).

Licensure credentials include RN, LPN, CNA, and APRN.

National certification, which is occasionally voluntary for nurses and obligatory for advanced practice nurses, is awarded through accredited certifying bodies such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), includes RNBC (Registered Nurse-Board Certified) and FNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified).

You may also choose to include awards and honors:

Outstanding achievements in nursing, such as FAAN (Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing).

Other certifications that recognize additional skills, such as the EMT-Basic/EMT, awarded by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Here is an example of contact information on a nursing resume that puts it all together:

Penny Lite, BSN, RN 
Los Angeles, CA | Text/Call: (987) 654 - 3210 | penny.lite1@gmail.com | www.linkedin.com/pennylitern

Professional Summary

Don’t make an employer (or ATS) search your entire resume for reasons to invite you to an interview. Tell them right off the top exactly why you are the best candidate for the role.

Every position is unique, and this is your first opportunity to optimize the resume for ATS and to also catch the employer’s eye. Spend a little time to target it and let your qualifications and accomplishments shine. 

While there is some debate about how to introduce your resume, we suggest using a professional summary as opposed to a career objective. The professional summary can be formatted in either a short paragraph or a bulleted list asserting qualifications and providing a concise career snapshot.

How to Write a Professional Summary for a Nursing Resume

Think of your resume summary as an “elevator pitch” - a quick, attention-grabbing, loaded statement that entices the reader to want to continue on. Your professional summary is unique to you and should be targeted to a specific role, just like the cover letters career counselors used to tell us about.

However, it could definitely include the following information: 

  • Number of years of experience in a specialty 
  • Common keywords found in nursing job descriptions e.g., excellent patient care, acute care, family education, compassionate
  • Facility designations or info about facilities 
  • Supervisory experience and number of subordinates
  • Special certifications or awards
  • Language abilities
  • Soft skills such as patience, compassion, and a cooperative spirit

Nursing professional summary example: 

4+ years nursing experience with strong clinical background in critical care (CCU) and intermediate care nursing (IMCU). Proactively streamlines operations, initiates tasks, and supports the healthcare team while prioritizing excellent patient care. Champions patient and family education by providing compassionate, inclusive care that encourages self-sufficiency. Recipient of the Daisy Award. Bilingual in English and Spanish.

Nursing Skills and Areas of Expertise

List your nursing skills within the top ⅓ of the resume - Don't make the common mistake of adding them last. With the popularity of ATS, this mistake could cost you an interview. This is especially true in nursing, as the profession requires very specific skills. 

Additionally, your hard skills should be directly targeted to the role as expressed in the job description. Is the employer asking for a specific EMR that you are experienced with? List it! Are you an expert at starting IVs because of your five years of experience in the emergency room? List it!

This should not be a generic list of skills but a specific list that is as quantified as possible. It’s possible that if you are a newer nurse or are making a specialty pivot you may not have hard skills to include. In that case, it’s okay to omit this section and highlight your transferable soft nursing skills within your job history.

Licensure

While most nurses list their license titles on their resumes, it’s been our experience that they leave off a few very important details - most notably, whether the license is active and the expiration date. 

Why is this important? Including this information lets potential employers know that you are ready to start work ASAP. They don’t have to wait for the licensing process. Including your license number is optional, and you can make this decision based on your privacy comfort. The employer will likely be verifying your license online anyway (this is all public information).

If you are an advanced practice nurse, you may decide to leave off license numbers for privacy purposes, especially your DEA number or controlled substance registration number.

Here’s an example of how to list your licensure:

Registered Nurse - California, #RN00101, expires 4/17/2024.

Certifications and Credentials

This is another key section where some important details are typically missing on the nursing resumes we’ve seen. While most nurses list their credentials, it’s important to list them in a specific manner.

Don’t simply list acronyms, as some ATS systems may not be programmed to read shortened versions. Make sure to list the accrediting body, credential/certification number (where applicable), and expiration date. 

Here’s an example of how to list your certifications and credentials: 

Basic Life Support (BLS), American Heart Association, expires: 12/1/2021

Work History

Employers want to know what you can do for them, period.  Nurse recruiters we’ve talked to will zero in on this section. What are they looking for? Evidence, facts, quantifiable points - proof to support the assertions made in your resume summary.

Vague work histories are particularly frustrating to employers - especially when applicants copy and paste job descriptions. To avoid falling into those pitfalls, try incorporating these tips: 

Use simple section headers such as “Work History” or “Relevant Experience,” these are ATS friendly. “What I’ve Done” is not. 

List your experience in reverse chronological order. If you have a lengthy employment history, you may consider only including the most recent 10-15 years of experience. This will shorten your resume and also limit the chances that you’ll encounter age discrimination. Looking at the big-picture experience from 25 years ago doesn’t necessarily speak to your recent nursing experience because employers care about what you can do for them now.

Work History Format

Adding your work history in a logical format can help your nursing resume beat the ATS and impress recruiters. We recommend using the following format for each work history segment:

1. Job Title and Specialty

This is a controversial subject, but we believe employers care more about what you’ve done than who you’ve worked for. Use the job title as it is listed in the job posting, or use a more industry-wide job title. Registered Nurse as opposed to Clinical Nurse II. 

2. Facility Name

Add the name of the facility or company you worked for after your job title. You can add this on the same line or a different line, but using the same line will optimize space.

3. Employment Dates 

These are important and can be listed in a number of ways. However, it’s been our experience that specific dates are not necessary for a resume. On an application, yes, on a resume, not so much. You can simply list the months and years (mm/yy - present).

4. Facility-Specific and Unit-Specific Information

This information is helpful and important to employers but is left off the majority of resumes we’ve seen, it includes: 

  • Trauma level: level I, II, III
  • Facility Designations 
  • Awards
  • EMR/EHR
  • Total Hospital beds
  • Total unit beds
  • Patient demographics
Primary Duties and Accomplishments

This section looks best in a bulleted list of no more than six points and should include duties, noteworthy accomplishments, and achievements. It’s important to emphasize specific duties and not be too vague.

Also, try your best not to simply regurgitate basic nursing duties that would be assumed of your role. This will take up valuable space on your resume and not really tell the reader much about you!

Wondering what specifics to include? Here are a few questions to get those wheels turning:

  • What illnesses, injuries, or traumas do you care for? 
  • What cases do you work on? 
  • What type of medications do you administer and how? 
  • What therapies do you perform? 
  • What equipment do you use? 
  • How have you improved processes? 
  • When have I been first or best?
  • No. 1 achievement in each position?
  • Which achievements have the most impressive numbers?
  • When have I been publicly recognized?

Write Strong Nursing Resume Bullets

Wondering how to order your bullets and what to include? Try this: start with a verb leading to quantifiable data or a specific point and include a relevant duty.

Use our comprehensive tables to build compelling nursing resume bullets that make your achievements shine:

Resume Action Verbs

 Adhered  Displayed   Planned  
 Administered  Educated   Preserved 
 Applied  Ensured   Provided
 Assessed  Evaluated   Reacted
 Assisted  Executed   Reported 
 Built  Explained   Responded
 Collaborated  Followed   Scheduled
 Communicated  Helped   Shared
 Contributed  Led   Supervised
 Decided  Listened   Taught
 Delegated  Managed  Tracked
 Delivered  Measured  Trained
 Demonstrated  Negotiated  Treated 
 Developed  Observed  Updated
 Directed  Performed  Wrote

Positive Adjectives to Use on a Resume

Assertive Friendly Productive
Attentive Hard-working Professional
Balanced Honest Qualified
Broad-minded Independent Realistic
Cheerful Inventive Reliable
Committed Knowledgeable Resourceful
Compassionate Mature Responsible
Conscientious Motivated Sociable
Consistent Objective Tenacious
Creative Patient Traditional
Direct Persistent Trustworthy
Dynamic Practical Unconventional
Eclectic Proactive Unique

Here is a brief work history resume example for nurses that puts it all together:

Work History

Registered Nurse, Acute Care - Example Medical Center
09-19 - Present

  • Supervised staff of 15 registered nurses, 8 certified nursing assistants, and 7 paramedics while multitasking excellent patient care. 
  • Cared for up to 4 patients per shift with acute neurological disorders, including strokes, spinal cord injuries, and head trauma.

Education and Training

In the nursing profession, education and training are of utmost importance. If you have work experience, this section can be fairly brief.  You should list your relevant degrees in chronological order. 

There are varying opinions regarding the specific ordering of education. However, we believe that the degree or certification title should be listed first. Employers care firstly that you have the education requirement they need and secondarily where you obtained the requirement. 

We suggest the following format:  Degree or Certification Title (acronym), Institution Name 

Here’s an example: 

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN), University of Washington 

Should I Include Graduation Dates on a Nursing Resume?

You are not required to include your college or high school graduation dates on your nursing resume, as it could reveal your age. Age discrimination is the top form of employment discrimination and affects all age groups. If you graduated more than 10-15 years ago, it may be a good idea to omit the date.  But this is a personal decision you should make at your own discretion.

Should I Include My GPA on a Nursing Resume?

Including your GPA in your nursing resume is optional. If you are particularly proud of your GPA, by all means, add it! However, it is not required. If you graduated with honors that you are proud of, you can definitely include that as well. Again the resume is a unique snapshot of you!

Should I Include my Non-Nursing Degrees and Credentials?

If you possess other degrees not related to nursing, it is not necessary to include those on your nursing resume. Some second-career nurses like to list this information, especially if there has been an interesting career pivot or one that brings a lot of value to your role as a nurse. Remember, you are telling your personal, unique story, and you get to decide what to include.

How Do I Add In-Progress Advanced Education Programs?

If you are currently enrolled in higher education to advance your studies within the nursing field, that should be listed on your resume and state that the degree is pending or in progress. However, if you started a graduate degree program, never finished, and do not plan on finishing, it is unnecessary to include it on the resume. 

Should I Include my High School Education?

Nurses do not need to include their high school diplomas on their resumes. The nursing profession requires completion of higher education, and therefore, your higher degree trumps your diploma. 

Awards, Accomplishments, and Affiliations

Though this section is not required, we encourage including awards and accomplishments that are relevant to the nursing profession. These details will provide the potential employer with more proof and evidence of who you are as a nurse. 

In this section, you can include: 

  • Awards and recognitions that are specific to the hospital or facility where you work, e.g. the Daisy Award, Employee of the Month, and Nursing Excellence Award
  • Professional memberships and affiliations relating to nursing and/or healthcare
  • Volunteer work, if it relates to nursing

We suggest the following format: Title, organization, year

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Recipient, Nursing Excellence Award, Washington Medical Center
  • Volunteer, American Red Cross - Haiti - 2012

Naming Your Nurse Resume Save File

One last thing, saving! Don’t just give your resume any old name! Hiring professionals sometimes receive multiple documents from candidates, and they don’t want to waste time sorting through every document to find the resume. Some prefer to organize resumes by specialty. Tell them exactly which document is your resume. 

We suggest the following format: firstlast_specialty_resume.doc

Here’s an example:

PennyLite_ICU_resume.doc

Common Resume Mistakes

We’ve seen a lot of resumes over the years, and you might be surprised by the amount of strange information people have included on them. So, here are the top mistakes we’ve seen:

Typos

This should be a no-brainer but make sure to proofread and even have another set of eyes proofread for you.

Birthday or Age

Huge red flag for age discrimination.

Salary Information

An employer could assume your salary is too high or too low, so just don’t list it.

Personal Information

Don’t include things like photos, religious affiliations, Social Security Numbers, marital status, kids.

Using Only a Nickname

If you go by a different name, include both your legal name (the one on your license) and your nickname, e.g. Penny "Penelope" Lite.

Outdated Resumes

Make sure your resume includes your most current and relevant positions.

First-Person Pronouns

Avoid using pronouns such as “I” statements. A resume should be in the third person.

Contact Information in Header

An ATS will not see it there.

Unprofessional Email

An appropriate email address is PennyLite1@gmail.com but not hufflepuff1990@AOL.com.

Inappropriate Voicemail Greetings/Ringback Tones

No need to be fancy, a simple ring is fine, and a professional greeting is great!

Misnaming Resume Documents

Recruiters go through hundreds of resumes a day, so keeping track of all those files can be difficult. Make it easy for them.

>> Click to Compare RN-to-BSN Programs

Nursing Resume Templates

Woot! If you’ve made it this far you should have an excellent understanding of how to write a great nursing resume. We know it’s a lot of information right now, and we hope that you’ll use the information to advance your career.

For a little more help, try using our free resume templates. And when you’ve landed your next interview, check out the next part in this series, The Complete Guide to Nursing Job Interviews.

>> Download free nurse resume templates!

Nurse Resume FAQs

  • What should be included in a nursing resume?

    • A nursing resume should include your education, experience, including clinical, work, and volunteer, any certifications you have, and skills. 
  • How do I write a nurse resume?

    • You can use a template to fill out your nursing resume or fill out your own. 
  • How do I list my nursing skills on my resume?

    • List skills that are in the job description or outline on the facility’s website. For instance, common nursing skills include critical thinking, teamwork, communication, team management, and high ethical standards. 
  • Do you put RN after your name on a resume?

    • You can include "RN" or "RN, BSN"  if you have other credentials. If you haven’t passed your NCLEX yet, you can put G.N. for Graduate Nurse.
  • How long should a nurse's resume be?

    • A nursing resume should be no longer than 1-2 pages. 
  • What is your greatest skill as a nurse?

    • The most valuable skill you have as a nurse may depend on your exact role and specialty, but in general, communication, kindness, empathy, and critical thinking are highly valued traits as a nurse. 
  • How far back should a resume go?

    • If you’re a recent graduate, you don’t need to go to high school, just include your college experience and degree. For experienced nurses, include all relevant experience. 

Amanda is an Ivy-league-educated nurse practitioner and career mentor who helps nurses find and land their dream jobs. She founded The Résumé Rx in 2018 to help nurses with career and résumé strategy  Learn more about Amanda and her products at www.theresumerx.com and follow her on Instagram @theresumerx.

Angelina Walker
Angelina Walker
Director of Nursing Content and Social Media

Angelina has her finger on the pulse of everything nursing. Whether it's a trending news topic, valuable resource or, heartfelt story, Angelina is an expert at producing content that nurses love to read. She specializes in warmly engaging with the nursing community and exponentially growing our social presence.

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