The format of resumes has changed over the years and it may be time to revamp your nursing resume. Below we will outline dos and don’ts of resume building, as well as what should or should not be included. We also have some great tips for word choices and how to make your resume stand out in a stack of papers.
Nursing Resumes: What Should be Included?
Whether you are a trying for your first contract or are an experienced travel nurse, your resume should highlight your flexibility, adaptability, initiative, and exceptional skill.
The first part of the resume should be a summary to highlight your strengths and what you bring to the table. If you are a brand new nurse, I would summarize any skills or experiences you’ve had that can be applied to nursing. For example, if you were a waitress, you may list ‘good at multi-tasking’, ‘works well in a fast paced environment’, or ‘exceptional customer service skills’ in this section.
Any description of your experience, professional organization associations, any travel history, and advanced certifications you hold is appropriate to include. If there is something specific that you want to make sure the manager sees, this is the place to do it. For example, I have been lucky (not sure that’s the right word) enough to be chosen BOTH times The Joint Commission has come to my hospital for a stroke survey. I list this experience in my summary because it shows that I am aware of the national standards of care and accreditation requirements. This is the first section that the facility will read. Customize it and draw them in with something unique about your nursing career. This can be formatted as either a bulleted list or a short paragraph.
Vivian pro tip: The information in the summary section of your resume is also perfect for the “about me” section in your Vivian universal profile!
Relevant Work Experience
New grad nurses may struggle with what is ‘relevant’. We recommend listing at least your past two jobs with brief descriptions if you have never worked as a nurse. You can also list any nursing school clinical experiences that may have been unique or highlight your ambition.
More experienced nurses can list all of their nursing positions held, with more detailed descriptions of recent jobs and less detail for jobs that were over 5 years ago. The descriptions of your role should include any charge nurses duties or preceptor experience, and a general explanation about what your responsibilities were in that position. If you really want to stand out, you can change the description of each of your jobs to better match the skills and culture of each job you are applying for. Employers love seeing resumes that match their mission.
Add any degrees you have been awarded and where they were obtained, along with the month and year of your graduation from the program. You can opt to add your GPA.
Here you can list your BLS, PALS and ACLS certifications with their expiration dates. Nurses should also list any specialty or advanced certifications they have such as CCRN, TNCC, CEN, etc. If you have won any unit, hospital, or community based awards you can list them here, as well. Also be sure to include all of the EHRs you have worked with and any unique experiences you have had in your career.
This is the perfect place to write a few sentences about your goals or any volunteer work you may be involved in. If you own your own business or have a real passion outside of nursing, you can describe that in this section. This is also the great place to write about your love of travel if you are applying for a travel nurse contract. This is not a necessary section, but it’s a great place to give an employer a glimpse of who you are. (Consider adding some of the info in your activities section can be added along with the summary details to your ‘about me’ section of your Vivian universal profile!)
How Long Should your Resume be?
Don’t worry about the length of your resume. Include all relevant job history and any special skills/certifications that you have obtained. It can be longer than one page, that rule is not applicable if it is needed to provide a full picture of your nursing career.
If you have only had one nursing job make sure to list all of your responsibilities, any floating experience, and skills that impress and could be useful in ANY hospital (procedural sedation, IV insertion, charge duties, precepting experience, education classes you’ve taken, if you were extra flexible for scheduling needs, etc.). For travel nurses, you want to give the hiring managers the impression that you can just breeze onto their unit and start taking care of patients. Showcase your amazing teamwork, organization, and prioritization talents.
New graduate nurses can keep it short and sweet. Make sure to include any awards or recognition you received in nursing school. Try and keep the summary and activities section relevant to nursing and tailor them to the jobs you are applying to.
Be Prepared to Talk about your Resume
Be prepared to answer questions about your resume interviews. Obviously, do not lie or include anything that you are not able to back up with solid experience. The trick is making your existing skills look bright and shiny to attract the hiring manager’s attention.
Some resources recommend listing all nursing licenses you’ve held. I don’t think this is necessary. I think a manager can presume if I was employed as a nurse in another state that I held a license there. Your choice, but seems like a waste of words to me.
Formatting for Nursing Resumes
When you sit down to pick a template for your resume, keep it simple. And, yes, you need to pick a template. Do not just type something into a simple document with no formatting. That will not pick up an employer’s attention, or at least not in a positive way. And please, Do Not Handwrite Your Resume. We are in the age of technology, if you do not have a computer, borrow one or go to a library to type your resume.
The top of your nursing resume can include your brief summary- paragraph or bullet points are acceptable. Follow with your experience, education, and skills/awards/certificates (you can break these three up into different sections if your resume is on the shorter side). Keep the headings traditional.
Choose a black and white template, or one with very little color. The only color on my resume is the title of my position at each job. Use plain bullet points (no wing dings, hearts, or stars) and apply a simple font. Cursive writing is hard to read, and the “odd fonts” (as I like to call them), distract the reader from the content of the resume. This is about you and your career. The font will have nothing to do with the reader’s opinion of you. Unless, it’s distracting or annoying to read.
I hope it goes without saying that you should proofread and check the spelling on your travel nurse resume. Double, triple, quadruple check it. Have someone else, or a website/app proofread it for you. Employers report that a spelling or grammar error is enough to toss the resume aside.
Since it is the 21st century, I can’t leave out technology. Software developers have created something called the ‘applicant tracking system’ (APS) to help corporations quickly sort through resumes without having to actually read them. This means that you need to include headings, phrases, and buzzwords that will be picked up by the system and put you in the tops rankings.
How to Nail Your Dream Assignment with an Excellent Nursing Resume
If you really want to wow a manager or rank high in an APS, you can customize your nursing resume to a specific facility. If you are a travel nurse, this requires knowing which facility you are trying to gain employment with. Or, if you’re super travel nurse, you can research all the facilities in the area you want to travel. Then you can alter your resume a bit here and there to fit each hospital’s description. That seems like a lot of work, but in times when the market is super competitive- this may make the difference between you getting a contract or not.
For nurses applying to all types of jobs, look for buzzwords on the hospitals’ websites and check their mission statement. Try to align the description of yourself with what they are all about. If you market yourself to their essentials and goals of care, your resume will be picked up and looked at with regard. For instance, if a facility’s website is bursting at the seems with objectives and accolades for their stroke care, make sure you highlight anything stroke related in your career. Or, if the mission statement has multiple mentions of giving back to the community, try to come across as benevolent and compassionate on your resume.
Another good tip is to use verbs that standout. Rather than saying “took a course on hemodynamics”, replace ‘took’ with ‘completed’. Words like accomplished, lead, guided, participated, educated, developed, launched, managed, supervised, assisted, improved, and similar attention-grabbing words can make your resume noticeable among other travel nurses’. If you can’t think of a dazzling word, use the thesaurus on your computer or the web to find a replacement for the one you are thinking of. This can also be useful if you feel like you are repeating yourself.
Feel free to comment below with any questions or comments on nursing resumes!