Woman with glasses holding up her resume

How to Write the Perfect Nursing Resume

Content and Formatting Tips, Plus Free Resume Templates

Woman with glasses holding up her resume

Aside from the satisfaction of helping patients, one of the best things about becoming a nurse is the steadily growing demand for your skills. With the overall demand for healthcare on the rise, nurses should have excellent long-term job prospects for years to come.

Still, the highest-paying nursing jobs in the best healthcare facilities are often highly competitive. Making a great first impression with a potential employer can make all the difference when it comes to landing your dream role—which is where your resume comes into play.

In many cases, your resume is your one chance to grab a hiring manager’s attention and show them why you’re the perfect fit for the job. Let’s review some useful tips and strategies on how to create a nursing resume that fully showcases everything you have to offer.

Understanding the Importance of a Nursing Resume

While every nurse works hard to develop their clinical skills, those who learn a little bit about how to market themselves have a huge advantage when applying for jobs.

A great resume can help you stand out from other applicants and land you on the shortlist for interviews. On the other hand, an underwhelming resume often gets lost amidst the sea of applications for the most competitive positions.

Just like the fundamentals of nursing prepare you to handle more procedures and situations on the clinical floor, learning about what goes into writing a great resume can help you succeed during your initial job search and as you progress in your career.

Essential Elements of an Effective Nursing Resume

It pays—literally—to understand the different parts of a resume that will wow potential employers. Let’s take a closer look at the essential elements of a resume and how they can affect a nurse’s first impression of recruiters and hiring managers.

1. Crafting an Impactful Professional Summary or Objective

A professional summary or objective statement is often the first thing somebody reads on your resume, so it’s important to say something meaningful and unique.

The main difference between a professional summary and an objective statement is that a professional summary is usually focused on your skills and accomplishments, while an objective statement is more about identifying your professional goals and how they align with those of the organization. There aren’t necessarily rigid lines between the two, however, and many people opt for just one introduction statement on their resume.

However, if you decide to format the opening to your nursing resume, try to avoid saying something generic that could apply to anyone or any job. Instead of “A recent nursing graduate seeking an opportunity at a top healthcare facility,” try something more specific, such as “Nursing graduate with a 3.9 GPA and a passion for pediatric care, ready to make a difference for young patients and their families.”

If you choose to include both a professional summary and an objective statement on your resume, make sure they’re a sentence or two at the absolute most. If you find yourself starting to write paragraphs, save those thoughts and put them aside for your cover letter (more on those later).

2. Highlighting Relevant Work Experience

The section showcasing your previous work experience is the meat of your resume (or the tofu scramble, if you prefer plant-based). When writing your resume, stick to relevant nursing experience and skip any non-healthcare jobs unless they’re closely related. If you’re a recent nursing graduate, focus on your clinical rotations and any internships or previous healthcare experience.

When listing each workplace, add a few short bullet points describing your responsibilities and any notable achievements. For example, if you worked on a case study, treated a high volume of patients, or helped implement a new process that made the clinic safer or more efficient, that’s worth bragging about! Be as specific as you can, and try to include stats that illustrate your workload or overall impact whenever possible.

Close up of two business professionals at a table

3. Emphasizing Education and Certifications

In the nursing profession, your education and certifications demonstrate your competence to potential employers, especially with specialized procedures or patient populations. Newer nurses’ resumes will likely focus more on academic accomplishments, while more seasoned nurses who have completed additional training are likely to have more certifications to feature.

Keep this section of your nursing resume concise and easy to read. Give each important certification its own line, so a hiring manager skimming this section can easily find what they’re looking for. Include your nursing license number and the state(s) in which you’re licensed, as well as the expiration date for your nursing license and any other relevant certifications.

4. Spotlighting Essential Skills

Most employers generally want the same things when hiring nurses. They want somebody who provides great patient care, knows all the necessary skills for the position, understands how to problem-solve on the fly, and is reliable and easy to work with.

Some resume formats have a dedicated section for essential skills, while others rely more on weaving them in throughout your work experience and other parts of the resume. However, you choose to highlight your skills on your nursing resume, keep the big picture in mind, and be as specific as you can with examples of your skills in action.

5. Utilizing Keywords for Resume Optimization

Because top healthcare companies receive so many applications, many organizations rely on keywords and algorithms to determine a resume’s likelihood of belonging to a qualified candidate. While this is a huge time-saver for hiring managers in weeding out unqualified applications, it also means savvy nurses can greatly increase their odds of landing an interview.

When optimizing your nursing resume for an ATS (applicant tracking system), the job posting is your top source for clues. Read the job description and desired qualifications carefully, looking for key terms that describe the position, the work environment, and the necessary skills and certifications. Incorporating those terms into your resume gives you the best chance of making it past the initial screening and shows hiring decision-makers you’ve done your research on the role and their organization.

Customizing Your Resume for Targeted Nursing Roles

Just like every patient receives individual treatment based on their condition and medical history, you should treat your resume for each job application the same way. It’s always wise to cater your cover letter, professional statement, work history, and the rest of the resume to each position’s unique requirements.

For example, when applying for an emergency-room nursing role, you’d want to emphasize your experience working with trauma patients in a fast-paced environment—whereas if you’re seeking a pediatric nursing role, you’d focus on your past experience working with children and their families.

While it may seem like a lot when applying to multiple jobs, taking the time to tailor your resume to each role can really set you apart from other nursing applicants with one-size-fits-all resumes. You don’t have to start from scratch every time, but reworking a few bullet points so your resume aligns with the job posting gives you the best chance to get noticed.

Effective Formatting and Design Strategies

Most healthcare employers know you’re applying to be a nurse, not a graphic designer. Still, when comparing a visually appealing resume next to one that looks a little off, the person with a well-formatted resume will often be perceived as more professional.

Consistency and legibility are the name of the game when it comes to fonts, formatting, and spacing. Avoid using funky, hard-to-read fonts—while they might showcase your personality, your resume may end up in the “ignore” pile if a hiring manager is struggling to decipher the words. Stick to a maximum of 1-2 fonts, and be consistent with their size and where you use them.

Try to maintain even spacing in your margins and between the different elements on the page, and aim for a length of 1-2 pages at the most. Other than the titles of your different sections, avoid using all-caps or excessive bold text.

Of course, include your contact information somewhere on your resume, including your email and phone number. Make sure your email address is professionally appropriate—something that includes your real name will come across much better than a nickname or online handle.

Close up of two professionals shaking hands over a resume

Sample Nursing Resume Templates

Premade templates can take a lot of the guesswork and frustration out of creating a great-looking nursing resume. They offer an established design you can customize with your own experience, education, skills, and personal details.

Multiple sources offer free resume templates with user-friendly platforms that can be easily customized to work well for a nursing resume. Here are a few of our favorites:

Whichever platform you choose to create your resume, be sure to save it in a universal file format like a PDF so it can be easily viewed by anyone on any device.

Proofreading and Editing Your Nursing Resume

Typos and errors on your resume can make a poor impression on potential employers, so it’s a must to proofread carefully and catch any mistakes. Be sure to do this with fresh eyes—not after you’ve spent hours working on your resume. The things you’ll notice after stepping away from your own writing for an hour (or an afternoon) are amazing.

Online grammar checkers and spell check features within apps will catch many common mistakes, but they’re not completely perfect. There’s no substitute for going word-by-word and reading your resume back to yourself to make sure it all makes sense and flows smoothly. Asking a friend or family member to take a look can also help you catch any errors you missed or identify places where you could make your point more clearly.

Adding Professional Elements to Your Nursing Resume

Preparing a few more elements to complement the rest of your nursing resume can take you from “pretty good” to “must interview” during a job search.

Including a cover letter is an excellent way to reinforce your interest, elaborate on why you’d be a good fit for the job, and demonstrate your understanding of the role and the hiring organization. Like your resume itself, be sure to tailor the content of your cover letter to each job posting.

It’s also increasingly common to include your LinkedIn profile URL along with the rest of your contact details. Networking with recruiters and other nurses should be part of your strategy during any job search, and LinkedIn has established itself as the place to be online for professionals of all industries.

As for references, most career coaches advise against including them on your resume itself. However, nurses are certain to be asked for references at some point—often during the initial application process—so you’ll want to have them handy.

Former instructors, supervisors, preceptors, or colleagues are great sources for references—anyone who’s worked with you in an academic or professional setting and who can speak to your skills and professionalism. Avoid listing friends, family members, or other people from your personal life.

One thing not to include with your nursing resume is a photo of yourself. While it’s customary in some parts of the world, including a photo with your resume in the U.S. can raise concerns about bias and potentially confuse ATS systems. It also takes up valuable space you could be using to highlight your patient care and communication skills!

Group of medical professionals sitting around a table

Prepare for a Successful Nursing Career at Provo College

While the clinical skills you master in nursing school help you make a difference for patients, the professional skills and resources at your disposal can also have a major impact on your career. Implementing the strategies in this article are a great place to start—though for many people, learning how to write a great resume takes practice and coaching.

Student-centered nursing programs understand the importance of teaching more than just medical knowledge, and also preparing their students to thrive as professionals. At Provo College, every student and graduate in our Bachelor of Science in Nursing program has ongoing access to an entire Career Services team to help polish your resume, practice your interview skills, and even find job openings.

With a nursing degree under your belt, a professional-looking resume in your hands, and a valuable support system in your corner, you’ll be well-prepared to make a great impression on employers, and land the dream nursing job you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Still, researching your career options? Check out our in-depth guides on how to prepare for nursing school and how to become a registered nurse, or explore our list of the 16 highest-paying nursing jobs.