A nursing resume should be thought of as a first impression. In many situations, it will be. Whether a hiring manager is considering you for a job, or an admissions advisor is reviewing your experience for a spot in an academic program, you want to be confident in how your nurse resume represents your experience, education, nursing skills, and soft skills.
Today, your resume also has another purpose: to get you past applicant tracking systems (ATS) in order to make it to a first-round interview. What's an applicant tracking system? On a macro level, it's a software system that's designed to take on some of the duties that a recruiting or HR team would generally be responsible for in a hiring process. ATS will sometimes send automatic messages, can help schedule interviews or even help with onboarding. Some organizations use the ATS to quickly screen large volumes of resumes for certain keywords to determine if the applicant meets requirements set by the organization's hiring team. While theoretically the ATS and a human would be looking for similar things within resumes, we have some tips for you to make a document that appeases both.
The sections below are split into advice for different levels of nurses: registered nurses, nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, and nurses with Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees. This is to hone in on pieces of advice that might be new or more helpful for nurses at each level of experience, however, all of our guidance should be taken together for a nurse at any level to create a robust, effective nursing resume.
Registered nurse resume tips
As a registered nurse you might have limited experience in creating a nursing resume whether it's because you're new to the field, you're reentering the field, or you've changed careers completely. That doesn't mean you don't have experiences and information to share. There are a number of ways to craft your nursing resume to demonstrate relevant skills to get noticed by ATS systems and hiring managers.
If you don't have a lot of nursing jobs to list on your resume, you can elaborate on your education. Include the name of the academic institution and the title of the degree you earned. If you're in the process of earning a BSN, include that degree and institution on your resume as well with your anticipated graduation date. You should also add any relevant continuing education credits (CEUs) to call out your commitment to and interest in the profession.
If you're a career-changer with a bachelor's degree in a subject other than nursing, you don't necessarily need to include it. If you think your bachelor's helps illustrate your journey to become a nurse or otherwise speaks to the skills you'll bring to the nursing position then go ahead and add it.
Consider adding volunteer experience
Because nursing is a service profession, volunteerism really shines on nursing resumes and applications. Even if your volunteer role wasn't in a health care setting, if you have the space, roles in service of others are always a plus. Did you gain leadership skills serving on the board of a non-profit or as a committee leader? Did an experience working at a shelter encourage you to get into nursing to work on public health?
You could also consider how life experiences have shaped your interest in nursing. For example, many people enter the nursing field after becoming a family member's primary care taker in a critical illness or end-of-life situation. Highlight these relevant skills which you can elaborate on within a cover letter or interview later on.
For registered nurses with a history of nursing experience
If you've had your license for a while and have held a number of nursing positions, focus on those roles to demonstrate your nursing skills and strengths. Make sure to include the unit you were on, the number of hospital beds, the electronic medical record system used, facility designation, and patient demographics to illustrate the environments you worked in. Don't forget to include examples of your soft skills like patient care, communication, crisis management and collaboration.
BSN nurse resume tips
As a BSN looking into new nursing jobs you likely have a bit more nursing experience under your belt and potentially more experience with patient care, but you need a way to show why you in particular are the best candidate for a job. Overall, consider how certain skills might be more in-demand for one nursing position over another. For example, think about how you might want to adjust your resume for a job as an ICU nurse versus a nursing job at a general practice or small clinic.
Use job descriptions to illustrate your experience
If you’re struggling with how to word past experiences and cover all the responsibilities you’ve had in your various roles, try to find either the job description for the role you applied for, or a similar one to guide you. Similarly, you should use some of the same language used in the job description you're applying for within your nursing resume. This will likely help you stand out to both the ATS system and hiring managers as having the experience they're looking for.
Accentuate the skills that make you a great nurse
Even if some of your experiences aren’t in nursing or a related field they’ve likely contributed to your strengths as a nurse. Roles where you’ve put skills to use like communication, collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking are all worth emphasizing as they also make for valuable nursing skills.
MSN nurse resume tips
As you accumulate experience and pursue less traditional nursing jobs, crafting your resume becomes more of a balancing act. While it's obviously still important to cover your bases with credentials like basic life support and any specialized certifications you've earned, you also likely have a number of jobs to list. To keep your resume from getting too unwieldy, try to limit yourself to six or fewer distinct duties or accomplishments for each role. It may also be time to start adding a section for publications and awards or recognition you've received.
Advice for all nursing resumes
This advice applies to all nurses and resumes and are a few key things you might not consider when completing your nurse resume.
How should I list my nursing credentials?
It's important to use both the full name and abbreviation when listing credentials as well as licenses or association memberships. It's likely that any hiring managers reviewing your resume would be familiar with the acronyms but in case an ATS is being used to review your nursing resume, you'll want to have both so they're accounted for no matter the system's programming. Make sure to list the:
- Accrediting body
- Credential or certification number
- Expiration date
You might be tempted to make your resume stand out by using a colorful header or adding a picture but it's best to keep things simple–especially in the age of ATS screening. Limit and be consistent with font formatting styles and only use black text for your nursing resume.
You can find a number of resume examples online but it's important that you just use these nursing resume templates as just that–an outline for you to build from. While a resume is not the place to put your creative design skills on display, you wouldn't want to end up turning in something that reads exactly the same as someone else's or that misrepresents your abilities. The real key to standing out with your resume is to make it a representation of your unique experiences and professional capabilities.
Always do a double and triple check
The last step of nursing resume writing is to do a final round of review. Try reading your resume out loud to catch any mistakes and run a final spellcheck. It's also helpful to have someone else read through your document. Spellcheck might not catch that you switched verb tense in a job description, but a friend or colleague will.
Prime your resume for applying to a nursing program at Oklahoma City University
With your resume in good shape, you're one step closer to completing your application to become a nursing student in the Kramer School of Nursing at Oklahoma City University (OCU). We offer our RN-BSN, MSN, and RN-MSN entirely online so you can keep adding up accomplishments at work while you earn your degree. At OCU we understand that there's a critical need for nurses with advanced education, so our programs make it easy for you to enroll. There's no waitlist, no out-of-state fees and no prerequisite courses required. If you need additional assistance with your resume or application, schedule a call with one of our Admissions Advisors who would be happy to help you. Your resume is going to look even better when you add a degree from OCU.