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The ultimate guide for writing a great nursing resume

Picture nurse working on resume

Your resume is your most important tool for getting a job, but it can be difficult to make your resume stand out. Nurse recruiters can see hundreds of resumes for one job opening. This is often the case even in a market with more job openings than candidates. So how do you get through the noise and make your resume stand out? Here are eight things nurses should include on their resumes.

Put your most recent experience first in your nurse resume

You should always list your job experience in reverse chronological order. Even if you had an amazing job or travel nursing assignment you want to highlight, it’s cleaner and easier to read if you keep things in order.

Scot Schwartz, a senior provider service manager for RNnetwork, has this advice for elaborating on your experience: “After each role, think about what you learned. What did you not know before you joined your hospital, clinic, or even nursing school practice? Everything you learn is a new skill that you can highlight in your resume.”

Infographic - 7 things to include on nurse resume

List all your experience (but keep it short)

The trickiest part of resume writing is listing all your experience in a condensed way. Aim for just one page — unless you have a career longer than 10 years. At the same time, be sure to list all your experience, because you never know what might stand out to a recruiter. You can balance this by including more information about your three most recent positions and giving less detail for older experience.

We all know the frustration of online job applications requiring you to upload your resume and then list the information on your resume. But online job applications can be helpful because they give you more space to elaborate on each position you’ve had. This can take a lot of time, so start your job search by creating a master resume that has all the details for each position. Then, use that detail when completing the online application.

Have you ever considered travel nursing? Learn how to become a travel nurse

List the RN licenses you hold

Even in job markets with lots of jobs available, you need to stand out to get an interview. Showing the states where you’re licensed to work can help, especially if you’re looking for travel nursing jobs. Having multiple licenses also shows that you have experience working with different cultures and at diverse medical facilities.

Open up more job markets: Practice in 41 states with one license

How to display your nursing credentials

According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), there’s a standard order for listing credentials that many hospitals and facilities follow. It’s highly recommended that you list your credentials in this order, without periods:

infographic - the order in which to list your degrees

1. Nursing/educational degrees

Following your name, list the highest-earned degree as an abbreviation. For example, a doctoral degree of nursing should appear as PhD or DNP, a Master of Science in Nursing as MSN, and an Associate Science in Nursing as ASN.

2. Licensure credentials

This is any certifications or licenses you hold. The two most common types of credentials in this section include a registered nurse (RN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN).

3. State designations

These are similar to your nursing licenses. They’re lists of advanced practices that nurses can perform in their state. These can include advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (NP).

4. National certifications

Some organizations may award nurses with titles or national certifications. These can include family nurse practitioner-board certified (FNP-BC) and registered nurse-board certified (RN-BC).

5. Awards and honors

Many nurses have done something that makes them stand out, but make sure anything you list is relevant to your career. For example, an honor you might want to include is the Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), and if you’ve been nominated for or won the DAISY award, include that on your resume. If you’ve ever shown formal or informal leadership, list that. Even seemingly small impacts like a thank you letter from a patient can show your impact on a more personal role. The more you can include that shows who you are, the better.

6. Other certifications

These can include any other certifications or licenses that don’t directly relate to a nursing career but highlight additional skills. For example, you could list an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification in this section.

Here are two examples of the order your licenses and certifications should be listed on your resume:


John Smith, MSN, RN, RN-BC, EMT

Tips for listing your nursing skills on your resume

The skills section of a resume is what recruiters and hiring managers often care about most. Make sure to list your nursing skills and remember to include soft skills, too. Some of the most important nursing skills to include are:

  • Urgent and emergency care experience
  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Understanding medical technologies
  • Educating patients and their families
  • Teamwork

You’ll be a stronger candidate if you demonstrate that you’re ready to work on whatever, wherever.

In all these skills, recruiters want to see proficiency and frequency. Don’t list things that you have only done occasionally. Instead, focus on the things you truly see as your strengths.

Include professional highlights customized for the job

Perhaps the most important thing to do with your resume is to adjust it for each opening for which you apply. First, focus on the order of the skills you list. If a job posting mentions that it’s critical that you know emergency care, the first skill you should list should be related to emergency care. In addition, match your resume to the facility. If you’re applying to a large-scale hospital, don’t emphasize your experience in small, rural clinics.

Pull quote - Briana Silva on nurse resumes

Highlight on your resume what is more transferable to what you’re applying for,” said Briana Silva, a client development manager for RNnetwork, who often sees up to 50 applicants for one travel nurse opening.  “If most of your work has been on an Indian reservation, that might not go over so well if you’re applying for a New York City role.” That said, if you’re currently working at a rural clinic but previously worked in a big city, that shows diversity in your experience, so it’s okay to include both.

In addition, recruiters often send applicants’ resumes through applicant tracking systems, which scan the resume for targeted keywords. So, if there are words in the job posting that match your qualifications, be sure to include those exact words on your resume.

Only list the facts

This may be obvious, but it’s important enough to emphasize. Be honest on your resume, particularly in the skills section. If there’s a nursing position that requires skills you don’t have or are weak in, that position is probably not the right fit for you. Make a note of the skills you lack and work on gaining some experience in them so you’re ready for the next opening.

Explain gaps in employment

If you have any gaps in your resume, be sure to explain them. One benefit of being in nursing is that gaps in your resume often are good ways to highlight your strengths in caregiving. Did you take time off to take care of a sick relative, spend more time with kids, or raise a new baby? Those are great ways to highlight your nursing skills. Just be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history and try to find a way to include them on your resume.

A special consideration for travel nurse resumes

Resumes for nurses with travel nursing experience can be tricky, especially if they worked a lot of travel assignments. It will mean a much longer listing of places you have worked, but that can also be an advantage when is shows your breadth of skills and experience. Of course, working with a travel nursing agency also means you have a built in career coach. Agencies can help you find the best travel nursing jobs that match your qualifications. They will also help you craft your resume — at no cost — to make you stand out and give the hiring organization exactly the information they need to make a decision.

Silva says healthcare organizations that hire travel nurses are often in a rush to fill the opening. So, it’s particularly important that your resume tells them exactly what they need to know. “They need to know what you can do, how quickly you can do it, and if are you a good fit for their unit,” she says.

 Interested in learning more about travel nursing? Give us a call or view today’s travel nursing job openings.

About the author

Kathleen Stone

Kathleen Stone is a writer for RNnetwork from Salt Lake City, Utah. In her spare time, she loves going to the desert, trying new foods and being with family.


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