Getting a job as a nurse is not just about being skilled, driven, caring, compassionate, and licensed. You also need a striking nurse resume to show those qualities to the hiring managers.
Being the most qualified nurse in the country probably won’t take you far if the people who are in charge of hiring can’t see what you worked on.
The good news is that it’s not at all difficult to create a captivating application document. Even if you’re absolutely new to resume building, we’ve created a comprehensive guide that will take you through the process step by step. Let’s dive in!
Use the chronological resume format for the best results with recruiters and ATS.
The must-have sections of your resume are contact information, a resume objective or summary, work experience, education, and skills.
Optional sections like conferences and courses, languages, volunteer experience, and hobbies and interests can make you stand out from the competition.
Submit a matching cover letter with your resume to significantly increase your chances with recruiters.
What is the Right Format to Use for a Nurse Resume?
There are three established, reliable, and most commonly used nurse resume formats, proven over time to yield the best results with recruiters and ATS. These formats are:
#1. Chronological Resume Format
The chronological resume format is the most commonly used option, and it lists your work history in reverse-chronological order. That means that you put your most recent and important job first, and then you add the rest to give recruiters a good overview of your entire career.
#2. Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format is used by candidates with no professional experience. It puts skills into focus and uses them to portray you as a competent candidate. However, keep in mind that this format might run into issues with the ATS because it doesn’t have the most commonly used section titles.
#3. Combination Resume Format
The combination resume format, as its name suggests, combines chronological and functional formats. It also makes skills the main section but uses the candidate’s extensive list of achievements to support them. It’s best used by seasoned experts in the field.
The layout of your resume will determine how it looks and how you arrange the different parts.
For starters, unless you have decades of experience and many significant achievements to showcase, your resume shouldn’t exceed one page.
You also need to choose an appropriate font for your resume and set its size to 10–12 for the body and 14–16 for the headings. Use at least 1-inch margins on all sides and adjust the space between sections so that everything is readable and professional.
Of course, you can modify all of those values as needed to add more content or to increase legibility.
What Sections Should a Nurse Resume Contain?
There are 5 must-have sections for your nurse resume, and they are:
Resume objective or summary
Of course, you could always have more information to show that doesn’t fit into these mandatory sections. In that case, you might want to include some of the optional ones, such as:
Conferences and courses
Hobbies and interests
If remembering all that information seems like too much work, we recommend using our nurse resume builder. It comes with ready-to-go templates that you simply fill in with your information. That way, you can have a professional resume in minutes.
Nurse Resume Contact Information
Contact information is a standard section on any resume that should feature the following details:
Contact Information Essentials
Updated phone number
Professional email address
Physical address (under certain circumstances)
Take a look at the example:
Contact Information Example
+ 312 555 4321
There are a couple of things to look out for:
Ensure impeccable spelling. A single misplaced character could make your contact information useless.
Your title acts as a keyword for the ATS. Keep it professional and don’t write anything funny or witty, as this might draw the wrong kind of attention from recruiters.
On the same note, use a professional email address—not the one you made in the sixth grade.
Only include your physical address if required by the job posting or if you’re applying for a position abroad.
Nurse Resume Objective or Summary
Resume objectives and summaries are variants of the introductory paragraph at the top of your resume that aims to hook the recruiter into taking a deeper look at your resume.
A resume objective puts the focus on skills and career goals, and it's best for candidates who don't have relevant work experience.
Those with a professional history should include a summary of their most important accomplishments in their nurse resumes.
Nurse Resume Objective
If you’re a student or a recent graduate (or maybe you switched careers), you’ll want to go with a nurse resume objective. Don’t be afraid to leverage any type of experience obtained during your schooling.
Take a look at a good example:
“Dedicated nursing student with 2 years of experience providing care to a variety of patients. Seeking an internship position on a career path to becoming a Registered Nurse.”
Now, let’s compare that to a bad example that lacks any concrete information:
“Nursing student looking for an internship.”
There’s being brief and concise, and then there’s not giving anything of substance to the recruiters.
Nurse Resume Summary
As a seasoned professional, you want to grab the recruiter’s attention by putting the achievements you’re most proud of on display. Therefore, you should use this section to summarize your resume and highlight how your hard work and knowledge yielded incredible results.
Check out this good example of a brief but information-packed nurse resume summary:
“Certified registered nurse with 7+ years of experience providing direct and quality patient care in a fast-paced environment. Possesses an MSc in Nursing. Empathic and ethical healthcare provider with proven organizational skills and the ability to stay calm and work efficiently in high-stress situations. Seeking to leverage my skills and experience to fill the role of a registered nurse at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.”
And here’s a bad example:
“Registered nurse with years of experience looking for an open position at TJHH.”
Since no important results were mentioned, the person who wrote this doesn't really seem to have any experience at all.
Nurse Resume Work Experience
Your professional experience is one of the most important parts of your nurse resume. It gives recruiters a direct look at your workplace proficiency, telling them how skilled and efficient you are. That’s why this section should be the focal point of your resume.
Here are key guidelines to follow that will ensure you end up with a professional work experience section:
List your former jobs in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent one.
Each separate entry should include:
The position you held
The corporation you worked for and its location
Dates of your employment in the MM/YYYY format
A bullet-point list of your responsibilities and achievements.
Add 3–5 bullet points for every job and focus on highlighting achievements and results instead of your tasks.
To substantiate the results and make them more prominent, back them up with exact numbers and percentages.
Furthermore, use action verbs and power words to make the section memorable and impactful.
Keep it relevant to the position you’re applying for. Don’t list unimportant part-time jobs you had a decade ago.
No Nursing Experience
A good thing about going through nursing school is that you gain plenty of practical experience during your studies. That way, even if you have no professional experience whatsoever, you can leverage internships to create a captivating section on your resume.
Check out a good example:
Student Nurse Intern
The John Hopkins Hospital Baltimore, MD
Oct 2019–Jan 2020
Monitored and recorded the symptoms of a variety of patients of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, maintaining interaction and communication.
Commended by senior nurses for assessing patients' healthcare needs under supervision based on initial screening.
In contrast, the following is a bad example from a candidate who just listed their tasks without mentioning any results or accomplishments:
Student Nurse Intern
The John Hopkins Hospital Baltimore, MD
Oct 2019–Jan 2020
Monitored patients’ condition.
Communicated and interacted with patients.
Helped prepare rooms and equipment.
Experienced nurses often have plenty of accomplishments and results to put on their resumes. In that case, it’s beneficial to focus on the most impactful ones instead of having dozens of bullet points for every previous job.
Let’s check out an example of an experienced candidate who followed all the general tips and guidelines to create a good work history section:
Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA
Provided personalized patient care to up to 20 patients per day while monitoring and evaluating their medical conditions on a daily basis.
Communicated and collaborated with management and medical specialists to develop individualized treatment plans.
Responsible for onboarding, guiding, and mentoring 5 newly licensed nurses to help them integrate into the workplace and achieve professional expertise.
On the other hand, take a look at a bad example that lacks detail, achievements, numbers, and action words:
Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, MA
Performed daily monitoring and evaluation of medical conditions.
Worked on developing individualized treatment plans.
Helped train new nurses.
Nurse Resume Education Section
A proper degree is a must-have if you want to become a registered nurse, which is why it’s crucial to mention it in a nurse resume.
This section generally goes after your work experience. However, if you’re looking for an entry-level position and you don’t have any work history, consider putting your education section first, as it’s your biggest achievement so far.
To fill out this section, just list your degree, the institution that gave it to you, and the dates of attendance. Just like with your work experience section, you can create a short bullet-point list with noticeable achievements.
Check out the example:
Education Section Example
MSc in Nursing
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX
Magna cum laude
On a final note, there’s no need to include every degree obtained during your academic career; the highest one will suffice.
Nurse Resume License
You can’t legally be a registered nurse without a license. That makes your licenses mandatory on your resume as well, and they are often the first thing recruiters look for.
Fortunately, adding this detail to your resume is fairly straightforward. Simply include the following information:
The state or body that issued it
License expiration date
Here’s what that looks like in practice:
Nurse License Example
Registered Nurse: 123456
Texas Board of Nursing
Active until November 2023
If you hold a Compact License, you can include it like this:
Compact License Example
Registered Nurse: License Number 123456, Active since 2016
Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), Texas Board of Nursing
If you only have one license, you can include it in your education section. If you have many, list them in a section of their own.
Nurse Resume Skills
Mentioning your skills throughout your nurse resume—as part of your objective or summary and work experience section—is a great way to highlight them. Still, for the maximum effect, you need a dedicated skills section where you’ll put them on display for recruiters to easily see and for the ATS to recognize.
Nurse resume skills fall into two distinct categories.
First, there are hard skills that enable you to do your job in the first place. These are specific to the field. Not only that, but sometimes nurses in different positions need to use completely different skills.
Some of the hard skills you can add to your resume are:
Hard Skills for Nurses
Emergency room care
Withdrawal of blood samples
Then, we have soft skills, which are broader and more transferable between professions, and these include:
Soft Skills for Nurses
Attention to detail
List soft skills and hard skills separately and add them after your education section.
Nurse Resume Optional Sections
Optional sections allow you to include additional important information that doesn’t belong to any of the mandatory sections. They are a great way to spiff up your resume and make it stand out.
Conferences & Courses
You might have gone to nurse conferences or even spoken at them while you were in school. Make sure to mention that on your resume, as it shows diligence and motivation to learn and improve.
Additionally, relevant courses offer specialized education that increases your overall competence. For example, some courses can make you a nurse anesthetist, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and so on.
If you have valuable courses and conferences, be sure to include them in your resume after all the mandatory sections.
Knowledge of foreign languages is always helpful. It can even give you an edge over other applicants, as it allows you to communicate with certain patients and their families on a more intimate level.
When listing language proficiency, start with the one you’re most proficient in and go down from there. The proficiency levels are as follows:
Language Proficiency Description
Full professional proficiency
Professional working proficiency
Limited working proficiency
When you’re a nurse, your career revolves around helping others and being a caring individual. So, what better way to display your passion for helping than through volunteer experience?
While this section doesn’t carry as much weight as professional experience, you should still include it as long as there’s room left on your nurse resume. And if you don’t have any professional experience, you can emphasize volunteer work instead.
Hobbies & Interests
Everyone has a life outside of work—their passions, hobbies, and interests—and this section is the place to mention yours. By doing that, you’ll show hiring managers that there’s a real person behind the resume who can become a great addition to their team.
Should You Submit a Cover Letter With Your Nurse Resume?
Submitting a cover letter alongside your resume is like supercharging your application document. It shows diligence and dedication to go the extra mile.
A cover letter is custom-made and job-specific. You address the hiring manager directly and explain why you’re the best person for the job in 3–5 paragraphs.
Start the letter with your most prominent achievements, and use the bulk of the text to talk more about your skills and what makes you perfect for the position they are offering. You can finish it by inviting them to contact you for further discussion.
Expert Tips for Creating a Nurse Resume
Let’s finish this thorough guide with the following expert tips that will help you fine-tune your resume:
Keep your resume one page long, and make sure to cut any obsolete or irrelevant information.
Research the job posting and the position to know precisely which skills to put on your resume.
Write a nurse resume summary or objective last.
Make sure that you mention your vital skills in your work experience section and resume objective or summary.
Write a unique cover letter for every new job you apply to. Also, only do it after creating your resume to make sure they match.
Use a cover letter to talk about some of your biggest achievements in greater detail to draw the recruiter’s attention and get them to look at your resume.
And that’s all there is to it! You’re now perfectly capable of creating a job-winning nurse resume from scratch. Mark the article so that you can find it again if you ever need a refresher, and look at the examples to get ideas on how to make an application document that stands out.
There’s also our handy nurse resume builder, which will do most of the heavy lifting for you and save you a ton of time.
Other than that, you’re all set. Best of luck getting your dream job!