By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN
Whether you graduate in December or May, it’s never too early to start crafting a résumé. Here are some commonly asked questions about student and new graduate nurse résumés.
Should I include clinical rotations on my résumé?
Emphasize your clinical experience by starting your résumé with a section titled “Clinical Rotations.” List the name of each health care facility where you did your major rotations (e.g., psych, pediatrics, obstetrics, med/surg). It’s not necessary to give much detail about each position or to provide dates and time frames other than the year. You can mention significant experiences you had, such as working with ventilators. Be sure to include any externships or special internships you did, too. Once you’ve had your first job as an RN, clinical rotations and externships would no longer be listed.
If you’re already a licensed practical or vocational nurse with recent experience, it’s not necessary to list clinical rotations. You simply would list positions you’ve held as an LPN/LVN.
Should I include non-nursing work experience?
You should definitely include professional non-nursing work experience. Because many people are coming to nursing as a second or third career, they have substantial experience to bring to the table. Valuable skills include budgeting, writing, selling, managing an office, etc.
Should I include school-related activities?
If you held a leadership role in nursing school, college, or a professional association such as a local chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association, list it in a category titled “Academic Activities/Achievements.” If you were on the honor roll throughout school and graduated with honors, include that. However, if you were on the honor role for only part of your educational years, exclude this completely. A prospective employer might have a tendency to focus on the “off” times and get the impression that you’re inconsistent with your work. If you received special recognition or an award for academic achievement, community service, or other related activity, be sure to include that. High school activities generally are considered irrelevant on a professional résumé but there are exceptions to every rule.
What about volunteer work?
Relevant volunteer work is an important part of any professional résumé. Examples of volunteer work to include would be work with a homeless shelter, blood bank, Meals on Wheels, or youth groups.
Don’t hesitate to elaborate if you did substantial volunteer work. For example, if you organized a blood drive at your school or read to residents of a nursing home, be sure to include details.
Does my résumé have to be on one page?
Up to two pages is standard and acceptable. Be sure to use a 1-inch margin on the perimeters, 12-point type size, and a standard typeface like Times New Roman for easy readability. Use good quality paper (white or off-white is best) with print that is dark, crisp, and clear. Include your name and page number at the top of the second page. Don’t confuse a résumé with a Curriculum Vitae (CV). A CV is a longer, more detailed document reserved for those working in research, academia, publishing and sometimes administration. While it’s good to continue to build a CV for your own records at this time, it is not required nor appropriate for use in most job-hunting setting.
Should I always send a cover letter with my résumé?
A cover letter offers an opportunity to personalize your job application by letting the prospective employer know why you want to work for the organization and expressing your passion for nursing and special interests. Keep the letter to one page and print it on the same stationery as your résumé if sending a hardcopy via USPS. Of course you may not be able to include a cover letter for electronic submissions but you can send one via email if submitting a résumé in that way. The exception for any of the above would be when responding to a request that states “Send résumé ONLY. No cover letters.”
For more detailed information about résumé writing including sample forms and so much more, refer to The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses-Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career, 2nd ed. (American Nurses Association, 2018).
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