Resume Writing Tips for Nurses

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Today’s ideal job candidate must demonstrate a diversity of work-related experience in a resume easily understood by a general readership. The healthcare job market is continuously changing and nurses need to move from a strictly clinical, highly technical resume, to a more universal style that can be used in a variety of work settings. The following are some tips on how to accomplish this, while addressing common problems and unique situations.

Don’t load your resume with industry-specific initials.

Many different people will be reading your resume, some of whom are not nurses, and some who are nurses but do not work in your specialty. For example, the acronym MICU is not known to all nurses and certainly not to many non-nurses. Spell things out, including association names and certifications. For example, you may write “Staff Nurse / Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU).” Then, the next time you need to mention it, you can use simply “MICU.” If the reader does not understand your resume, they probably won’t want to talk to you.

Show diversity of experience on your resume, not just clinical skills. 

Include any business, administrative or managerial experience you have had, such as working on budgets and schedules, as well as any supervision or charge responsibility. Mention special projects you worked on such as cost cutting or downsizing committees. List quality management activities you were involved in as well as any interdisciplinary committees you sat on. Mention any teaching or training you have done including acting as a preceptor to new hires, working with students and giving an in-service presentation.

Your resume should highlight accomplishments and more unusual experiences.

It should not read like a job description. Therefore, it is not necessary to list all the routine duties that, say, a staff nurse performs, such as delivering patient care and administering medication–this is understood. Instead, focus on experiences such as those in #2 above, or at least on those experiences that were more important, interesting or out of the ordinary.

If you have done travel nursing or other agency work, write a sentence or two to summarize this experience rather than listing all the hospitals you worked at. For example:

TRAVEL NURSE 1988-1990
Worked for various travel agencies on short term, critical care assignments across the country from Hawaii to Maine.

You can then go on to list several specific experiences or accomplishments from your travel experiences as you would or a traditional job.

Don’t get carried away with listing continuing education programs you have attended.

You could make a statement such as “Continuing education specifics provided upon request” if you feel it is necessary. You can mention a specific course or class that you took in your cover letter if it is pertinent to a job you are applying for.

If you have non-nursing work experience prior to, or during your nursing career, be sure to include that on your resume.

Not too long ago nurses were advised not to include any other experiences, but that has changed. Again, other work experience shows diversity of experience on your part, something very important in today’s workplace.

For more information about resumes and CVs check out: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career

©Copyright Donna Cardillo. All rights reserved.

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