4 Tips on How to Make Your Nursing Resume Stand Out

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC


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If you’re a nurse, does your resume say what it needs to convey about your nursing career and your personal brand as a healthcare professional? The basic structure and function of resumes haven’t changed much over the years, and many nurses continue to fail to make their resumes as effective as they could be. Here are four tips for taking your nursing resume to the next level:

1. Advertise Your Credentials

If you have a degree and a professional designation (or more than one), you likely worked really hard to earn them. Many nurses forget to proudly put those hard-earned initials at the very top of their resume after their names. Why make the reader of your resume search for your credentials? Display them prominently for the world to see!

2. Add a Professional Summary

Generally, it’s seen as rather old school to have an objective at the top of your resume. An objective might read something like, “Registered nurse with history of collaborative patient care seeking position on telemetry or step-down unit.” How generic!

Rather, consider adding a professional summary that’s an encapsulation of your personal brand. Your summary should paint a clear picture of who you are, what you’ve done, and your specific skills and accomplishments. Basically, it’s a preamble to the chronological parts of your resume, and it gives the reader a quick “character study”, branding you in whatever way you want to be perceived.

The initial paragraph of your summary might boldly state, “highly qualified Family Nurse Practitioner with 20 + years of expertise spanning the assessment and management of primary care, acute care, pediatric care, preoperative care and occupational health care disciplines. Compassionate professional with strong history of work in both autonomous and collaborative environments.”

Another example would be the following: “Bachelor’s-prepared registered nurse with significant expertise in wound care, neurological and physical assessment, venipuncture, IV therapy and blood transfusion, as well as the care of mid-lines, central lines, and ports. Also adept with trachs, vents, peritoneal dialysis, and the management of chronic illness.”

Your summary should be in the third person, avoiding all use of the first-person pronoun “I”, and it can be a combination of prose paragraphs and bullet points that serve to clarify your awesomeness.

3. Think Keywords

Some employers put resumes through a scanning process that searches for certain While you can’t exactly know what keywords they’re seeking, you can use the job description of the position you’re applying for as a guide. For example, if the ad for the job describes specific requirements (e.g.: computer skills, venipuncture, ACLS, chemotherapy, etc.), be sure those keywords show up in your resume.

You can also use the website of the organization to which you’re applying to supply you with the mission, vision, values, or accomplishments of your potential new employer. Find ways to use that same language in your resume (and also your cover letter) as a way to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the organization. In other words, target your resume (and cover letter) so skillfully that the reader can readily see that you’re the best possible fit for both the position and the larger institution.

4. Readability is Key

Many nurses have strong opinions that their resume must fit on one page no matter what. Stories abound that hiring managers and recruiters simply don’t have time to read resumes that stretch beyond a page.

Your resume needs to tell a story about you and your brand. If you’re highly accomplished and have a compelling story to tell, one page isn’t going to do your career justice. Crowding your resume onto one page in the interest of some arbitrary rule can powerfully undermine the readability and impact of your resume.

In design, white space (also known as negative space) is an important concept in terms of allowing the eye to rest. Use negative space and give your resume breathing room from the standpoint of good design. 

Having said this, there are secrets to keeping a resume from becoming overly long. Avoid “orphan” words at the ends of sentences that take up an entire line that’s otherwise blank, and learn effective resume writing that values brevity and efficiency.

Finally, remember that a powerful summary (see tip #2) that draws the reader in with your unique professional story will compel the reader to explore your resume further, no matter how long it is.  

Your resume is a living document that evolves along with you and your career. Always keep copies of older versions of your resume on file in order to track your personal and professional trajectory over time.

As your interests, lifestyle, family structure, personal health, and other life factors shift over the years, your resume needs to come along for the ride. When you’re a young nurse without children, your career needs are different than when you’re 45 years old and married with three kids under 10. Be aware of your own needs and goals, tailoring your resume to the positions that speak to where you are in this moment.

Make your resume a flexible, well-designed document that’s a powerful and effective representation of you, your brand, and the nursing career you’ve worked so hard to create.

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