Resume Ideas for New and Experienced Nurses
The person who receives your resume may spend a minute looking at it -- if you’re lucky. Often it’s a matter of seconds before she makes a decision to pass it on or consign it to the slush pile. Sometimes the first person who handles it doesn’t look at it all. He scans it into a computer. The computer may check it for keywords before a human gives it its first momentary glance. What all this means to you, as a prospective nurse, is that you will need to pass a two step process. The goal of the first phase is to not get eliminated before you’re read and considered. The goal of the second phase is to secure that interview! How do you that? For an answer, one can look to the experts. On this page you’ll find highlights from several leaders in the field.
Mistakes can eliminate you from consideration. But what actually should -- and must be -- included on your resume? Someone should be able to glance at the resume and tell that you have the stated minimum requirements (which might include degree, certifications, and experience in a particular type of setting).
What to Include in a Nursing Resume
The American Nurses Association offers the following advice: Focus on your accomplishments, not your job responsibilities. This is something multiple career experts agree on. You should include action words like organized, coached, delegated, and compiled. In Your Career in Nursing, Annette Vallano, R.N., C.S., categorizes verbs by core competency. She emphasizes that through your language, you can emphasize a variety of skill sets including communication skills, people skills, leadership skills, and technical skills.
Donna Cardillo, R.N., is another guru in the field of career coaching. She has this to add: It’s not necessary to list those routine job duties that everyone who holds the position has performed. Focus instead on things that are more noteworthy or out of the ordinary.
If you’re just starting out in the nursing field, you won’t have a lot of nursing experience… or nursing achievements. Cardillo writes that it’s fine to list your rotations, keeping the descriptions brief -- until you land that first job. Positions outside the nursing field can be good to list, especially if there are cross-over skills.
Organizing the Resume
Mary Somers, of the John Hopkins University School of Nursing, has written a comprehensive guide for nurses about resume writing. You can find it on the site of New Careers in Nursing (a cooperative venture of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AACN).
What goes into a successful nursing resume? After the heading or caption, you may include an optional summary of your most important qualifications. Work experience, listed in reverse chronological order, is typically included next. There are exceptions. If you have recently entered nursing from another field, education may precede work. And if your experience consists largely of unpaid experiences, you might try titling the section “Professional Experience”. What you don’t need to include is a list of every job you’ve ever held! You may, however, include a section of professional memberships, language competencies, or other things that are relevant and may set you apart. When do academics become an asset? According to Somers, nurses with a high GPA may do well to list it. (Generally this means above 3.5 at the undergraduate level or 3.75 for graduate students).
Nurses tend to have a lot of certifications… and a lot to write. In the nursing field, two page resumes are considered perfectly acceptable (though a new grad probably won’t need that much space). If layout is an issue, you have several resources. Some resources, including Somers’ “Complete Guide to Resume Writing for Nursing Students and Alumni” have worksheets/ templates to help you actually lay your work out on the page.
Increasingly, resumes are going online. You may have a chance to post your resume on your state’s workforce site or a student nurses’ association. You can also find various online resume builders.