Your Guide to Writing a Stellar Nursing Resume

nurse reviewing RN resume for interview
Written by
Lori Fuqua
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
January 23, 2024

Nursing turnover is high, and demand for nurses is high, and yet the last time you applied for a job, you didn’t get a call for an interview. Sound familiar? 

Why didn’t you get a call from that hospital or other healthcare facility if the nursing shortage is so dire? Even in a market where demand outpaces supply, hiring managers must be discerning to diminish turnover rates and meet retention goals. At the same time, the competition remains fierce for coveted nursing positions. 

It’s also entirely possible that no one even read your resume. Most hiring protocols in today’s world use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to whittle down the number of candidates, and once a person does review a resume, they spend a surprisingly short amount of time on it. According to the Yale School of Nursing, 15–20 seconds is how long an employer spends reviewing a resume, on average.

With this guide, we will empower you to create a nursing resume that is more likely to pass the ATS and engage the curiosity of hiring managers. We’ll provide nursing resume tips, summarize your options for a nursing resume template, share some examples, and explore how you can do your best to get through the initial culling when ATS is involved.

Disclaimer: There are no guarantees in the world of recruitment and job hunting. This guide is a resource tool only and should not be construed as a promise to success.

RN Resume Templates

If you do a generic search for sample nursing resumes, you’ll likely land on one of three template types:

  • Chronological: As the name implies, a chronological template will showcase your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your current or most recent position closest to the top. This format is common and one you’ll often see as a sample resume for nurses with experience.
  • Functional: This template type focuses less on work experience and more on your functional skills; as such, you may find new grad nursing resume samples in this format when you search. Nevertheless, experts don’t recommend it. This format obscures gaps in work history because it does not format a chronological list of your experience, which employers may perceive poorly. Additionally, it doesn’t perform well with ATS.
  • Combination: This template type takes the good of the functional format—emphasis on your skills—and meshes it with the chronological format to include the linear evolution of your work history (helpful for the ATS). 

Tips to Optimize Your Resume for ATS

It can be disheartening to think that your nursing career’s blood, sweat, and tears can be scanned and discarded instantly with an emotionless software program. So, it’s logical to ask how you can get past the ATS to be seen by a real person. Whether you’re worried about the ATS or not, consider these tips when crafting your resume:

  1. Use a combination of templates or a chronological resume template: As previously mentioned, the functional template doesn’t perform well with ATS.
  2. Name your resume document correctly: Some platforms will instruct you on their preferred naming format, so follow those instructions. Otherwise, the name of the resume file should include your full name and credentials: for example, Nancy Nurse RN Resume.doc, not NancyFinalDraftResume.doc.
  3. Match resume and cover letter formatting: Your resume and cover letter should look like a package deal.
  4. Use black font, a clear style, and size 10 or 11: The size for headings can be 12 to 14. Avoid the use of italics, shading, graphics, or underlining. 
  5. Avoid flowery fonts or bulleted lists: Using font size 10–12, select a simple, clear font style such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman and keep bulleted lists in the single black dot format to increase readability for ATS scans.
  6. Don’t use a header or footer on the page: The ATS may miss information if you create a header or footer on your doc. 
  7. Write a brief professional summary: This summary should be short, at most five sentences. Its purpose is to grab attention and relate your qualifications and relevance to the job.
  8. Use generic section headings: Stick with headings such as “work experience,” “employment history,” “licenses and certifications,” etc. Don’t hit the thesaurus or get creative with your headings. Keep them straightforward so the ATS will properly identify them.
  9. Spell out acronyms first: Here are some examples: Basic Life Support (BLS), Emergency Department (ED), and Electronic Health Record (EHR).
  10. Read the job description to identify keywords: An ATS is programmed to scan hundreds of resumes by looking for keywords from the job description. The job description is your road map to creating a resume that the ATS will pick up. Mirror precisely the job title; if the job description says Emergency Department RN and you write that you were an Emergency Room RN, the ATS may miss it.
  11. Tailor your resume to the job description: The job description not only informs the ATS (see the following section for more on that topic), but it also tells you exactly what your prospective employer is looking for. Don’t force the reader to make the connections between the position and your experience. Make those connections yourself. For example, if the job description states patient education is one of the position’s responsibilities, be sure in your work experience you mention patient education specifically as one of your responsibilities.
  12. Keep it nursing-related: If your resume seems thin in the work experience section, you may feel tempted to add non-nursing-related experience to bulk it up. This added experience may work in other industries, but in nursing, it does not
  13. Prioritize the top one-third of the resume: An ATS may only scan the top 33 percent of your resume page, so your strongest keywords must appear there.
  14. Use active verbs: Active verbs are more concise and to the point, automatically conveying confidence and professionalism, whereas passive verbs are weaker.
  15. Keep the writing style consistent and in the third person narrative: In other words, your verb tenses and descriptors should align, and you should never use pronouns such as “I,” “myself,” etc. For example:
Not Consistent Consistent
Descriptors (qualities/skills) Decides quickly
Communicative
Works well with others
Decisive
Communicative
Cooperative
Verb tenses (experience) I helped with care planning for new rehab residents.
Was in charge of administering medications to patients in the SDU.
Participated in patient-centered care plan development for rehabilitation patients
Supervised medication administration to patients in the Step Down Unit (SDU)

Registered Nurse Resume Examples

The following RN resume example is for an experienced nurse and uses the combination format.

Nancy Nurse, RN


Wichita, KS | 316-300-1106 | [email protected]

Professional Summary

Skilled, efficient, and detail-oriented Registered Nurse (RN) with three years experience in pediatrics and three years in long-term care with a passion for providing compassionate and personalized care to patients of all ages. Motivated and dedicated to forward-thinking collaboration with other clinicians. Seeking a position in a fast-paced setting that leverages knowledge, skills, and decisiveness

Skills

  • Proficient in electronic medical record (EMR) systems
  • Strong clinical assessment and critical thinking abilities
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work effectively in a fast-paced and challenging environment
  • Proven track record of providing compassionate and patient-centered care
  • Proficient in wound care and infection control protocols

Work History

Registered Nurse - Mayberry Hospital - November 2021-present
  • Provide direct patient care to a diverse population of residents, including assessing and monitoring their health status, administering medications and treatments, and developing care plans to meet their individual needs
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary team members, such as physicians, social workers, and therapists, to develop and implement comprehensive care plans for residents
  • Administer and maintain accurate records of medications and treatments in accordance with facility policies and state regulations
  • Educate patients and their family members on health conditions, medications, and self-care techniques, promoting overall wellness and improving patient outcomes
  • Manage all aspects of patient care efficiently, including admissions, discharges, wound care, and emergencies
  • Train and mentor new nursing staff members, providing guidance and support to ensure the delivery of high-quality care

Memory Care Registered Nurse - Beta Care Living - September 2016 - October 2021
  • Provided specialized patient care to a diverse population of adults living with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or other cognitive impairment
  • Assessed patients’ conditions, monitored vital signs, administered medications, and provided wound care as per physician’s orders and nursing standards
  • Communicated with residents and their families, providing emotional support and education on disease management, behaviors, and medication regimens
  • Collaborated with a multidisciplinary team to develop and implement individualized care plans for residents
  • Assisted in the supervision and training of nursing students and new staff members

Education

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), University, City, State, Graduation Date

License

Registered Nurse | Kansas Board of Nursing | License Number | Expiration Date

Certifications

Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
Wound Care Certified (WCC)

Professional Affiliations

American Nurses Association (ANA)
National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB)
Board Member for Beta Care Living Advisory Council

The following is an example of a new nurse’s resume in the combination format.

Heather Healer RN


1234 Main Street, City, State | (123) 456-7890 | [email protected]

Professional Summary

Compassionate and dedicated new graduate nurse with a passion for providing exceptional patient care. Possesses strong clinical knowledge and skills gained through internships and clinical rotations. Proven ability to work collaboratively in fast-paced environments while maintaining a positive attitude. Seeking to join a dynamic healthcare team and make a positive impact in the lives of patients.

Skills

  • Strong clinical knowledge and skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal abilities
  • Attention to detail and ability to multitask
  • Proficient in electronic health records
  • Ability to work well in a team and independently

Clinical Experience

Nurse Internship - XYZ Hospital, City, State - May 2020 - August 2020
  • Assisted RNs in providing direct patient care, including assessments, medication administration, wound care, and IV therapy
  • Monitored and recorded vital signs, blood glucose levels, and input/output measurements
  • Collaborated with members of the healthcare team to develop and implement patient care plans
  • Educated patients and families on proper self-care techniques and medication management
  • Utilized electronic health records (EHR) to document patient care and maintain accurate records

Clinical Rotations

ABC Medical Center, City, State - October 2019 - December 2019
  • Completed a rotation in the medical-surgical unit, caring for a diverse patient population with acute and chronic illnesses
  • Assisted in the care of postoperative patients, including surgical dressing changes, medication administration, and catheter care
  • Provided emotional support and education to patients and families

DEF Nursing Home, City, State - January 2019 - March 2019
  • Gained experience in long-term care and rehabilitation, working with elderly and disabled patients
  • Assisted in activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, and feeding
  • Administered medications and other treatments according to physician orders
  • Conducted assessments and reported any changes in patient condition to the healthcare team

Education

Registered Nurse | State Board of Nursing | License Number | Expiration Date
Basic Life Support (BLS) certification - American Heart Association

Licenses and Certifications

Registered Nurse | State Board of Nursing | License Number | Expiration Date
Basic Life Support (BLS) certification - American Heart Association

Professional Memberships

American Nurses Association (ANA)

Frequently Asked Questions on Nurse Resumes

Q. I keep applying for jobs but never hear back; what should I do?

A. If you’re frustrated with job searching, why not try something different? Sign up with Nursa, an open healthcare marketplace that connects nurses and nursing assistants like you to per diem (PRN) jobs in hospitals and facilities near you. Follow the prompts to set up your professional profile, verify your nursing license or nursing assistant certification, and pick up PRN shifts near you.

Q. Is my resume the same thing as my professional profile on Nursa?

A. No. When you set up your Nursa account, we ask you to upload your resume and complete your online profile. Facility schedulers are often in a hurry to get coverage for shifts, and when crunched for time, it’s quicker for them to scan the candidate’s online profile. Learn how to optimize your Nursa profile with our article How to Stand Out to Facilities and Secure Nursing Shifts.

Q. Can new nurses use their clinicals for experience on a nursing resume?

Yes. However, list only your clinical rotations that apply to the position. Use an appropriate heading title, such as “Clinical Experience” or “Clinical Rotations.” Remember, trying to hide something in a resume can be perceived poorly.

Q. Which template should a new nurse resume use?

The combination template is typically a better fit for new nurses than the chronological one. It allows you to highlight your skills without hiding your lack of experience. Everyone in the industry knows that new nurses have to start somewhere. Here’s a quick tip: A cover letter can help new nurses overcome their lack of work experience.

Q. Do I need a cover letter, and if so, how do I write one?

If a cover letter is required, then yes, you need one. If it isn’t, consider if a cover letter would be beneficial in your situation. We thoroughly explore the cases in which a cover letter can serve you best and how to write one in our Nursing Cover Letter Guide.

Sources:

Lori Fuqua
Blog published on:
January 23, 2024

Lori is a contributing copywriter at Nursa who creates compelling content focusing on location highlights, nurse licensing, compliance, community, and social care.

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