Do Nurses Need a Professional Resume?

Do nurses need a professional resume? This question has probably crossed every nurses’ mind while searching for a new career and is still commonly asked in today’s medical industry.

While some may say it isn’t necessary, most HR professionals who work in the medical field would say otherwise. Even though the medical industry operates a bit differently when it comes to the hiring process, nurses should still take every measure to put their best foot forward to help themselves stand out in the interview process and a professional resume could make or break their chances.

Health eCareers tapped Dr. Tiffany Kelley PhD, MBA, RN for her thoughts on this subject, and we think her thoughts are worth reading. See what she had to say about the professional side of the nursing industry and the role that professional resumes play in the hiring process.

Every Nurse Should Have a Professional Resume

As nurses, we spend the majority of our time learning how to care for patients and their families. In school, we learn the science, the art and the skills involved in being a nurse. We also learn how to critically think and approach each patient using the nursing process.

But very little time is spent learning how to present your valuable experience, education and insights through a resume. Yet, resumes are a core requirement when thinking of applying for a new role in nursing. Whether you’re a new graduate of a nursing school program, a seasoned nurse looking to change positions or a nurse looking to re-enter the workforce after a number of years, you must ensure that your resume portrays you and your experience in a way that stands out to potential employers.

In general, for those newer nurses, one to two pages is recommended. More experienced nurses will have longer resumes that reflect the vast accomplishments over the course of their careers.

Who You Are

At the very top of the word document, be sure to clearly state who you are and how someone can reach you. This should include your full name, your credentials, mailing address, email address and a phone number. An email address and a phone number are the quickest way for a potential employer to contact you as the applicant.

Summary of Your Professional Experience

The next section of your resume should be a summary paragraph that highlights your professional experience. This paragraph should be a few sentences that offer characteristics about you as a nurse and as a professional. Additionally, you’ll want to summarize your experience that allows the potential employer to get a picture of you as a professional nurse. Lastly, highlight your strengths and what makes you stand out as an applicant. This is where you really want to portray yourself in the best possible light!

Your Professional Experience

Next, include your professional experience. In this section, you will list your current or most recent role first and all prior roles in reverse chronological order. The last listed position should be the first nursing and/or healthcare related role that you have had in your career. Include the place of employment and years of employment. Include your professional title in that role.

Beneath these descriptors, offer a few (3–5) bullet points of primary responsibilities and/or achievements within that role. Ensure that these bullet points speak to the responsibilities of the position that you are in search of next (to the extent possible). If you served on a committee or council, include those details as well.

Your Educational Experience

In this section of your resume, be sure to include your educational background. Where did you go to nursing school? What years did you attend? What was your GPA? For a new graduate nurse, the answers to these questions should be included within your resume.

If you’ve had additional educational experiences, be sure to include those as well. Perhaps you had a degree outside of nursing before nursing school. Include that information in your resume. Some of you may have already decided to further your education with another degree. Include those educational experiences within your resume. List the most recent degree and/or degree in progress first and the degree before that second and so forth. If you are currently enrolled in a degree program, include those details.

Publications, Grants and Speaking Events

Depending upon your nursing role and stage of your career, you may have publications, grants and/or speaking events that you’d want to include in your resume. If you have all three of these types of contributions, you may separate them out into different sections. Include the relevant details about each of these events that allows the potential employer to understand your accomplishments.

Some nursing positions, such as academic faculty members, require publications, grants and professional contributions at conferences to be considered for such a role. Thus, know your prospective employer audience.


This section should only be included if you have an award that relates to the nursing and/or health care profession. A past or current employer may have recognized you for some of your efforts. Take a moment to include it and show others how valuable you are to another department or organization.

Certifications and Licenses

As nurses, we are often required to have CPR and First Aid certification. Additionally, you’ll want to include information on the states where you are registered as a nurse. This may be one state or multiple states depending upon your career and prior roles. In this section, also include any additional certifications that you may have earned in your career.

Some positions require PALS or ACLS. If you have those certifications, include them in your resume. If you are board certified in a specialty practice of nursing, include that board certification. Include any other nursing related certifications and/or licenses that you may have in your resume.

Include a Cover Letter

In many cases the potential positions that you will find yourself applying for will be through an online application portal. This will require that you submit your resume for consideration. However, sometimes you will see an option to include a cover letter. This is often presented as an option and not a requirement. But I would highly encourage you to think carefully about the position and why you are applying for it. There must be something that captured your interest. Additionally, the description must have led you to believe you were qualified for the role.

The person receiving your resume will not likely know you. Thus, this is a great opportunity to provide an individualized description as to why you are interested in the role and how you are the person to consider for it.

A cover letter will help you stand out from other applicants. The cover letter will also give the recruiter, human resource professional or nursing manager some additional insight as to who you are as a professional nurse that cannot be captured from the resume alone.

Keep Your Resume Current

A resume is something that every nurse should have in their files. Your resume should be updated on a regular basis as you continue to build your experience, skills and professional roles. This should done at least once a year but perhaps even more frequently if you find yourself changing roles before the year is up and/or having more achievements to add.

Lastly, be sure you are presenting yourself in a confident manner and not minimizing your experiences and/or achievements. Take credit for the hard work you have done and will continue to do in your career. Finally, best of luck in your career search and continued development!

To see the original story on Health eCareer’s website, follow the link: