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Resume Building

How to Optimize Your Resume for Nurses

15 Minute Read


Your resume is often the first impression you make on hiring managers, and for RNs, it plays a crucial role in securing the dream nursing job you’ve always wanted. Taking time to optimize a resume for nurses is essential at any career stage – whether you’re a seasoned nurse looking to advance or a recent graduate eager to jump into the profession.

In this guide, you’ll be provided with nurse resume optimization tips, essential sections you’ll want to include in your resume, and even some templates to get you started so you can be on your way to securing your ideal job. To make it easier to jump from section to section, use our hyperlinks to navigate to the information you need.

Optimizing Your Resume for Nurses

Everything You Need On a Resume for Nurses

Nurse Resume Examples

Optimizing Your Resume for Nurses

Before we dive into the sections to include on your resume, here are a few key pointers to have top of mind as you write.

Resume Format

You’ll want to start with a clean, easy-to-scan resume format. Often, companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen applications before sending the top resumes to a recruiter or hiring manager. Then, the recruiter or hiring manager has a pile of resumes to sift through before they identify the best job candidates to contact, and studies show they only take a few seconds to look over your information before they decide to push your application through to the next round or reject it. So, your resume has two immediate hurdles to cross: the ATS and the recruiter or hiring manager. Make your resume easy to read by keeping it to 1-2 pages and choosing a simple resume format, following these tips: 

  • Display your name and contact information large and clear at the top.
  • After your contact information, break your resume down into smaller sections with headings for work experience, education, skills, etc. 
  • For your work experience, use bullet points for easy scanning as you write out the details of your relevant jobs.
  • Use simple fonts instead of cursive fonts that are hard to read (and hard for an ATS to interpret). It’s best to stick with a font size of 10 points and above. 
  • There’s no need to add a picture of yourself or go crazy with color on your resume. The information on your resume should be what stands out – not a font, color, or photo. 
  • If your resume surpasses two pages, take time to make your bullet points more concise, only displaying relevant information that best highlights your skills.

Know that you might not fall in love with the first draft of your resume, and that’s expected! Start with a format you like, fill out your information, and then tweak it as needed. If you’re having trouble getting started, you can access free templates later in this blog.

Relevant Keywords

We’ve already mentioned ATSs, but it’s important to note why employers use them. An ATS screens resumes, searching for keywords that align with a job’s description and picking top candidates to pass along to a recruiter or hiring manager. Think of the keywords that stand out to you when you look over a job description for a nurse role and ensure you’re adding bullet points that speak to these keywords and your experience. This will increase the chances of your resume making it through the ATS and into the hands of a human recruiter or hiring manager.

Quantify Your Achievements

To truly make your expertise shine, use specific metrics and numbers to quantify your accomplishments wherever possible. Instead of vague statements like “improved patient outcomes,” use quantifiable figures so you can demonstrate the impact of your work. For example, state that you “increased patient satisfaction by 20% through effective care strategies.” If you have managing or precepting experience, this must go on your resume, and it’s the perfect opportunity to use numbers. For instance, you can write that you “supervised and guided 3 new nurses as a preceptor.” Quantifying your achievements not only adds credibility but also paints a vivid picture of your contributions to your past jobs.

Everything You Need On a Resume for Nurses

Now that you have these optimization tips, it’s time to start crafting your resume. We’ll give you some pointers for each section.

Your header and objective (if you’re including one) should be at the top, but then you might choose to rearrange the order of the sections after these, depending on the stage you’re at in your career. For instance, a new grad nurse might put education before work experience, since that is the bulk of the nurse’s professional involvement so far.

  • Header
  • Objective (optional)
  • Work Experience
  • Education
    • Professional Memberships
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • And Skills

Nursing Resume Header

Your nursing resume header should contain your name and contact information, including your phone number, email address, and current city and state, displayed prominently to ensure easy accessibility for potential employers.

Nursing Resume Objective

Next, consider adding a powerful summary statement or objective to your resume. This brief section should provide an overview of your years of clinical experience, any management or preceptor experience you’ve gained, the skills that you’ve acquired, and what you want in your next job. While some choose to omit this section, your nursing resume objective is an opportunity to capture the recruiter or hiring manager’s attention and give them a clear understanding of what you bring to the table.

Work Experience for Nursing Resume

Clinical experience is a vital part of any resume for nurses. Here are a few pointers to make your work experience section easy for a hiring manager or recruiter to understand.

  • Organize in Reverse Chronological Order
    • When listing your clinical experience, begin with your most recent position and work backward. This format helps employers quickly understand your current level of expertise and progression in your nursing career.
  • Facility Name and Location
    • Include the name of the healthcare facility where you worked and its location – a city and state or just the state will do. This information gives employers insights into the settings in which you’ve gained your experience and whether they align with the position they’re offering.
  • Your Role
    • Clearly state your role or job title in each position. Whether you were a nurse in a specific specialty, a charge nurse, or a nurse manager, it’s essential to convey your level of responsibility and authority in the role.
  • Dates of Employment
    • Mention the start and end dates of your employment at each facility. This provides a clear timeline of your experience.
  • Accomplishments and Responsibilities
    • The heart of your clinical experience section lies in the accomplishments and responsibilities you include. Instead of providing a generic list of tasks, focus on specific achievements and duties that make you stand out. Remember to use bullet points to make this information easily scannable and that adding metrics is a great way to quantify your achievements!

Education for Nursing Resume

Including your educational background on your nursing resume not only provides insight into your qualifications but also showcases your commitment to professional growth and development, especially if you’ve earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

For the education section of your resume, clearly state your nursing degree, specifying whether it’s a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or any other relevant degree. Include the institution where you earned your degree and the college’s location, and then, include the month and year when you graduated. If you received any academic honors or awards, you can mention them in this section as well.

For recent graduates, your education section can be placed prominently, even before your work experience, since your academic achievements are often the most recent and relevant qualifications you possess. As you gain more experience in the field, the focus of your resume will shift more toward your work experience, but your education still remains a vital part of your professional identity.

Professional Memberships

If you’re a member of nursing associations or organizations, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) or the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), be sure to mention these affiliations, as they demonstrate your commitment to the nursing profession and continuous learning.

Licenses and Certifications for Nursing Resume

Showcasing your licenses and certifications on your nursing resume is an absolute necessity. Here’s how you can present your licenses and certifications effectively.

  • RN License: When listing your RN license on your resume, be sure to include the state in which you are licensed, as licensing requirements can vary in each state. Your license should always be current, so verify the expiration date and ensure it is updated before applying for a new job.
  • BLS Certification: Your Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is another critical credential that shows you have the skills to provide immediate life-saving care in emergency situations. Ensure that your BLS certification is current, and clearly mention it on your resume, including the date of certification and the issuing organization.
  • Specialty Certifications: Depending on your nursing specialization, you may have additional certifications that demonstrate your expertise in a particular area of nursing. Make sure to clearly list all relevant specialty certifications, along with their expiration dates and the issuing organizations.

Nursing Skills for Resume

The skills section of your resume should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for, matching the requirements of the position and the needs of the healthcare facility. The types of skills you might add include technical, soft, and specialty skills.

  • Technical Skills: These are the fundamental competencies that every nurse should possess. For example, you may include skills like patient assessment, medication administration, wound care, IV therapy, and infection control. 
  • Soft Skills: In addition to technical skills, it’s crucial to emphasize your soft skills. Nursing is a profession that demands empathy, effective communication, and the ability to work well in a team. These skills are often just as important as clinical proficiency in ensuring quality patient care.
  • Specialized Skills: If you possess any specialized skills or knowledge relevant to the job you’re applying for, be sure to include them. These could include certifications or training related to your nursing specialty, such as neonatal nursing, critical care, or perioperative nursing.

Nursing Resume Examples

Attention to detail is crucial in nursing, and the same applies to any resume for nurses. Ensure that your resume is free of typos, grammatical errors, and formatting issues.

If you don’t have a resume already, we’re here to help! You can get started with our nursing resume templates, which we’ve created for multiple nursing career stages. Just follow this link and fill out the form to get email templates sent directly to your inbox.

  • New grad resume
  • Travel nurse resume
  • Experienced nurse resume
  • Generic nursing or allied health resume
    • Three options

New Grad Nurse Resume

As a new nurse graduate, you’re not expected to have years of nursing experience to display on your resume, but you still have a wealth of information you can include. Here are a few tips to help make your resume as strong as it can be.

  • Spotlight your clinical experiences. Describe the healthcare facilities you’ve worked in, the departments you’ve rotated through, and your responsibilities during these experiences. Whether it’s patient assessments, medication administration, or specialized procedures, these instances underscore your practical skills.
  • Nursing is more than the technical side of things. You’ll often hear about patients or their families referencing a nurse’s bedside manner. Showcase your soft skills and interpersonal abilities loud and proud because they make you good at your job. Your soft skills might include communication, empathy, and teamwork abilities that you strengthened through clinical rotations or volunteer work.
  • For more ideas on how to make your new grad nurse resume spectacular, read our blog covering all of our resume tips for new grad professionals. And if you’re considering writing a nursing cover letter, too, read our blog that includes everything you will want to put on it.

Travel Nurse Resume

Maybe you need to refresh your travel nurse resume. Or, maybe you want to learn a different specialty and need to take a longer contract (which Nucleus now offers!) to do it. Whichever the case, it might be difficult to know just how to include 5 years’ worth of traveling on your nursing resume, but if you’ve been a traveler, you have a load of skills that make you a strong job candidate. First off, you’ll want to highlight your years of experience as a travel nurse and a nurse in general in your resume objective (we’d recommend that you include one). When hiring managers see that you’ve been a travel nurse, they know that you were often expected to work the unit with little to no onboarding and that you work well in new environments.

When it comes to your work experience, you might wonder how to list all of your assignments. Start by writing your travel nurse assignments in reverse chronological order, including details such as:

  • Travel agency and facility name
  • Your job title and dates of employment
  • Facility bed size
  • Notable achievements and outcomes during the assignment

Emphasize your flexibility and adaptability – traits that are highly valued in travel nurses, and highlight any experiences that demonstrate your ability to thrive in various healthcare settings.

Ready to Find Your Next Job?

No matter which career stage you are in, with these tips and strategies, you’re on your way to creating a well-optimized nursing resume that increases your chances of landing your dream job. If you’d like extra help finding that ideal job, you’re in the right place! You can browse our latest job postings, or upload your resume on our website to connect with a Nucleus recruiter, who can guide you to meaningful careers in the healthcare field.


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