Step-by-Step Guide for Writing and Formatting a Nursing Resume

Writing a nursing resume for is a specialty in itself. 

There are so many degrees and specializations available in the field of nursing that a resume writer not closely familiar with the healthcare industry won’t be able to portray a precise picture.

Moreover, the many intricacies associated with the daily duties of an nursing can make this task even harder. 

So, what should you do when it comes to writing or updating your nursing resume?

Should you go around searching for specialized resume writers, or should you do it yourself? 

Well, in both cases, knowing how to write a nursing resume will surely help you in the process. 

In this article, we will provide a section-by-section how-to guide and all the tips that you need to create your nursing resume. 

First, take a look at a sample RN resume so that it becomes easier to follow along with the guidelines explained below: 

How to Write a Nursing Resume – Contact Information

At the top of your resume, you will place your name and contact information. 

Put your designation, specialty degrees, and certifications beside your name after a comma.

Here’s an example from an Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) resume. 

You can see “Jane Smith” is also a Registered Nurse Practitioner (RNP) – Board Certified, and a certified Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse (WOCN). 

If you are an ADN or a BSN-qualified registered nurse, put only RN beside your name. 

Keep revisiting and updating this section as you grow your career and get new degrees, certifications, and specializations.

Some of these might include Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

Also, make sure you are using a professional-looking email address. 

Use one with your name and initials instead of something fancy like supernurse@email.com

Professional Title & Resume Summary for Nursing Resumes

The next part of your RN resume is your professional title and resume summary. 

The practice of writing resume objectives is no longer in use. 

Go for a resume summary instead, as this showcases what you bring to the table as a registered nurse. 

Your resume summary is a five to six-sentence overview of your career right below your professional title. 

Include only the most impressive career details, skills, accomplishments, and experience. Always remember to keep every detail in as close relation to the job you are applying for as possible. 

Also, try to include numbers to quantify your achievements if possible. 

Your professional title and work summary will keep evolving as you move ahead in your career. 

Here’s how the professional title and the summary evolved when the BSN-prepared RN completed an MSN and became a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP):

You will have to make changes accordingly if you go for a DNP instead of, or along with, your MSN. 

Similar changes will also have to be made if you choose other specializations, such as becoming a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) and Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), instead of choosing to focus on a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).

Adding Skills to a Nursing Resume

After the summary section, you will want to add the skills section of your resume. 

You can title the section in a few ways, such as: 

  • “Core Expertise” 
  • “Areas of Excellence” 
  • “Core Competencies” 

In this section, use a bullet list of all the major skills, specializations, expertise, and other competencies that you have gained as an RN.

Make sure to include mainly the skills and competencies that will be ideal and/or required on the job you are applying for.  

As an example, if you are applying for a role at the Adult & Geriatric Care unit of a facility, including pediatric unit experience is not required. 

However, you can choose to include it if you have limited experience, and enough space on your resume to fit it in. 

Use a Chronological Nursing Resume Format 

From this stage onwards, your resume content and design will vary depending on the resume format you have chosen for your RN resume. 

For most cases, you will only need to be aware of three resume formats. 

  • Chronological resume format
  • Functional resume format
  • Combination resume format

In chronological format, your experience section gets the most prominent presentation. 

With the functional resume format, the skills section gets the center stage. 

And, as the name suggests, the combination format combines the two strategies and provides equal attention to both aspects of your career. 

In nursing, on-the-job training and experience are of utmost importance. So, always go for the chronological resume format where your experience and clinical training rotations would be most prominent. 

Also, some nurses worry about including experience from a unit that they do not want to work in anymore, such as having extensive experience in med-surg but hoping to move into NICU. 

Yes, you should still include all relevant nursing experience on your resume

Not including any specific experience can leave an employment gap on your resume, which can be seen in a negative light by employers and hiring managers. 

Include all of your experience, but balance the focus and prominence according to your target job. 

Experience Sections in a Nursing Resume

For adding your job experience to your resume, start with the most recent role. 

Include:

  • Name of the institute 
  • Location 
  • Job title
  • Tenure

As shown below:  

Then, move on to describe your main responsibilities and accomplishments. 

For reading ease, try to mix the use of paragraphs and bulleted sections. 

Write down your duties and responsibilities in a paragraph and then list all your relevant accomplishments using bullets. 

As with all the sections on your resume, tailor each of the details you include in response to the job description at hand:

  • Which department and unit are you going to work at? 
  • What kind of nursing activities will you be performing? 

Give the most focus to similar duties and accomplishments from your previous roles. 

If you have recently graduated from a nursing program, make use of your clinical rotations, internship, and experience as a student nurse.

As much as possible, utilize numbers to indicate the volume of patient care you are adept at handling.  

You can also include any prior healthcare experience that you have. 

Maybe you were a CNA or had other technical experience in nursing. If so, add a separate section to your RN resume titled “Additional Relevant Experience.” 

The above example also serves as a good reference of the use of numbers in your experience section, as well as utilizing both paragraphs and bullet lists. 

Nursing Resume Education Section

As a new graduate, it would be a good idea to include the education section of your resume above the clinical rotation and experience section. 

Just include:

  • Name of the degree or program
  • Name of the institute
  • Year of completion

Also, include your certifications and licensure in this section. 

You may use a separate subtitle such as “Professional Development” to indicate your certifications and licenses. 

If you are a member of any professional organizations or associations, this can be a good place to include them. 

Here’s something important to note: 

Depending on the amount of your professional experience and the year you completed your education, the placement of the education section will vary on your resume. 

If you have recently completed a nursing degree that is important for the role you are applying for, place it above the experience section. 

On the other hand, if your degrees were achieved more than a year ago and you have been working at a facility as an RN after getting the degree, place your education after the experience section. 

Suppose, after a few years working as a BSN-qualified RN, you obtain your MSN

Then you can again prioritize the education section in your resume by moving it higher up to showcase your recent degree and clinical rotations.

By formatting your RN resume this way, you provide the most visibility and prominence to your recent degrees and clinical hours instead of experience from a few years back. 

As you obtain additional degrees, specializations, and certifications, simply keep adding them to your education section. 

Here’s how your education section might look like after completing your DNP and a few other programs and certifications:

Should a Nursing Resume Be One or Two Pages? 

While describing your experience section, education, certifications, and other marks of professional development, you’ll want to keep the length of your resume in mind. 

For most entry-level positions, keeping your resume to a single page is the best practice. 

However, if you have a few years of experience under your belt and you need more space to detail all of your relevant experience and expertise, you can go up to two pages. 

On the other hand, if you are struggling to fill up your one-page resume, you can expand it by adding any volunteering and extracurricular experience you have. 

But make sure they are related to nursing or healthcare. 

For instance, you might have volunteered for a literary event at your nursing school, but that’s not relevant. 

However, if you helped organize an event at nursing homes and senior care facilities, you’ll definitely want to include that. 

In Conclusion, A Few Important Tips for Nursing Resumes

For each job you are applying to, always study the job description carefully and tailor your resume accordingly. 

Sending the same generic resume to all the jobs can significantly reduce the number of interview calls you get. 

Also, do not forget to search for the most prominent keywords from the job descriptions; place them within your resume content to make sure it gets past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). 

Don’t ignore the age-old advice of revising and proofreading your resume multiple times. 

You want to show yourself as a razor-sharp professional, and an error on your resume certainly wouldn’t help. 

And what about the text formatting and design – font size, margins, alignment, font colors, etc.? 

Pay close attention to these seemingly insignificant details as well. 

All these details affect the primary appearance of your resume and determine how visually appealing it might be. Play around with these options to find the perfect, professional combination. 

So, that’s about it! 

In closing, writing an RN resume is not an easy task. 

But with this comprehensive guide at hand, hopefully, you will get it done quickly and painlessly and be ready for the next opportunity that comes your way.