A well-crafted resume is key to landing your first position in a hospital setting. Plus, if you’re already interested in working agency / traveling you know that you’ll need at least a year of acute-care experience before you can hit the road.
Once you do start traveling or working agency locally, your resume becomes more of a career snapshot; your work history and qualifications will be extensively documented and structured to meet the hiring needs of a wide array of hospital employers.
Until that time, though, a great resume is still a priority for an RN seeking a staff position. There’s just one problem – you have to draft a new nurse resume that’s going to get you in the door to your first real RN job
4 Essentials for Creating the Ideal New Nurse Resume
#1 – Follow standard resume etiquette.
- Don’t get so concerned about the details of your new nurse resume that you forget the basics. Unless you are given specific guidance to the contrary, stick to generally accepted resume norms:
- Keep your resume to one page. You will see guidance that this isn’t of concern anymore, but we hold that it’s best to adhere with standard practice. Plus, your resume will likely be reviewed alongside a full nursing application, so there will be plenty of information provided to the hiring manager.
- Always use “clean” fonts, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri.
- Use only one font on your resume. If you need variation, use bold or italics.
- Do not include text smaller than 10 pt font or larger than 12 pt font (excluding headers).
- Your resume should be free of typographical errors and spelling mistakes.
- Save and upload/email your resume as a PDF so that your formatting doesn’t change when it’s opened on another computer.
#2 – Layout matters.
First, the overall layout of your resume is important because if it’s sloppy or unappealing, it’s likely a nurse manager won’t bother to consider what it actually says. Common wisdom holds that nurse managers spend about six seconds reviewing each resume. Consider reviewing resume templates to find one that has aesthetic appeal and a sensible layout.
Second, the sections you choose to include – and the order you put them in – is important. We recommend something similar to the following:
1)Basic Contact Information
In this section, include your full name, email address (if you don’t have one, get a professional-sounding email – not Juicy420RN@something.com), and phone number in a way that stands out. Sometimes you’ll see full addresses included in this section – we highly recommend not including this for privacy reasons. Instead, just list your city and state.
New nurses sometimes decide to link to their social media here, particularly with LinkedIn. If you choose to do so, make sure your social media is professional. One questionable post or photo could take you out of consideration. We can’t emphasize this enough.
2) Resume Objective
Your resume objective should be a few sentences that give measurable goals. Articulate what you want from the nursing job you’re applying for, and what you believe you bring to the table that makes you the right person for the job.
3) Licenses and Certifications
List out your licenses and certifications with the full name of the license or certification followed by the parenthetical abbreviation (the reason for this will be detailed when we cover candidate screening software below), the full name of the issuing body, and the expiration date.
For your nursing license, include the state and license number. Also make a note if your license has compact nursing state privileges.
For your schooling, include all relevant education. This means you shouldn’t include things like your high school diploma, but should include your Bachelor of Science in Biochem. Make sure to make it clear whether you have an ADN or a BSN (and don’t use those acronyms without writing them out first!).
Even “new grads” have nursing experience!
Very few nursing schools lack a component of clinical rotations, practicums, or other training that involves hands-on nursing care. Maybe you weren’t paid for it, but – THAT IS EXPERIENCE. Be sure to specify what kinds of experience, and build your action-word-packed bullet points (more on this below) to demonstrate how this experience 1) is indicative of the quality healthcare you’re capable of, and 2) is going to help you succeed as an RN.
In the experience section, make sure to include details like type of work, start and end dates, weekly number of hours worked, name of the hospital or facility (plus city and state – “St. Joseph’s” doesn’t tell anyone anything), and name of your unit or department (Similarly, don’t provide a “5S” unit label! Stick to names that will be meaningful to your audience – “Med/Surg,” “Stepdown,” etc.).
#3- CHOOSE your language carefully.
The language that you choose to communicate your skills and experience is important. Try to use action words that show initiative instead of passive words or words that imply you were just following orders.
Example of Passive Language (POOR): Was responsible for caring for 5-10 patients per shift.
Example of Active Language (GOOD): Assessed and provided care for 5-10 patients per shift.
Additionally, using quantifiable words – as in, actual numbers or ranges – is always better than using general words like “many,” “frequent,” or “a lot.”
Example of General Words (POOR): Educated many parents on healthy lifestyle changes and proper medication administration to facilitate improved health and wellbeing for their child
Example of Quantifiable Words (GOOD): Educated more than 30 parents on healthy lifestyle changes and proper medication administration to facilitate improved health and wellbeing for their child
#4 – Tailor your resume to the specific employer and job posting.
One resume does not fit all nurse jobs. It’s important to customize your resume for the specific position you’re applying for. But don’t despair! This doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. Here’s what we suggest –
Create a master resume that goes into excruciating detail on what you’ve done and where and to what extent (remember, using action-packed verbiage and lots of numbers!). Don’t worry about length. The goal is just to have everything on there! Save this resume as a master, and then each time you apply for a new nurse job, you can save a version of this master and then start chopping.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you do this:
- You can include details about your previous hospital or healthcare facility employers to either build common ground with your new potential employer, or to impress them. What do we mean by this?
- To build common ground – Maybe your last job was in a critical care unit at a hospital in El Paso, Texas , but now you’re looking at a nursing job in New York City at a massive trauma center. You think there’s no commonality here, but with a little research, you realize both facilities use EPIC EMR systems. This is something you will build into your bullet points.
To show off – If you have experience at a very small hospital (sell as: I can do anything, because I had to be versatile!) or at a very large hospital (sell as: it was fast-paced, and I kept up!), at a teaching hospital, trauma center, or Magnet facility, there’s something you can pull into your experience to say, “Look at me, if I could this, I can do what you’ll need me to do.”
Take note of the job requirements. Does the job posting say, “Looking for a new nurse with a desire to hit the ground running?” Guess who you are! That’s right, new-nurse-with-a-desire-to-hit-the-ground-running. This can also help you get through any applicant screening software (see below).