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How to Write a Nursing Resume

How to Write a Nursing Resume

It can be challenging to find a nursing job, whether you are a recent graduate or experienced healthcare professional. In order to land an interview for the role you want you need a clear and compelling nursing resume that reflects your education, skills, and accomplishments while addressing your desired employer’s requirements. Being specific and targeted with this will help you stand out from the pool of equally qualified candidates. Below are some steps, and some resume samples, you can take to tailor your nurse resume and land that interview!

Important Reminder: If you're looking for a job don't forget to create a free account and upload your resume. That way, employers can contact you directly about any upcoming opportunities.  

1. Do your Research

To write an effective nurse resume, you need to target information for your specific audience: the employer to which you’re applying. Go through the job description and review the employer’s website and social media platforms to understand their culture and values, and answer the following questions:

  • What do they do?
  • What is the organization’s culture like?
  • What are their pain points or biggest problems?
  • What qualities do you possess that will compel them to invite you for an interview?

2. Choose a Layout

Choosing the right document layout will help represent you as an individual, your academic standing, professional achievements, personal qualities, and career potential. Go with the style that best suits your skillset and the position for which you’re applying. The three main nurse resume formats commonly used are described, below.

Reverse Chronological

The reverse chronological format benefits nurses with extensive and relevant professional experience and is the most commonly used nurse resume. Employment stands out as the most important element and positions are listed in reverse chronological order, with the current or most recent job listed first. However, the downside is this format will highlight any gaps in employment, frequent job changes, and your approximate age. This format is best suited for:

  • Nurses with less than 5 roles within the past 5-7 years.
  • Nurses with experience in 1-2 specialties.
  • Nurses applying for a similar role to the one they’re currently in.
  • Nurses wanting to show vertical career progression.


The functional nursing resume type highlights skills, awards and accomplishments, and training. This makes it the preferred format for recent college graduates, those who took a break in their career, and other professionals who lack relevant work history. Keep in mind, a drawback of this format is that it can highlight the little nursing experience a candidate might have and, overall, hiring managers may not prefer it.


The most complex nurse resume type, the combination format, is a hybrid of the reverse chronological and functional formats. It allows you to creatively showcase both your professional experience and skills and training. However, keep in mind that the large amount of information can confuse readers if it’s not carefully and clearly presented. The combination format is best for nurses who:

  • Are highly experienced, especially with clinical specializations.
  • Have experience in multiple specialties and/or medical professions.
  • Have multiple small gaps in employment.
  • Are looking to change specialties or careers.

See below for examples of the functional and combination nurse resume formats. The end of this article provides examples of the reverse chronological resume format.


3. Create a Nurse Resume Foundation and Note your Key Points

You can create a strong resume foundation by determining industry-specific needs and targeted keywords for a few employers. Then, alter your resume slightly for each role you apply to. There’s no need to start from scratch, but you need to tailor your nursing resume to what each employer wants in a team member (of course, it is just as important to consider your needs and whether the job fits what you need for professional advancement and satisfaction). You should never submit anything that isn’t targeted to a specific employer and role.

A good place to start with your targeted resume is by:

  • Writing down key responses to an employer’s criteria. This includes your relevant education, certification, and professional experience.
  • Creating an outline from these responses by elaborating where needed and ensuring your overall tone is professional, confident, and approachable.
  • Expanding the outline by turning key points into complete sentences organized by headings.

Your finished product should be detailed and easy to scan for key points, as hiring managers may only take mere seconds before deciding whether to move candidates on to the next step of the process or to reject them.


Required and Preferred Qualifications

Addressing a potential employer’s specifications is the main objective in writing a nurse resume. Job postings for nurses consist of extensive requirements since the field requires advanced academic and professional training along with licenses and clinical experience. These requirements include required and preferred criteria. Be sure to detail how you fulfill both the required qualifications and as many preferred ones as possible, without overcrowding the page.

Of course, the more preferred qualifications you can showcase, the better your chances are of getting called for an interview. Keep in mind, however, that these desired skills are not dealbreakers and you may still be considered even if you don’t have them - so don’t let them deter you from applying for jobs you’re interested in! While you may come across some employers that reject applicants without all required qualifications, don’t be discouraged. Many employers view job descriptions as a guideline rather than a non-negotiable list. They must evaluate candidates against one another and they won’t know the qualifications of their applicant pool in advance of posting the job. So, you have nothing to lose if you still apply and put your best foot forward.


4. Use the Right Formatting, Design, and Keywords

You want to stand out by creating a well-formatted and visually engaging nursing resume, but concise and neat is best. Don’t go overboard with multiple fonts and colours. Also, strongly consider the fact that many employers are using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to deal with the high volume of incoming job applications they regularly receive. In order to be picked out from the crowd, you need to ensure your nurse resume contains the right keywords that an ATS will identify.

Here’s how it works: the ATS ranks and categorizes resumes by how many designated keywords they contain. The process is streamlined and reduces an employer’s workload, theoretically weeding out resumes with a large amount of filler content (which can indicate a lack of qualifications). An employer can enter specific keywords for the ATS to scan for. They may choose to include  “knockout questions” to quickly eliminate unqualified candidates, such as, “Are you a registered nurse in Alberta?” Or, they could include “disqualifying statements” to automatically screen candidates out. For instance, if an ATS is programmed to screen out all resumes lacking a bachelor’s degree, anyone with a certificate or other credential will automatically be rejected. An ATS can also be set up to only deliver resumes that include exact keywords. The downside of the system is it can unnecessarily reject suitable nurses as part of automated software processes. To avoid this unfair outcome, learning how to write a nursing resume requires working within and overcoming challenges with the ATS framework, by implementing the suggestions below.

Use Simple Headers

Add terms to your headers that are common enough to show up in keyword searches (for instance, “skills,” “professional experience,” and “education”). Don’t forget to include your city and province, since employers generally vet candidates by location.

Add Keywords/Phrases

Look for relevant keywords in the job description or research phrases commonly found in the nursing field (such as “nurse practitioner,” “clinical research,” and “community outreach”). No matter what, avoid abbreviations.

Include Employer and Industry-Specific Terminology

The more specific a keyword is to the particular position you are applying for, the better. Use the hiring employer’s phrases first, industry terms second, and your current or previous employer’s terminology third.

The following formatting recommendations consider the functionality of applicant tracking systems: 

Margins: Top margin should be set at 1”, side margins at 0.63”. This strikes a good balance of text to white space.

Alignment: Left alignment is standard since that’s how most people (and ATS robots) read. Justified alignment may look cleaner, but it can leave uneven gaps between words and make text harder to read.

Length: This should not be the focus of a nursing resume. Though 1-2 pages is standard, some nurses may have resumes with 3+ pages. If your resume is slightly over the end of a page by a few lines, try changing the margin, font style, or font size, or shortening statements.

Font style: Verdana, Tahoma, Times New Roman, or Arial will best utilize the functionality of an ATS (note: Times New Roman can be difficult to read if it’s smaller than 11 point).

Font sizes: You should be using different sized fonts throughout your resume. A 10-point font should be the smallest anywhere in the document. Here are some guidelines for each section:

  • Name: 18-22 point
  • Contact info: 10-11 point
  • Section headers: 12-14 point
  • Descriptions: 10-11 point

Font colour: It’s best to stick to just black. This is the most professional and you’ll be sure any ATS can read it.

Special characters: Basic bullet points (black dot) may be used and simple lines can work well. Do not use clip art, photos, or multiple font styles. Keep it simple!

Don’t forget to check out our nursing job board where you can search by keyword or location. New jobs get posted daily! You can also create a free account and upload your cover letter/resume so employers can contact you directly.

5. Include this Information on your Nursing Resume

Education and training. This section should come first if you are a new grad. List your licenses, provincial designations, certification, and awards and honours.

  • Start with your highest degree, then work backwards. Exclude high school information as employers don’t look at this. If you are currently working on a degree, state that it’s in progress and include your expected completion date.
  • For license information, use this order: license type, licensing province/body, license name and number, and expiration date.
  • For certifications, start with the name, followed by organization, expiration, and certification number, if applicable. List any certification exams and post-degree training fully, without acronyms (for instance, in areas like gerontology or cardiovascular nursing).
  • Your awards and honours might include academic recognition, official awards, competitive scholarships, fellowships, grants, and internships.
  • Include any membership in professional organizations such as the Canadian Nurses Association.

Experience. Display professional nursing experience in reverse chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent position. Be prepared to address any gaps in employment. Start with the job title and specialty, then facility name and employment dates. After that, list facility- and unit-specific information, including total beds, trauma levels, and patient demographics. Be as specific about your duties as possible (for instance, a nursing home nurse does not perform the same tasks as an urgent care nurse). Address conditions or diseases you’ve treated, types of medication you’ve administered (and how), and experience with specific types of therapy and equipment. Use action verbs (e.g. administered, treated) and positive adjectives that reflect your dedication to patient care and organizational success. If you are a new grad, include any previous positions you had that relate to customer service and communication.

Skills. This section mostly benefits from keywords. From an employer’s job description, you can easily see what skills they want. Write this section specific to those needs. You could categorize your skills by area, such as basic care, technical, administrative, and computer. Don’t forget soft skills like reliability and adaptability or special skills like an additional language, as these things can make you stand out from other applicants.

Volunteer work. Unpaid positions demonstrate that you understand the importance of community education, outreach, and engagement. Only include those that relate to nursing or the healthcare field.

What to Include on your Nurse Resume if you Lack Experience

If you’re a recent college graduate, a professional switching careers, or short on clinical experience, you can use a functional hybrid resume format that places academic credentials, qualifications, and skills above the employment section. To boost your nurse resume further, highlight provincial licenses, optional certification, and organizational membership as well.

You can include an introductory biography that speaks to your professional values as a nurse and the training and education you possess. Position your skills as they relate to actual work scenarios that nurses face. Hospital managers want to see critical thinking, safe practice, customer service, and interpersonal communication. Your clinical training experience as a nursing student can be described to show employers you possess such skills. Frame them in terms of achievements. Note your related volunteer experience in its own section, as this shows you have not just practical qualifications for the job, but also a passion for the well-being and equitable healthcare of patients in all communities.


6. Avoid these Common Resume Mistakes

Be sure to proofread your completed nurse resume and avoid the following things:

  • Typos
  • Birthday or age - to avoid age discrimination
  • Salary information - a prospective employer could judge your salary as too high or too low
  • Personal information such as photos, religious affiliations, SIN, marital status, and kids
  • Using only a nickname - if you use a shortened or different name, include both your legal name and your nickname
  • Outdated information - include your most current and relevant positions
  • Using first person pronouns - avoid using “I” statements. Your nursing resume should be in third person
  • Contact information in the header - an ATS will not catch text in headers
  • Unprofessional email addresses
  • Misnaming a resume document - remove vagueness by naming your resume so it can easily be distinguished and retrieved (in a format such as “First name Last name specialty resume.doc”)


Nurse Resume Samples

Below are some examples of nursing resumes for you to see our advice put into practice. The first is in reverse chronological, the most common format, for a candidate with a number of years experience, and the second is in functional hybrid format for a recent graduate looking to begin their nursing career.


Resume Sample 1 (Reverse Chronological)

Molly Murphy
1234 Walnut Street, Calgary, AB

Registered nurse with 8+ years of experience providing quality care to a wide variety of patients. Possesses a Master’s qualification in nursing and currently focused on earning a Doctorate Degree in this field. Aiming to leverage my experience and knowledge to effectively fill the nursing position at your hospital.


Registered Nurse, September 2011 – Present

  • Provide direct quality care to patients including daily monitoring, recording, and evaluating of medical conditions of up to 30 patients per day
  • Developed and direct a rotational system in managing the care of patients in the department
  • Coordinate workforce management objectives with a focus on individual, departmental, and hospital-wide initiatives
  • Led and mentored 8 newly licensed nurses in developing and achieving professional expertise
  • Interact and communicate with patients of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, giving quality medical care and treatment

Assistant Nurse, July 2007 – August 2011

  • Assisted physicians in taking blood pressure, measuring heartbeat, and recording vitals in physical examinations
  • Collaborated with 5 other nursing staff in maintaining a calm environment in caring for patients
  • Supervised the admission of patients in emergency cases and directed the transferring of patients from their locations to the hospital via ambulance
  • Commended by supervisors for handling difficult situations involving both patients and their families



Master of Science in Nursing, June 2007

  • Vice President, National Student Nursing Association, 2005-2007

Bachelor of Science in Nursing, June 2002


  • CNCC(C) - Certified Nurse in Critical Care Canada
  • Member, College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta


Resume Sample 2 (Functional Hybrid Format) 

Molly Murphy
1234 Walnut Street, Calgary, AB

Registered nursing recent graduate seeking to use earned skills and knowledge to assist your hospital in a nursing role. Proven to ably handle any medical emergency or situation, with the requisite skill-set to perform under pressure. Excellent interpersonal skills, and a dedicated worker with a sense of purpose. Possess a BS in Nursing.



Bachelor of Science in Nursing, May 2019

  • Student Nursing Association, Member 2017-2019


  • Observational Methods
  • Principles of Teaching Applied to Nursing
  • Pharmaceuticals Oncology
  • Qualitative Analysis


  • Registered Nurse: Alberta Nursing Board, License #0000000
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) certified by Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Preceptorship Nurse Spring 2017 – Present

  • Monitored eight assigned patients, updating information on vital signs and progress of treatment.
  • Documented data related to patients’ care including assessment results, interventions, medications, patient responses, or treatment changes.
  • Assessed condition of patients, ordering and evaluating diagnostic tests as needed.

Clinical Practicum in Acute Care Fall 2015-2017

  • Collaborated with other healthcare professionals to plan, manage, and assess patient treatments in the acute care unit with a bed capacity of 40 patients.
  • Administered blood product transfusions or intravenous infusions, monitoring patients for adverse reactions.
  • Performed emergency medical procedures, such as basic cardiac life support (BLS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and other condition stabilizing interventions.
  • Discussed illnesses and treatments with patients and family members in a supportive manner.


Server September 2017 – April 2019

  • Accurately noted and served food and beverage orders from students and staff seated in the cafe, providing friendly, fast, and efficient customer service.


Resume Sample Templates 

Download the above resume samples in pre-made templates so you can easily edit and add in your own information. 




Remember to use these tips to write a targeted and specific nursing resume that will get your foot in the door of your next employer and advance your career. These things will help you stand out from the crowd so you can land a job that's a great fit with who you are and what you bring to the exciting field of nursing.


Author Bio:

Emma Caplan writes and edits client-facing documents and takes pride in making them sales-ready and reader-friendly. She has additional experience in quality control and proofreading. She has written articles and podcast summaries for the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast, edited fiction and non-fiction books, and volunteers as a copy editor for Editors BC’s West Coast Editor and Students for High Impact Charities.

Emma has also earned a certificate in editing and a bachelor of management degree. In her free time, Emma enjoys hiking, travelling, and creating jewelry. Connect with her on LinkedIn


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