How To Write a New Grad Nursing Resume

How to Write an Exceptional New-Grad Nursing Resume

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Writing a new-grad nursing resume is a daunting task for most new-grads. The fear of having no experience and being unqualified leaves many wondering what details to include. Moreover,  many new-grads wonder how to structure their nursing resume in a way that best conveys their current skill-set and value to prospective employers. As former recruiters, we reviewed thousands of new-grad resumes. In this blog post, we’ll draw on that experience to provide a comprehensive guide to creating an amazing nursing resume for new-grads.

How to Structure Your New-Grad Nursing Resume

How you structure your resume has an impact on its effectiveness. Let’s first consider which headings to include on your resume. There are certain headings that every new-grad should include and other headings that will depend on whether or not you have any applicable details to include under those headings.

Headings that every new-grad nursing resume should include (Required)

Every new-grad resume should include the following headings (we’ll discuss why we recommend these headings and provide tips for each below):

  1. Summary
  2. Licenses and Certifications
  3. Education
  4. Clinical Rotations

Optional headings for your new-grad nursing resume

Each of the following headings should be considered and included based on whether or not you have relevant details to include:

  1. Work History
  2. Affiliations
  3. Volunteer Activities
  4. Honors and Awards
  5. Skills Summary
  6. Languages

How to order the headings

Now let’s take a look at the ordering of the headings. Of course, your contact information should be at the top of your resume. As usual, you should place the Summary as first heading on your resume. Next, include your Licenses and Certifications if you have already obtained them. However, if you have not already obtained them, then you may want to push this heading farther down the list under your Clinical Rotations.

Next, include your Education followed by your Clinical Rotations. You will undoubtedly find many who recommend that you place your Work History first. Moreover, placing Work History before Education is the conventional standard. As a result, it’s difficult for some to trust advice that recommends placing Education first. So, here’s our supporting argument…

As a new-grad, you may not even have work experience. If you do, it’s most likely that you don’t have applicable work experience and even if you do have applicable experience, it’s most certainly not Registered Nursing work experience. You can’t obtain RN work experience without an RN license and you can’t get an RN license without first graduating from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX.

Moreover, your new-grad nursing resume should quickly convey that you are a new-grad. There is no point in trying to hide this fact. If employers are considering new-grads for an open position, then recruiters and hiring managers are going to be receptive to your situation. If they’re not considering new-grads for the opening and are instead requiring experience for the position, then they’re not going to be receptive to your situation. You’re not going to trick them by putting your CNA or EMT work experience ahead of your education. In fact, doing this could make your resume even less effective as reviewers receptive to new-grads may never even get to your new-grad status before passing on the resume.

Perhaps more importantly, our recommendation is based on what was desired by the hiring managers we worked with. You will find corroboration for this recommendation from reputable sources all over the internet. For example, the sample new-grad resumes from California State University Chico and University of Texas San Antonio both have the headings listed in the order we recommend. Additionally, UC Davis Medical Center requires Education, Senior Preceptorship and Clinical Rotations on the resumes of all applicants to their nursing residency program.

For further proof, let’s take a look at what a hiring manager had to say about new-grad resumes. As the Director of Workforce Development for Orange County Memorial Care University and a Board Member of the Association of California Nurse Leaders, Maria-Jean Caterinicchio, RN, MS said, “It (your resume) should state where you have done your clinicals and any certifications such as EKG and ACLS. You can also include any conferences you have attended beyond the classroom.” Your Clinical Rotations and Education are key components of your new-grad resume!

That takes care of the 4 required headings. The 6 optional headings can be ranked as you see fit. Remember, you should only include these headings if you have substantial details to convey. And you may want to rank them in order of strength as they relate to the job in question. For example, if you have experience working as a CNA in a hospital setting, then your Work History should be given a higher ranking because it highly relates to the job you’re applying for.

Specific Details to Include on Your New-grad Nursing Resume

Summary

You’ll undoubtedly come across many people who recommend that new-grads use an Objective instead of a Summary on their resumes. The argument is that you really have nothing to summarize as a new-grad. However, we think that Objectives are an outdated resume heading that do nothing to advance your main objective of conveying why you’re the right person for the job. Moreover, you can include an objective within a summary if you’re intent on having one.

Here are three articles from major publications that support summaries over objectives:

  1. Forbes on Summaries
  2. themuse on Summaries
  3. Careerealism on Summaries

Now, you may have heard that recruiters spend 6 seconds reviewing your resume. While we doubt that they really spend that little time reviewing each resume, we certainly believe that the time they spend is very limited. Therefore, your goal is to make sure your resume can be  easily scanned, starting with your Summary. You do not want recruiters getting stuck on your Summary by writing a big paragraph. Instead, use bullet points and try to keep each point at 1 to 2 lines.

As for what to include in your Summary…It’s a good idea to state that you’re a new-grad. You might summarize your clinical rotations. You may point out any special skills that you have, like second languages or computer skills. And, as mentioned previously, you may include an objective.

Licenses and Certifications

We recommend listing each license and certification with the following information:

  1. Full name of the license or certification.
  2. Full name of the issuing body of the license or certification.
  3. Expiration date of the license or certification if applicable.
  4. License or certification number if applicable.
  5. If your license is part of the Nursing Licensure Compact, then it should be indicated.

Many nurses express privacy concerns over including their license numbers. Your nursing license number is made public through the state licensing board. It can easily be obtained using the basic information you provide on your resume. Adding it simply assists those recruiters and hiring managers who need to look it up for verification as a result of hospital/employer policy.

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Education for Your New-Grad Nursing Resume

You should display all of your relevant college education. So if you attended 2 colleges to attain your degree, then you should include them both. Please do not include your high school education. We recommend including the following information for each pertinent education institution you attended:

  1. Full official name of the education institution.
  2. City and State
  3. Dates attended.
  4. Degree achieved.
  5. GPA if it was good.

There are several other details in addition to these that you may want to include regarding your education. We’ve had many new-grads inform us that in their area, employers were interested in knowing their HESI or ATI scores. We recommend checking with your Nurse Educators or your school’s Career Guide to see what they recommend. You may also wish to include relevant coursework and corresponding grades if you got an A. However, keep this brief and relevant to the job you’re applying for.  Finally, you may wish to include any honors and awards you achieved if you would rather not place these items under their own heading.

Clinical Rotations on Your New-Grad Nursing Resume

Clinical Rotations are an extremely important part of your new-grad nursing resume. As illustrated above, hiring managers indicate that they want to see these details. Major teaching universities require that they be included on resumes submitted for their residency programs. We consider them the crux of your new-grad resume. At a minimum, you should include the following:

Details to include about your clinical rotations

  1. Type of experience (Clinical Rotation, Senior Preceptorship, other).
  2. Start and end dates.
  3. Total number of hours worked.
  4. Name of the hospital or institution.
  5. City and State.
  6. Name of the unit/department (examples: Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Medical Surgical Unit (MS), Labor and Delivery Unit (L&D)).

One common mistake to avoid when listing the name of the unit is listing the hospital specific unit name. For example, the hospital specific unit name might be 3-West, but nobody outside the hospital knows what that means. Instead, list the type of unit it was as designated by the type of patients the unit took.

In addition to the details above, we also recommend including the following information:

Optional details to include about your clinical rotations

  1. Facility type: Every facility has a technical designation. For example, most hospitals are “Acute Care Hospitals”. Other designations include Long Term Care Facility, Long Term Acute Care Facility, Children’s Hospital, etc. Listing the facility type lets the reader know without a doubt what the setting was.
  2. Number of beds in the facility.
  3. List the facility’s trauma designation if applicable.
  4. If the facility was a teaching hospital, then include that information.
  5. Number of beds on the unit you were assigned to.
  6. Trauma designation of the unit you were assigned to if applicable.
  7. Age range of the patients the unit cared for if applicable.
  8. Nurse to patient ratio on the unit.
  9. Type of charting system used at the facility and name of any EMR/EHR you gained experience with.
  10. The grade you received if it was an A.

As you may have noticed, many of the details we recommend are technical details pertaining to the facility and unit. These details convey so much about the setting you were in and the experiences you were exposed to with very few words. So including them provides the reader with a ton of useful information. Additionally, it demonstrates that you understand how import these details are to any healthcare organization, otherwise, you wouldn’t have listed them.

Additional options for highlighting your clinical rotations

Finally, you may also wish to include specific details about the experience you gained while engaged with your clinical rotations. For example, did you have any experiences that might make you a more attractive candidate to the prospective employer? Did you learn anything specific about compassion for patients, team work, the importance of learning and growth as a new-grad RN? If you did, then try to offer the specifics to illustrate exactly what happened.

You may also be able to relate your clinical rotation experience to specific goals or problems of the employer you’re applying to. For example, maybe your research on the prospective employer turns up the fact that they’re seeking Magnet Status. If one of the facilities that you worked at during your rotations was seeking to achieve the same goal, then you may be able to find some way to relate your experience to it. Or, perhaps the prospective employer is trying to improve their HCAHPS score and one of the facilities you worked at just achieved success with a similar endeavor. There are limitless possibilities with this option. The main idea is to try and relate your experience during clinical rotations to a real problem or goal faced by the prospective employer.

At this point, we’ve covered each of our recommended required headings. As you may have noticed, we’ve offered tons of options. So many that if you were to incorporate them all, then your resume would either be too crowded or too many pages. However, many of the details we offer are simply for your consideration. It’s not required to include them all. So pick and choose the ones that work best for you by researching the job in question and determining which details will be of most value to the prospective employer.

Optional Details for Your New-grad Nursing Resume

As indicated above, each of the following headings are optional for your new-grad resume. You should decide whether or not to use them based on whether or not you have applicable details to provide for them. Let’s take a brief look at each of them

Work History

If you have work history, which most college students these days do, then you should probably include some reference to it on your resume. Try your best to convey how the experience relates to nursing. This will be a lot easier to do if the experience was healthcare related. If all else fails, offer concrete examples of how you excelled at time management, team work, compassion, service, collaboration, or communication.

One important issue to consider regarding work history is stability. Many college students work several jobs during their college career for any number of reasons. Too many short term stints may exhibit instability to prospective employers who are about to devote a large amount of resources to you. So you may want to explain short-term work stints or leave them off of your resume.

Affiliations

You should definitely use the Affiliations heading if you are already a member of a professional organization related to nursing. For example, if you’re a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, then prospective employers will want to know. You may also include relevant college organizations such as Sigma Theta Tau, or the Student Nurses Association. Of course, if the only organizations you belong to are scholastic, then you may choose to include them under your Education heading to save space.

When listing your affiliations, consider including the following details:

  1. Full name of the organization.
  2. Date joined.
  3. Your designation within the organization.
  4. Any special duties.
  5. Organization conferences attended.

Volunteer Activities

Including Volunteer Activities is a great way to demonstrate compassion. You may have volunteered for charity or at a healthcare facility. Consider including the following details:

  1. Full name of the organization.
  2. Dates of engagement.
  3. Quantify the number of hours volunteered.
  4. Description of duties and results you achieved if applicable.
  5. Any awards or recognition you received.

Honors and Awards

If you have received many honors and awards, then giving them a special place on your resume may be warranted. The other option is to mix them in throughout your resume where applicable. Consider including the following details:

  1. Name or title of the award.
  2. Date received.
  3. Organization received from.
  4. Significance of the award, or reason it was received.

Skills Summary

For most new-grads, a Skills Summary heading may not be warranted. Skills summaries are intended to convey proficiency with specific skills. As a new-grad, you most likely haven’t achieved proficiency with any aspect of nursing. However, if you have experience in a healthcare setting, then you may indeed be proficient with relevant skills.

For example, you may be certified in phlebotomy or Crisis Prevention. In any case, if you haven’t achieved proficiency, then you may be better served by listing skills as details under the heading that pertains to where the skills were practiced.

Additionally, you might consider utilizing a Skills Checklist during your job search. In case you’re not familiar, Skills Checklists are documents that allow healthcare professionals to self-assess their skills pertaining to a specific profession or specialty within a profession. They are commonly used by healthcare employers of all types to gauge their employees’ skill sets.

BluePipes has over 100 comprehensive skills checklists that you can complete, save and download at your convenience. You can print them out and take them to job interviews in order to easily convey your level of expertise with hundreds of skills.

Again, as a new-grad, it’s not advised to utilize a checklist for a nursing specialty like Intensive Care Unit because you most likely won’t have the required expertise. However, if you have experience as a CNA, Phlebotomist, or LPN, then you could use one of those checklists as a way to stand out from the crowd.

These checklists are free to use on BluePipes. So, join today to take advantage!

 

Languages

A recent study by Wanted Analytics found that “bilingual” was the second most common skill listed on nursing job postings in the United States. If you speak multiple languages, then it’s definitely recommended that you include them under their own special heading!

What Hiring Managers and Job Postings are Looking for in New-Grad RNs

It’s important to remember that experience, temperament, talents, and convictions vary from person to person. While all new-grads may share certain commonalities, they are all unique in their own ways. Similarly, it’s fine for new-grad resumes to share certain commonalities, but each should be unique in it’s own way.

As you’ve seen, we have strong opinions on the structure of your resume and we provide many recommendations on various details to include. However, we’re not writing the resume for you. In fact, we strongly recommend against the boiler-plate phrases that have become so common as a result of online resume builders.

So, when it comes to the meat of your resume, let the words of hiring managers and job postings guide your efforts. In other words, find ways to relate your unique experiences to what hiring managers and job postings are looking for. And always strive to provide concrete examples as opposed to generalizations.

Assuming that you’re applying for a job through a job posting (as opposed to networking for a job), you should do your best to optimize your resume for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). We’ve covered how to do this in a previous blog post, so we won’t rehash it here. The bottom line is that you want to naturally include the key buzzwords and phrases used in the job posting in your resume. This way, you’re ranked higher by the ATS.

Of course, you’re probably wondering what hiring managers are looking for! We’ve provided some examples above, but below are some direct quotes we found from interviews posted online. These quotes validate what our own experience as recruiters taught us.

“Knowing that new nurses are very green in regards to their technical skills, we look to whether a nurse is really ready to step into the profession. We are looking for those who are really interested in making life better for people who are suffering.” Kimberly Horton, MSN, RN, FNP, DHA, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Mercy Hospital and Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, California

“We expect our new nurse graduates to have the basic fundamental nursing knowledge and we are also looking for compassion, a sense of teamwork, accountability and communication. We look for an attitude of collaboration and communication.” Maria-Jean Caterinicchio, RN, MS, Director of Workforce Development for Orange County Memorial Care University and Board Member of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL)

Always side on patient safety first. Be open to feedback. Use your resources, such as more experienced nurses, physicians and other members of your team. This will also help you build a support system. Always ask questions when you are unsure or don’t know something.  Discuss your feelings and/or concerns with your unit leadership. From the first day on the job, be a team player.  Greg Kingsley, RN, New Grad Nurse Recruiter, Emory Healthcare 

With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember that there is no one correct way to create your resume. We certainly hope this guide provides an idea of best practices as well as an idea of what you shouldn’t do.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s important to remember that your resume is just one facet of your job search. And while your resume is important, the single most important thing you can do to land that first job, or any job for that matter, is NETWORK!

Estimates indicate 70% to 80% of all jobs are filled through networking. And it’s always best to operate with the “80-20 rule” in mind. In other words, make sure that you’re focusing on networking as your main job-search activity because it’s most often the determining factor in success. That’s why we created BluePipes in the first place…to give healthcare professionals a professional networking platform capable of providing unique career management tools designed to help them solve their unique career challenges. Join today, it’s free and easy!

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20 replies
  1. Linda Frias says:

    So my situation is a little different. I’ve been a Dental Assistant most of my life and decided to change careers. I have now achieved my RN. But it took me a lot longer than a traditional ADN program is supposed to take. I had an “issue” at the first school I started the nursing program at and ended up needing to find another school to complete the program. Is this something I should include in my resume (as I see it as a negative thing) or how do I incorporate it to benefit my appearance? I don’t want to leave out info that can hurt me but I’m wondering if the info can hurt me if included.

    Reply
  2. Melissa says:

    I agree with Kyle.

    List out your clinicals. Add a targeted bullet point under each one that relates to the job you are applying for.

    Learn about ATS. Read the job posting. What words are on there most?
    What qualifications MUST you have?
    What qualifications do they PREFER?
    All the ones you have – write them down. Yes, use their words.

    Also read their mission and values. Look through their website. Encorporate their values with yours. A great place to do this is in your cover letter.

    – Melissa

    Reply
  3. Glenda says:

    What do you recommend to someone like me whose 19 years old. Has no work experience, this is my first career.. my resume would be completely blank pretty much. I know you said don’t include high school education.. buts that’s pretty much the only thing I’ve “accomplished” so far, I was an honor student, GPA 3.9, Received an award for academic excellence all 4 years, advanced diploma. And currently my GPA is 3.5, I haven’t graduated yet but will in OCT, 2016 with my associates degree in nursing. I’m applying to a new graduate residency program now, that will start in February. Please HELP! 🙁 how can I make my resume better?

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Thanks for the inquiry Glenda. Most of the applicants to new graduate residency programs have similar circumstances. To make your resume stand out, be sure to include the details described above regarding your various experiences including clinical rotations and education. You’re welcome to include your high school education. However, chances are it will not be considered. Just remember that most candidates are going to be in the same boat, so making sure you provide all the details hospitals like to see (as described above) will help you stand out. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. melissa says:

    Great article! Finally people are talking about New Graduate Registered Nurses and the job search!!
    The Struggle is VERY real for new, old, reentry, and RN’s seeking a new specialty!
    Especially in oversaturated markets like California.

    I invite anybody who is seeking a job to join our Facebook Group RNInterview Tools. https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlayingTheGame/
    All are invited to share what worked for them, post questions, and seek support from others who understand.

    Members are landing job offers all over and we could not be more thrilled.
    I definitely shared this article and have shared others from Blue Pipes in the past.

    Thank you for assisting all of us Nurses in our quest.

    Reply
  5. Aleli says:

    Help! I just graduated in May 2016 and got hired as an RN in a hospital. Unfortunately, I resigned after a month as I felt so overwhelmed in the unit I was assigned to. Should I include that one month experience in my resume?

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Thanks for sharing, Aleli and sorry to hear about the difficulties. This is a tough situation. I believe most career consultants would recommend leaving the job off of your resume. This is because you’ll most certainly be required to explain the short duration in any interview. Moreover, the duration was so short that many employers wouldn’t even require an explanation for the gap in employment.

      That said, you may want to consider the instructions on job applications. Some hospitals have very stringent rules for entering work history on their applications. For example, they might require every employer for the past 7 years to be entered on the application regardless of duration and also require applicants to provide an explanation of any gaps in employment of greater than 1 month. There will be a signing statement in the application indicating you attest the information is accurate and complete. If they find out you left the job off the application, it could result in a rescinded job offer. Although the chances of this happening are slim.

      I hope this information helps!

      Reply
  6. Priscilla says:

    Nursing is my second career. I taught elementary school before this. Should I include my education for that? Also, should I include teaching school in my work history? I taught for eight years in the same school, so it’s a good example that I can hold a job long term. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Congratulations on your new career, Priscilla. Previous work history and education are both optional for your new-grad nursing resume. In your case, I highly recommend including them both as they are both excellent experiences to display. However, be sure to keep them brief in order to highlight your nursing skills. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. Nhavy says:

    Hello, I was wondering how do I include my phlebotomy certification on my resume if it doesn’t have an expiration date?

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      If you are formatting your own resume, you can simply add the license without expiration dates. However, I’m wondering if you’re using BluePipes to format your resume? Please let me know if so. Thanks!

      Reply
  8. Casey says:

    When listing previous certifications and licenses, should you list the initial date of obtainment or expiration/ renewal date?

    Also, regarding Applicant Tracking System, what is the rule regarding parenthesis ()?
    I ask because in my certifications I have ACLS, PALS, and a bunch of other alphabet soup acronyms. Should I use (ACLS) after Advanced Cardiac Life Support?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Good questions! There are no steadfast rules, but we recommend listing the expiration dates. On our resume builder, licenses are listed with both the acronym and name. For example: ACLS – Advanced Cardiac Life Support

      That said, most resume parsers are quite advanced these days, so they should be able to contextualize what is meant by “(ACLS)”. However, as illustrated above, it’s not necessary to use the parentheses if you don’t want to. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. Jane says:

    Help! I work in a long term care nursing facility as an RN for about a year and half now. This is my first nursing job and nursing is my second career. What can you suggest in writing my resume? Are my clinical rotations still relevant? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Hey Jane,

      There isn’t a steadfast rule that applies to your question. I think it’s fair to say that most recruiters and nursing career advisers would say that your clinical rotations shouldn’t be added to your resume after a year and a half of working in an LYC facility. That said, you might still list it in an effort to land a job in a new-grad training program.

      Reply

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