How to Write an Effective Nursing Resume Summary

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Writing an effective nursing resume summary is easier said than done. Studies show that recruiters spend mere seconds reviewing a resume and these days that’s after the resume has made its way through the applicant tracking system. An effective nursing resume summary is concise and easy to read. It correlates the candidate’s experience with the job description in question. And it piques the reader’s interest to the point that they will continue reviewing the resume in greater detail.

How long do recruiters spend reviewing a nursing resume?

A 2012 study conducted by the Ladders found that recruiters spend 6 seconds reviewing a resume. That’s right, 6 seconds. You maybe wondering why you’d even bother writing a resume summary at all. Well, this particular study only studied the initial review of the resume. Initially, recruiters typically go straight to a review of the last two jobs held by the candidate. They want to know immediately if they are working with a candidate that has experience in the particular job capacity in question. So they look at the job title and the dates of employment. Recruiters also focused on the employers and education of the candidates.

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Of course, this study was conducted on recruiters reviewing the resumes of general professionals as opposed to professionals in the healthcare field. We’d expect slight variations from recruiters in the healthcare field. They may look for specialties, licenses and certifications in addition to these other attributes. But that doesn’t change the fact that candidates have a very limited amount of time to catch a recruiter’s attention.

If recruiters see some or all of what they’re looking for in an initial review, then they may give the resume a closer look. Even then, the resume may only receive 20 seconds total. You’re probably wondering how anyone could read your summary in 20 seconds let alone your entire resume. Well, they’re actually reviewing it as opposed to reading it. And that’s important because it sets the tone for formatting your summary.

How should your nursing resume summary be formatted?

Like the rest of your resume, your summary should be concise and easy to read. The reader should be able to review it quickly and pick up on the keywords and concepts that they’re looking for. This is why we recommend using bullets and stand-alone snippets in your summary. By doing this, you’re playing to the realities of the review process.

Most summaries are written in paragraph form. This is fine for conveying large volumes of information in a more compact space, but it assumes that the reviewer is actually going to take the time to read it. Unfortunately, they will not do this in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, a summary written as a big, long paragraph may prevent the reviewer from picking up on the key points or distract them from even reviewing it at all.

By contrast, a summary written with bullets and stand-alone snippets allows the reviewer to quickly scan this section and easily pick up on the keywords and points you’re making. You might include a quick snippet from an online evaluation or professional endorsement and provide a link to the site where the rest of the information can be reviewed. You may also provide a brief overarching summary of your skills in bold print and then provide bullets for the rest of the information you’re seeking to convey.

What should be included in your nursing resume summary?

There are many possibilities for your summary and there is no exact science as to what to include. Different people will have different cards to play based on their level of experience and the specifics of their job search. The only certainty is that you should always due your best to match your skills and the information you convey on your resume with the qualifications and job description in question.

You might include the following in your summary:

  • Years of relevant experience.
  • A summary of your qualifications for the job in question.
  • A sense of your work or management style.
  • Personal characteristics that make you a good fit for the job and/or company.
  • Professional achievements.
  • Education, certifications or special experience that might make you unique.
  • Measurable improvements that you’ve made for previous employers.
  • Accolades or awards that you’ve received from previous employers.

When considering what to write in your summary, do your best to avoid stand-alone cliches like “team player” or “results oriented”. Instead, try to convey these concepts with concrete examples. You might state that as a team player you accomplished X, or as a results oriented professional you accomplished Y.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that the rest of your resume supports your summary. Remember, your goal is to convey as much information that’s pertinent to the job in question. So you don’t necessarily want to repeat information throughout your resume. As a healthcare professional, you have no shortage of highly technical skills and diverse job duties to convey so making sure your resume isn’t repetitive shouldn’t be a problem.

Sample Nursing Resume Summary

Below is one example of a summary:


Registered Nurse with over 7 years of critical care experience. Specialized practice in cardiovascular surgery, post-operative recovery, and intensive care.

  • Extensive experience and thorough understanding of pathophysiology and pharmacology of critically ill patients.
  • Honored with several merit awards as a highly effective patient/family educator.
  • Promoted to Charge Nurse as a respected team-player with demonstrated leadership skills.
  • Current member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) since 2008. AACN Ambassador since 2011.
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9 replies
  1. Ellen RN says:

    What about for a second career new nurse? I have over seven years of experience in the communications field with three years of supervisory experience. I recently graduated with my BSN and passed the NCLEX. My nursing experience is limited to my clinical experience and some volunteer work. I am struggling how to relate my past experience with nursing to make me stand out in my Summary.

    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Hey Ellen,

      Yes, it’s difficult to relate experiences in other industries to nursing because employers are typically seeking candidates with experience in the technical aspects of nursing. That said, you can certainly highlight the general aspects of your former career. Your promotion, leadership, team-work and other aspects are all good qualifications to address in your summary. Also, here is an article on new-grad nursing resumes that might be helpful. I hope this information helps!

  2. Luisa says:

    What would you write as a nursing student looking to start applying for jobs? I have no experience other than what my clinicals have offered me. I wont be taking my boards for about 5 months still. Set to graduate in December (3 more months.

  3. Tereasa says:

    How would you suggest is the best way to present that as a RN, I simultaneously held the titles of ADON, Wound Nurse, and Charge Nurse at my most recent employer? Initially I was hired as a Charge Nurse, then I was promoted to ADON but I still had to work as a Charge Nurse 3 of my 5 scheduled days so I functioned in the role of ADON only on Monday and Tuesday. Later it was determined there was a definite need for consistent and routine wound monitoring, so I evolved into the Wound Nurse for the facility. Working with physicians I developed new protocols for wound assessment, treatment, and management and every Monday I functioned in the role of Wound Nurse. Is it best to break each job into its own summary and bullet list? I’m in over my head trying to figure out the best way to present myself in a resume now, including the profile.

    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Hey Tereasa,

      Thanks for the inquiry. This is a great problem to have for your nursing resume! I agree it’s difficult to manage though. Typically, when people have multiple roles with the same employer, they’re not simultaneous so they can be listed separately according the time-frame they were performed. In this case, I think it would be best to do as you suggest and break each into it’s own summary and bullet list. The reason is that these are all very different roles. Something like below:

      Employer Name
      Employer information (location, details, etc.)
      Job Title: Charge RN, ADON, Wound Care Nurse

      Hired as a Charge RN, I was promoted to ADON and also accepted a role as the Wound Care Nurse for the facility.

      Charge RN: Start Date-End Date

      • Accomplishment 1
      • Accomplishment 2

      ADON: Start Date-End Date

      • Accomplishment 1
      • Accomplishment 2

      Wound Care Nurse: Start Date-End Date

      • Accomplishment 1
      • Accomplishment 2

      I think something like that works well in this case. It might take up quite a bit of space, but you’ve accomplished a lot! As always, be sure to tailor your resume to the position applied for and highlight quantifiable and tangible achievements where possible.

      As for your resume summary, I think it’s best say something like, “X years experience as Charge Nurse, X years experience as an ADON, and X years as a Wound Care Nurse.” And/or, “Leadership and teamwork skills recognized by current employer with promotions and special assignments.” Remember, the summary itself is just that, a quick summary designed to pique interest and get the reader to spend more time reviewing the rest of the resume and the actual accomplishments. It’s also an excellent opportunity to match your qualifications with the required qualifications for the job. So, if the job is looking for X years experience as an ADON, then you might say, “Over X years experience as an ADON.” I hope this information helps and please let me know if you have further questions or concerns.

  4. Tia says:

    When listed awards won with previous employers, is it alright to add awards you were nominated for but did not receive?

    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Great Question! Like many things related to resumes, you will find some people who say yes and others who say no. I would say that it depends on how well you can quantify the nomination. For example: One of five Staff Nurses out of 160 to be nominated for the X Award.

      Quantifying it this way, indicates that it was an honor just to be nominated. If you’re able to do this, or something like it, then adding the nomination to your resume could be useful. I hope this helps!!

      • Tia says:

        Thank you. Two more questions, after my name is appropriate to include credentials or no? I have seen differing opinions.
        My university awards a BS not a BSN, so my credentials will be BS, RN. Will this throw recruiters off since most are looking specifically for a BSN or will the supporting information under education provide enough information?

        • Kyle Schmidt says:

          That’s a tough one. I’m not sure that I have seen a BS instead of a BSN. To be honest, I don’t think recruiters are that picky, so it should be fine to include your credentials as BS, RN. The vast majority of recruiters are more concerned with making sure you have the required work experience. That said, if you’re a new grad, it shouldn’t matter either.

          Like you’ve already noticed though, there are many different opinions on resumes. I typically encourage people to include the credentials after their name and I think your situation is no different.



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