Once nursing school is complete and the graduate has passed the NCLEX-RN exam he or she will receive a nursing license issued by the State. This makes the graduate eligible for employment in that state.

So, now the fun really begins by building an amazing resume and a focused and purposeful job search.

The graduate can work on dazzling the interviewer in-person, during the RN interview, but first, he or she needs to get noticed by submitting an exceptional resume.

Basics of a Resume

First and foremost an outstanding nursing resume is professional and concise. These are required and absolutely mandatory to apply for any nursing position, even though filling out an online application is also required. The key to a successful resume is to keep it simple yet persuasive while always remembering to create the best possible image of oneself on paper.

Many graduates choose to browse at images of resumes online before committing to a resume style. The style will affect which sections and words are bolded, centered, underlined, and other formatting variations. Choosing a format that makes a strong impression is a good place to start.

Here are a few guidelines to follow, whichever format is chosen:

  • Make your name stand out
    • The top of the resume states name and contact information, this should be either bold, have a big font size, be underlined, or all three and if your middle name is unique it may be wise to add it as this may catch the attention of the HR Representative
  • Be sure to list an email address as well as phone number, address, and name
    • Avoid listing any social media links for a nursing position
  • It must be free of grammatical and spelling errors
  • Have a friend proofread the resume and read it out loud more than once to yourself
  • Hire a professional to proofread, usually for a nominal fee
  • Keep it simple and concise
    • Unless there are a lot of extras to list a new graduate nurse should not need more than one page
  • Stick to basic fonts
    • The preferred font is Times New Roman because it is easy to read and fits well on a page

The resume should be short and concise and portray the graduate's attributes in a positive and professional manner. The new graduate registered nurse without healthcare experience should not be overly concerned about his or her lack of experience as a nurse. Employers are expecting this and look forward to teaching the new graduate nurse the policies and procedures of the organization. Many employers embrace new graduates and appreciate the opportunity to mentor.

The image portrayed should be that of an eager and humble new nurse who wants to learn from experienced nurses who are smarter and better at nursing he or she is. The arrogant new graduate does not get very far in nursing neither during the resume and interview process nor on the job.

Sections of a Nursing Resume

The nursing resume usually consists of these sections

  • Objective
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Licensure and Certifications
  • Technical Skills
  • Optional sections may include:
  • Honors and Awards
  • Achievements
  • Languages
  • Professional Memberships
  • Volunteer Experiences

Objective

This is a general statement about the directive of the graduate. These have evolved over the years from a brief phrase stating the graduate's intent to something similar to an abbreviated cover letter.

Some objective statements may be as long as a short paragraph. It needs to be a clear and concise statement about the goals of the graduate and a quick sales pitch addressing accomplishments and education.

Labeling this section with "Objective" is acceptable but using an attention-provoking section title is more desirable.

For example,

Eager New Graduate Registered Nurse (section label)

  • Dedicated BSN graduate with honors from Brown University, GPA 3.5.
  • Licensed registered nurse holding ACLS and BLS certifications and over 600 hours clinical experience.
  • Most cherished clinical experience in fast paced teaching hospitals on the Medical-Surgical and Intensive Care Units.
  • Excels in multitasking and communication and technically proficient in electronic medical records including Epic and Cerner.
  • Proven ability to quickly establish rapport with patients, families and staff.
  • Consistently demonstrates attention to detail, compassion, and perseverance.

Education

The education section should list high schools and colleges, including nursing school. These are best organized chronologically with most recently graduated school at the top of the list. Please include name of school, degree earned, and year of graduation. Adding geographic location and areas of study is also acceptable.

For any other nursing programs, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), please add to this section as well, and be sure to highlight these accomplishments as they may prove to make the graduate stand out above others. Bolding, italics, or underlining may be a good method of doing so.

For example,

Education

  • Brown University, Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN), 2016
  • Pruitt Nursing Aide School, Nurses Aide Diploma (CNA), 2015
  • Charleston Community College, Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), 2014
  • Phoenix High School, High School Diploma, 2012

Experience

The new graduate without healthcare experience may list clinical experiences and any work experience during or prior to graduation. Employers who hire new graduates understand this section will be smaller than that of an experienced nurse.

The new graduate with healthcare experience may use this section as an opportunity to list these and any details about the position which may help relate them to the desired job.

Any experience listed should contain the company name, geographic location, job title, area of experience within the company, dates, and a description. The description should be short and concise, however if the graduate needs to fill space on the page, creating multiple lines of experience descriptors may be wise.

For example,

Experience

University Hospital Seattle, WA March to August 2015

  • Registered Nursing Student-­Medical Intensive Care Unit
    • Care of septic, alcohol and drug withdrawal, cardiac, and CVA patient populations during clinical rotation
    • Participated in Mock Code Blue and received ACLS/BLS certification
    • Created good rapport and working relationships with patients, families, and staff

Cook Medical Center Seattle, WA January to March 2015

  • Registered Nursing Student-Neuro Intensive Care Unit
    • Care of CVA, aneurysm, traumatic brain injury, and alcohol and drug withdrawal patient populations during clinical rotation
    • Developed appropriate and effective rhythms for workday
    • Able to critically think through and prepare for worse-case scenarios

Licensure and Certifications

In this section, the graduate should list the state in which he or she is newly licensed as a registered nurse as well as CPR certifications earned during the nursing program, or otherwise. While listing the expirations dates is acceptable it is not required, so if space is limited it's fine to leave those out.

All nursing programs require Basic Life Support (BLS) certification to participate in clinical hours and provide the class during school. Some programs may offer or require Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification towards the end of the nursing program when clinicals may be in critical care areas, such as the intensive care unit, labor and delivery, or operating rooms.

If hired into a critical care position, the ACLS certification is a job requirement and many employers will provide the class during the internship. However, to appear as a more desirable candidate, the graduate may become certified in ACLS prior to being hired. Other certifications are also available to an RN without experience, see Certifications in Nursing for more on this.

For example,

Licensure and Certifications

  • Washington State Nursing Licensure, expires October 2017
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification, expires October 2017
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification, expires October 2017

Technical Skills

This section is intended for electronic medical records (EMR) programs used during clinical hours, other computer software experience, and any medical equipment with which the graduate has had exposure.

For example,

Technical Skills
Epic and Cerner experience, proficient in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and Alaris IV pumps

Optional Sections

Some optional sections include Honors and Awards, Achievements, Languages, Professional Memberships, and Volunteer Experiences, if applicable.

RELATED - Pros & Cons of EMR's

Example of Nursing Graduate Resume

Now that we've discussed each piece of the nursing graduate resume, let's put it all together in this example resume using a simple format,

Nancy A. Mazin RN, BSN
555 Main Street Seattle, WA 98052 ∙ (555) 555-5555 ∙ [email protected]

Eager New Graduate Registered Nurse
Dedicated BSN graduate with honors from Brown University, GPA 3.5.

  • Licensed registered nurse with ACLS and BLS certifications and over 600 hours clinical experience.
  • Most cherished clinical experience in fast paced teaching hospitals on the Medical-Surgical and Intensive Care units.
  • Excels in multitasking and communication and technically proficient in electronic medical records including Epic and Cerner.
  • Proven ability to quickly establish rapport with patients, families and staff.
  • Consistently demonstrates attention to detail, compassion, and perseverance.

Education

  • Brown University, Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN), 2016
  • Charleston Community College, Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), 2015
  • Pruitt Nursing Aide School, Nurses Aide Diploma (CNA), 2014
  • Phoenix High School, High School Diploma, 2012

Experience
University Hospital Seattle, WA March to August 2015

  • Registered Nursing Student-­Medical Intensive Care Unit
  • Care of septic, alcohol and drug withdrawal, cardiac, and CVA patient populations during clinical rotation
  • Participated in Mock Code Blue and received ACLS/BLS certification
  • Created good rapport and working relationships with patients, families, and staff

Cook Medical Center Seattle, WA January to March 2015

  • Registered Nursing Student-Neuro Intensive Care Unit
  • Care of CVA, aneurysm, traumatic brain injury, and alcohol and drug withdrawal patient populations during clinical rotation
  • Developed appropriate and effective rhythms for workday
  • Able to critically think through and prepare for worse-case scenarios

Licensure and Certifications

  • Washington State Nursing Licensure, expires October 2017
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification, expires October 2017
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification, expires October 2017

Technical Skills

Epic and Cerner experience, proficient in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and Alaris IV pumps

While this is just an example the basic sections should be included on the resume but some may be added or changed to fit the stylistic approach the new graduate wishes to present.

Cover Letters

Cover letters, if the graduate chooses to submit one, are meant to be a one page summary of the graduate's intentions in seeking the position. Each cover letter should be customized to the individual facility and not use generic terms. For example, instead of writing, "seeking a job in healthcare," the graduate should write, "seeking a job at a fast-paced teaching hospital," or even, "seeking a job at Brown University Hospital."

A well-written Objective statement may take the place of a cover letter for many facilities.

Finding an RN Job

Once the resume is perfected and has been proofread, either by a professional resume assistant or a grammatically-gifted friend, it is ready for submission.

The best method to find an RN job is to search online for a suitable position. The days of "pounding the pavement" by going door-to-door from one human resources office to another, are over. Now the graduate can streamline the process by simply applying online. The only exception to this rule may be small non-hospital facilities.

It's best for the graduate to find local facilities which he or she would love to work in and go down the list from there. Most graduates have an idea of what area of nursing they prefer from attending clinicals.

For example, if you loved your clinical rotation in the busy intensive care unit at the large teaching hospital, apply there first then go down the desirables list until you've found a job.

Read more about working as an RN.

Search Terms for Hospitals

When searching hospital websites keywords to search for a new graduate registered nurse position include:

  • Nurse Intern
  • New Nurse Graduate
  • Registered Nurse Intern
  • Registered Nurse Graduate
  • Critical Care Intern
  • Medical-Surgical Intern
  • Graduate Nurse
  • RN
  • Intern

Remember that when using hospital search engines less is more. Simply searching, "intern" may list non-nursing positions along with nursing positions but having this broad scope to read through is better than a scope which is too narrow and missing a potential position. Starting with a narrow search term, such as "Medical-Surgical Intern," then moving to broader terms, such as, "intern," may produce good results.

Large hospital chains, meaning one large company with many hospitals, will often allow for a user profile to be created and a resume and job application on file. This profile can be used for multiple positions.

The most sought after new nurse graduate positions in hospitals include:

  • medical-surgical
  • orthopaedics
  • oncology
  • mom/baby
  • emergency room
  • intensive care unit
  • operating room
  • labor and delivery

Searching for Non-Hospital Jobs

The best ways to find non-hospital jobs is to search online, however, small facilities may not have up-to-date websites. Begin by searching for facilities in the area and checking out their websites. Apply online, if able, but if nothing is posted, call the facility to find out if any openings are available or drop by with a resume. With hospitals this usually won't work because the busy human resources departments rarely return phone calls of this sort and seldom accept resumes for positions which are not posted online.

For the new graduate not seeking employment in a hospital highly desired positions include:

  • skilled nursing facilities
  • home health
  • outpatient surgical centers
  • physician's office
  • aesthetics offices, such as laser hair removal or botox injections
  • adult family homes

Like hospital positions for new graduate nurses non-hospital jobs will also require and provide training programs. Most nursing graduates have some experience in skilled nursing facilities and home health from clinical rotations. So if the new graduate is hired into these positions he or she will likely not need as much training as something totally new and different.

Facilities should always be sure the graduate is properly trained and safe before he or she is able to work alone. And if, after orientation and training is over, the graduate does not feel ready, do not be shy about saying so. While it's normal to feel nervous about starting as a new nurse the graduate should understand whom to go to with questions and have a basic understanding of how to work as a safe nurse in the chosen specialty.

Social Media

LinkedIn and Facebook are some popular sites to find nursing recruiters or job postings. Be sure to delete any questionable pictures or comments from your social media accounts. Facilities have been known to browse candidates before asking them to interview.

Bring a Resume and Show up in Person

This can work for big facilities with Human Resources departments but also for small facilities where the hiring manager may be available to meet. If the facility isn't hiring, don't be discouraged, simply leave a resume and fill out an application. A position may open up the following day!

Keep in touch with fellow nursing students. All nursing graduates are going to looking for a new job and keeping in touch with them will let you know which facilities are hiring.