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FAQs about Student Nurse Résumés

Friday June 1, 2012
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Whether you graduate in December or May, it’s never too early to start crafting a résumé. Here are some commonly asked questions about student and new graduate nurse résumés.

Should I include clinical rotations on my résumé?

Emphasize your clinical experience by starting your résumé with a section titled “Clinical Rotations.” List the name of each healthcare facility where you did your major rotations (e.g., psych, pediatrics, obstetrics, med/surg). It’s not necessary to give much detail about each position or to provide dates and time frames other than the year. You can mention significant experiences you had, such as working with ventilators. Be sure to include any externships or special internships you did, too. Once you’ve had your first job as an RN, clinical rotations and externships would no longer be listed.

If you’re already a licensed practical or vocational nurse or nurses aide/patient care technician with recent experience, it’s not necessary to list clinical rotations. You simply would list positions you’ve held as an LPN/LVN or aide or tech.

Should I include non-nursing work experience?

You should definitely include non-nursing work experience. Because many people are coming to nursing as a second or third career, they have substantial experience to bring to the table. Valuable skills include budgeting, writing, selling, managing an office, etc. Even lifeguarding or waitressing attests to your character and personal attributes

Should I include school-related activities?

If you held a leadership role in school or in a professional association, such as a local chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association, list it in a category titled “Academic Activities/Achievements.” If you were on the honor roll throughout school and graduated with honors, include that. However, if you were on the honor role for only part of your educational years, exclude this completely. A prospective employer might have a tendency to focus on the “off” times and get the impression that you’re inconsistent with your work. If you received special recognition or an award for academic achievement, community service, or other related activity, be sure to include that. High school activities generally are considered irrelevant on a professional résumé.

What about volunteer work?

Relevant volunteer work is an important part of any professional résumé. Examples of volunteer work to include would be work with a homeless shelter, blood bank, Meals on Wheels or youth groups.

Don’t hesitate to elaborate if you did substantial volunteer work. For example, if you organized a blood drive at your school or read to residents of a nursing home, be sure to include details.

Does my résumé have to be on one page?

Up to two pages is standard and acceptable. Be sure to use a 1-inch margin on the perimeters, 12-point type size, and a standard typeface like Times New Roman for easy readability. Use good quality paper (white or off-white is best) with print that is dark, crisp, and clear. Include your name and page number at the top of the second page.

Should I always send a cover letter with my résumé?

A cover letter offers an opportunity to personalize your job application by letting the prospective employer know why you want to work for the organization and expressing your passion for nursing and special interests. Keep the letter to one page and print it on the same stationery as your résumé.


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.