This One Resume Tip Could Get You The Job You Want

By Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

Nursing resumes haven’t changed that much over the last few decades, but there is one major flaw that many nurses overlook in their resumes. It's the lack of a professional summary of qualifications.

An Objective Falls Flat

Contrary to popular opinion, having an objective statement at the top of your resume is not necessarily to your advantage. This outdated practice relies on stating what the candidate is seeking, something that should be reserved for a cover letter. Two examples of an objective might be:

Experienced registered nurse seeking Med/Surg position to utilize skills in assessment and communication to deliver high-quality patient care.

Nurse seeking opportunity to provide excellent patient care in emergency department.

What’s wrong with these statements? The most unhelpful aspect of an objective is that there is nothing unique about a nurse seeking employment; the fact that a resume, cover letter, or application has been submitted already makes that perfectly clear. In contrast, what is truly needed is a bold, personalized summary of qualifications providing the reader a concise, non-generic picture of the nurse behind the document.

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A Summary Makes A Statement

Savvy resumes are anchored by a detailed summary that allows the reader to quickly find salient information about the applicant.

One thing to understand is that most hiring managers and human resource professionals read countless resumes. You don’t want to print yours on fluorescent paper with a decorative font, but you do want yours to stand out from the rest; the fact is, a well-executed summary can do that.

I have seen (and crafted) summaries that account for up to the entire first page of a two- or three-page resume. Such summaries use broad strokes and detail to intrigue the reader, creating a sense that the applicant is an accomplished professional with a valuable career history. When compared to a competitor’s weak generic objective, your professional summary will set you apart as a nurse worthy of an interview.

The Summary Comes Alive

Your summary should be as specific as possible; some generic statements are admissible, but the overall “story” should be yours and yours alone. Here are some examples:

CCU/ICU nurse with extensive experience in Magnet healthcare systems and Level I trauma centers. Motivated intrapreneur with proven history of collaborative participation in administrative committees, chart review, implementation of progressive patient care management models, staff-building, QI, and Root Cause Analysis.

High levels of expertise related to trauma, burns, neurology, and stroke protocols. Expansive career experience focused on intensive care and critical care. Demonstrated ability to readily adapt to new environments.

Strong skills in nursing leadership and personnel management, communication, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Highly qualified in staff education related to clinical practice, nursing ethics, and development and implementation of policies and procedures.

The above examples likely ensure that the reader will seek further details about this applicant’s specific experience and education on page two. Furthermore, the prose section of the summary can be followed by a bulleted list of specific accomplishments:

  • Certified CRRT instructor
  • Certification in QI and Root Cause Analysis
  • High-level expertise in phlebotomy, venous access, and intravenous therapy
  • Certification in VAD and balloon pump management
  • Active member of successful Magnet Application Committee
  • Early career experience in alcohol rehabilitation and home health
  • Co-author of qualitative research study published in peer-reviewed journal

Rather than force the reader to search through each page for what makes the candidate shine, the summary does the work ahead of time, unambiguously encapsulating the applicant’s qualities on page one.

Are you earning what you deserve? See which employers are hiring now.

It’s A Matter Of Style

In the end, your resume’s format is a matter of style. Bear in mind that you want the person reviewing the resume to have an easy time making sense of what you bring to the table; don’t force them to use a fine-toothed comb to tease out what makes you the ideal candidate.

A resume is a portrait or snapshot of who you are and why you’re unique. Consider crafting a powerful summary to illustrate how your career has led you to the door of your potential new employer and why you should be the one invited to become their newest and most valuable nursing asset.


Next Up: Getting the Nursing Job: Resume Tips for RNs

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.


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