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How to Write a Character Reference Letter for a Nurse

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Unlike professional references that should come from a supervisor, character references generally come from friends or other people who know the job candidate personally. Character reference letters are intended to give prospective employers a sense of who the applicant is on a personal level by highlighting positive personality traits that might translate well in the workplace. For nurses, a good character reference should highlight the candidate's organization skills, ability to work under pressure and bedside manner through anecdotes and personal stories. A character reference should sell an employer on a prospective employee independent of experience or education.

Introduce yourself and explain how you know the candidate. The first thing a potential employer will want to know is how, and how well, you know the person for whom you are writing the reference. If you have any professional qualifications that you think may make your reference seem more authoritative, include them, but be brief. Your reference should be about the candidate, not yourself.

Explain why you feel the candidate is well-suited for the job. Write about her or his passion for nursing by citing anecdotes, such as the nurse's early interest in patient care or a genuine empathy for people and a desire to help them, that clearly illustrate this passion. Avoid vague phrases that you think prospective employers want to hear.

Discuss the candidate's ability to work under pressure. Nurses often work in busy, high-stress environments such as hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices, so it is important that the candidate remain calm while working in a high-pressure environment. Again, use specific examples of how the candidate effectively coped with a stressful situation.

Describe the candidate's positive personality traits. Bedside manner and patient interaction play a large part of the nurse's job, so prospective employers will be looking for applicants who can interact appropriately with patients while carrying out their nursing duties. An ideal character reference will highlight the candidate's friendliness, compassion, empathy and optimism, for example. Your reference should include short anecdotes that illustrate these traits. Also be sure to call out the nurse's organizational skills, which are essential in coping with the frequent interruptions, emergencies and unforeseen situations that are part of the job.


Be honest. You should tell the truth objectively in your reference letter, but you can be subjective about what to include. If you can't think of an example of the candidate being organized, for example, don't include that. Include only positive things, but make sure it is all true.