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How to Write a Reference Letter for a Registered Nurse

Whether you've been a patient or former employer of someone who has the qualifications necessary for a promising career in nursing, you may be asked to write a recommendation letter on his behalf. Your recommendation letter can sway an employer and could have a profound impact on your colleague's future. Therefore, it's important for you to carefully respond with a well-written letter that describes the nurse's qualifications in a genuinely favorable light.

Obtain the name, title, company and address of the person to whom your letter of recommendation should be mailed. If this is the first nursing job for which the nurse is being considered, ask for a copy of the job description or vacancy posting to give you more information about the position she wants. Learning more about the actual job will help you craft a letter that specifically addresses her skills, capabilities and interests.

List the qualifications, attributes and skills that qualify him for a nursing career. If you're familiar with his educational achievements as well as his professional expertise, list the traits he exhibited as a student as well as those he exhibits in a professional capacity. If you are not familiar with nursing careers, briefly research nursing specialty areas so you're able to demonstrate some knowledge about his field. Determine whether you are writing the recommendation letter from a patient's perspective or from an employer's point of view. If you feel you're qualified to write from either stance, ask him which perspective he prefers.

Review your letter for accuracy and completeness. Address the nurse's qualifications in her desired specialty area as well as her clinical expertise. If she has expertise in a specialty area that's in high demand, don't overlook that in your letter. To learn more about specialty areas, access online resources that explain various nursing specialties. Include any anecdotal references you believe would be helpful in making a recommendation. For example, if you are writing from a patient's point of view, describe the nurse's level of patient care and clinical experience without disclosing personal medical information.

Incorporate information about the nurse's work ethics. This is a section you should include regardless of your connection to the nurse you're recommending. Explain his patient care philosophy, commitment to the nursing field and the prospects of his long and successful nursing career. Assemble your draft materials to prepare your correspondence in final form. Format your letter as a standard business communication with the proper salutation.

Look at sample recommendation letters if you aren't familiar with the formal business letter format. A standard business letter contains an introductory paragraph, followed by one to two paragraphs about the subject of your recommendation. Conclude your letter with an invitation for the recipient to call you with further questions about the candidate's recommendation.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.