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List of Nursing Skills for a Resume

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Listing key skills on a resume can help a recently licensed nurse stand out from other new grads eagerly seeking their first nursing job. Even experienced nurses can benefit from knowing how to strategically use a resume to set themselves apart from other qualified nurses in an applicant pool. Because nurses are proficient in several domains of nursing practice, deciding which of your many skills to mention can seem overwhelming. The key is to customize your skill set to gain access to open positions.

Starting a Professional Nurse Resume

Like any job resume, begin by writing your name, contact information, education, career objective and chronological work history. Add special achievements, activities and supervisory positions that demonstrate your initiative and deep desire to help and serve others. Employers seek competent and dedicated professional nurses who embody many of the same attributes of nursing pioneer, Florence Nightingale.

Special consideration should go into describing your skills. An effective list of nursing skills for the resume is more extensive and persuasive than bullet points indicating that you are trained to take blood pressure, chart notes and maintain confidentiality, for example. When developing a list of nursing skills for a resume, focus on achievements that show you have the skills to be successful in the posted job.

Do You Put Your License on Your Resume?

Credentials, including a nursing license, attest to your skills. The American Nurses Credentialing Center suggests listing credentials in order of college degrees, license and certifications. Omit graduation dates due to possible age discrimination. Generally, GPA is not included if the degree was earned more than three years prior, and the score is less than 3.5, according to ANCC. A list of credentials might look like this:

  • Nursing degree: Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science-Nursing (BSN), Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS).
  • License: Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN).
  • State certifications: Nurse Practitioner (NP), Critical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • National certifications: Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BD)

What Is a Good Objective for a Nursing Resume?

You may wonder whether to include a career objective on your nursing resume, especially if you are trying to land your first job and want to keep all your options open. A vague objective that gives little insight into your interests and aspirations is not particularly helpful.

Weak objectives:

  • To work on the day shift as a full-time RN in a hospital, school, clinic or nursing home.
  • To provide quality nursing care for patients and support their healing.

However, a clear objective on a nursing resume can be advantageous:

Strong objective:

  • Seasoned public health nurse with expertise in Brief Motivational Interviewing (BMI) seeking nurse educator position in a community-based practice focused on wellness and health promotion.

Mandatory Skills for Nursing

An effective resume shows that the applicant meets and surpasses the minimal technical skills needed for safe clinical practice. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing identifies the technical skills that a nurse must be able to perform with or without accommodations afforded under the Americans with Disability Act. Technical skills include both physical and interpersonal competencies.

Physical Skills:

  • Gross motor skills: Reach IV poles, position equipment.
  • Fine motor skills: Use computer, eye droppers, grasp IV tubing.
  • Physical endurance: Stand during lengthy medical procedures, work intense shifts.
  • Physical strength and mobility: Push, pull, lift, carry, twist, bend and squat.

Sensory Skills:

  • Hearing: Hear both normal and faint sounds.
  • Visual: Depth perception, peripheral vision, ability to see color.
  • Tactile: Feel, sense temperature, palpate.
  • Smell: Detect odors.

Academic Skills:

  • Reading: Read, understand and follow policies and protocols.
  • Math: Applied math skills for understanding metric system, dosages, graphs.                                                                    
  • Writing: Chart notes, submit reports.
  • Communication: Listen, teach, direct activities of others.

Interpersonal Skills:

  • Emotional stability.
  • Good bedside manner.
  • Appropriate boundaries. 
  • Crisis management.
  • Self regulation of emotions.

Analytical thinking:

  • Assess situations.
  • Prioritize tasks.
  • Understand problems.
  • Recall procedures.
  • Weigh options.

Critical thinking:

  • See cause and effect relationships.
  • Synthesize information and solve problems.

Interpersonal relations:

  • Establish rapport.
  • Show respect.
  • Negotiate conflicts.

Leadership Skills on a Nursing Resume

Leadership is an important quality in a nurse who must be comfortable taking charge when needed. Consider describing leadership positions you held in college or in the military, for instance. To show that you are well-rounded, include awards, scholarships, honors, volunteer work, sports participation, study abroad, fluency in multiple languages or altruistic experiences such as Peace Corps service.

Importance of Skills on a Nursing Resume.

A list of nursing skills for a resume should pique an employer's interest. Your skills are all-important because nursing is a practical, hands-on job with measurable, quality outcomes. Nurses can’t rely on their charisma and pleasant disposition alone to get hired. Employers prefer experienced nurses or new nurses with high potential.

Mention the facility where you did your clinicals and identify the type of clinical experience you received, such as medical/surgical, pediatrics or psychiatric. State your duties and describe your accomplishments. Include performance indicators during clinicals and orientation:

"Consistently earned highest possible rating from my preceptor for my critical thinking skills, outstanding patient care, time management abilities, work ethic, positive attitude and professional demeanor."

Interpersonal Helping Skills

Nursing is often described as a calling to help people through a medical situation. Nurses must be disposed to compassionately aid patients as they recover from illness, heal from injury and cope with life-threatening medical emergencies. Empathy is especially important when a patient describes fear of a procedure, anxiety over pending test results or worsening pain. A nursing resume should reflect the applicant’s interpersonal skills, such as kindness, patience, friendliness and sensitivity:

  • Worked for 10 years in hospice care providing support, compassion and information on the dying process to terminally ill patients and their families.
  • Quickly developed trust and rapport with young children undergoing cancer treatment at a regional hospital.

Presentation Skills

Patients look to their nurse for cues on what is happening and seek reassurance that everything will be okay. Accurate and direct communication is essential when working on a medical team with doctors and other healthcare professionals. Nursing educators must be effective and engaging teachers when guiding individuals and groups on health promotion and making lifestyle changes to manage conditions like diabetes. Nurses must possess excellent verbal, nonverbal, written and organizational communication skills and include examples on their resume, such as:

  • Kept in close communication with nursing staff, physicians, dieticians and case managers when working as part of a multidisciplinary team on an intensive, inpatient eating disorder unit.
  • Led well-attended smoking cessation groups at a community center.  

Logical Reasoning Skills

Nurses must think on their feet and act quickly. Critical thinking and logic skills come into play when a nurse responds to an alarm monitor, notices sudden changes in vitals or observes signs of infection. Within seconds a nurse must determine whether to handle the situation alone or summon help. Logical reasoning, sound judgment and accurate interpretation of symptoms support patient safety, which is why critical thinking skills should be mentioned on a nursing resume:

  • Continually utilized critical thinking skills as crucial care nurse; saved the lives of six patients by closely monitoring patients and alerting doctors of subtle, but important clinical changes in patient status.
  • Honed strong critical thinking skills by assessing and assisting up to eight elderly patients per section.

Composure and Stress Tolerance

Patients and doctors appreciate a calm, collected nurse who maintains composure. A nurse cannot panic or fall apart during an emergency, such as a rare complication in the labor and delivery room. Nurses understand that patients and their families show a wide range of emotions that may heighten tension in an already difficult situation. A compelling nursing resume gives evidence of the applicant’s ability to function effectively under stress:

  • Received a special commendation for working tirelessly to help an influx of patients following a major storm that devastated the region.
  • Remained calm and composed when assisting badly injured and distraught patients in the emergency room after an incident with mass casualties.

Technical and Functional Skills

A resume is a marketing piece that shows what you could do for a future employer. A list of skills on a nursing resume includes specific tasks performed in each position held. Do not inflate or overstate your role. You want to honestly convey duties performed within the appropriate scope of your licensing and nursing practice:

  • Coordinated discharge and instructed patients on postoperative home care.
  • Calculated and administered medications prescribed by physician.
  • Provided patient care for 10 patients during the night shift.

  • Developed rapport and patiently answered questions during intake and admissions.

  • Closely monitored biomedical equipment.
  • Checked blood pressure, changed wound dressings and inserted catheters.

New Grad Nursing Skills Resume

When developing a new grad nursing skills resume, recently licensed LPNs and RNs can improve their chances of landing a good job by mentioning practical skills and real-world experience in clinical rotations. Some grads are well-prepared to hit the ground running; whereas, others may benefit from considerable guidance and supervision. Employers try to discern how much on-the-job training and orientation a new hire will likely need.

A nursing student resume with no hands-on experience other than nursing school can still be impressive. The key is to communicate enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, high potential and a passion for the nursing profession. Capitalize on the energy, excitement and fresh perspective that new nurses can bring to the job when you compile your skills list, for example:

  • Able to stand for extended periods of time.
  • Tirelessly work long shifts.
  • Handle heavy patient loads.
  • Maintain a positive attitude in a stressful environment.

Use the Best Keywords in Listing Skills

Employers in all fields often depend on Applicant Tracking Software to help them initially sort the predictably large number of applicants that result from online postings visible anywhere in the world. The purpose of ATS is to spot applicants who closely mirror required and preferred job requirements. Keywords are used to find matches. For instance, if a job requires ventilator care certification, you must state, verbatim, that you have ventilator care certification, if you do.

If you’re pursuing different types of nursing jobs, consider writing several versions of your resume, adjusting the keywords accordingly. If you make it past AST screening, you will be one step closer to a possible job offer and an interview. Keywords embedded in a job posting can include interpersonal skills, as well as technical skills that a nurse must perform safely and effectively:

  • Quick learner.
  • High energy.
  • Proficient in phlebotomy.
  • Medical/Surgical experience.   

Don’t make the mistake of assuming ATS can figure out that you meet the qualifications. An important insider tip is to use keywords on your resume that match up with most job postings that fit your qualifications. Without going overboard, make sure your list of skills for a nursing resume includes keywords for the type of position you are seeking.

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About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd brings vast hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.