Back on episode six of The Nurse Keith Show, we explored my thoughts on some of the most important aspects of resumes and how to make sure your nursing resume is as good as it can be. Since resumes are an issue that come up repeatedly in my work as a nurse career coach, the time is right to revisit the notion of resumes, and how to take yours to the next level.

Resume typewriterSo many nurses (and others!) ask me about resumes. Although many facilities now use online applications, a resume is still an important tool, no matter how you slice it. Episode 6 does indeed cover many salient and points about resumes that you definitely need to take into consideration. That episode covers the following:

  • Chronological versus functional resumes
  • Layout and formatting (margins, font, the use of white space, etc)
  • Printing recommendations
  • Sections of a resume and how to populate them
  • Highlighting your skills and expertise
  • Creating contact information that’s professional
  • Do’s and don’ts

More Than the Basics

Moving on from nursing resume basics, we also need to address ways to strengthen your resume; some people refer to these as “resume builders”.

Your resume is a living, breathing document; tweaking, building, and adding to it should be an ongoing process. (HINT: you should review and update your resume twice per year; consider doing it every time you change the clocks in the spring and fall. If you live in a state or country where Daylight Savings Time isn’t practiced, think of another way to remember (perhaps the winter solstice and the summer solstice, or maybe Easter and Halloween). You get the idea; ’nuff said.

American Sentinel University

Above the Fold

When you think of the front page of a newspaper, what gets read the most on the front page? That’s right; the main headline and the first few paragraphs of the top article, and maybe the weather up in the corner and any secondary headlines. In newspaper-speak, the top half of the front page is the portion that’s considered “above the fold”, the part that’s seen when the newspaper is folded and placed face up. While your resume isn’t folded, the top half of the first page needs to present the most vital information so that the reader who skims the rest at least gets the big picture of who you are from the get-go.

The Professional Summary

A professional summary is the part of your resume that’s usually just below your letterhead and your contact information; some people still use an objective, but objectives are boring and don’t really tell anything important about you, other than the fact that you want a job which is already a given. An example of an objective would be: “Experienced registered nurse seeking staff position where my skills and experience will be utilized.” This isn’t news, and it doesn’t tell anything more than they already know.

The summary needs to be action-oriented, peppered with keywords for your industry (keywords, not buzzwords), and data that details your accomplishments. Whether it’s the percentage decrease in urinary tract infections since you became the unit nurse manager, or a documented increase in revenue since you began assertively marketing for your home health agency, that data needs to be there if you have data to leverage. And whatever can’t be quantified should be qualified to whatever extent you’re able.

There’s plenty of information available about writing an effective professional summary; you can also work with me to create a powerful summary and resume. In short, your resume needs a summary, and it needs to hit the mark.

Strengthening Your Resume

There are lots of ways to strengthen your resume and build your personal brand. Here are just a few ways to do so:

  • Join the Board of Directors of a healthcare-related non-profit
  • Volunteer
  • Write a blog that demonstrates your nursing expertise
  • Write articles on LinkedIn
  • Get published in a peer-reviewed journal or nursing publication
  • Do public presentations on your areas of expertise
  • Participate in research or other projects at your workplace
  • Join nursing organizations; join committees or run for office
  • Start a public support group or education series at the local library or other venue

Avoiding Common Mistakes

If you listen to episode 6, you’ll avoid common mistakes, like listing your hobbies, naming your references on your resume, or telling the reader that references are available on request; that’s a given, folks.

Some ways to avoid common resume mistakes are:

  • Hire a resume writer or editor
  • Work with a career coach
  • Have a savvy friend, loved one, or colleague check your work
  • Read articles, books, and blog posts about resume writing
  • Listen to podcasts about resumes (hint, hint)
  • Compare the style, format, and structure of your resume with others (both good and bad)
  • Use spell-check, and have others check your grammar and spelling, too

Make Your Resume Count

Finally, make your resume count; do your due diligence and make your resume shine. If you spent thousands of dollars and considerable blood, sweat, and tears on getting where you are today (school, training, certifications, etc), why wouldn’t you invest a modicum of money, time, and energy on your resume? If you need to pay a coach or resume writer a few hundred dollars to fix up your resume (and maybe do some interview prep and cover letter editing), isn’t it worth the effort and relatively low expense?

If you’re applying for a position in home health, you’re going to gear your resume slightly towards that milieu. If you’re doing for the OR, your summary and keywords might be a little different. You can have several iterations of your resume, especially if you tend to apply for positions that are in fairly distinct areas of specialty practice. Just like your cover letters, your resume needs to be somewhat geared towards what you’re going after. Sure, there are generic aspects of a resume that are applicable to most every position, but there are also ways to spiff up your resume in order to paint the picture that you’re the one for this particular position and employer.

So there you have it, folks! Between episode 6 and episode 53, you have your work cut out for you! If you need support or feedback, please get in touch and let me know!


American Sentinel UniversityThis episode of The Nurse Keith Show is sponsored by the good folks at American Sentinel University. As a fully accredited online university, American Sentinel offers a variety of courses related to healthcare and nursing, including RN to BSN, and five MSN programs: Informatics, Case Management, Nursing Education, Nursing Management, and Infection Prevention and Control. They offer an RN to BSN/MSN, a program, as well as two tracks for those wishing to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. American Sentinel also offers a certificate in Prevention and Control that assists clinicians in acquiring the knowledge they need to develop best practices for infection prevention and control. Please visit for more information.


The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by Tim Hallowell of The; social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.

Please consider leaving a review of The Nurse Keith Show over on iTunes; this helps more nurses and healthcare professionals find the show and benefit from the information being shared. Just visit iTunes, click on the iTunes store, search for The Nurse Keith Show under podcasts, and leave a review, and voila. Thanks!

Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BCKeith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service,, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.

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