Nursing Resumes: The Professional Summary

If you’re a nurse, you need a resume, even if you’re still happily employed. A resume can be useful to have on hand if you’re applying for a promotion, submitting an article to a nursing journal, or even applying to certain academic programs. Also, even the most satisfying job can come to a sudden end if your hospital is down-sized, your home health agency is sold, or some other unexpected occurrence comes along. So, having that resume updated and at the ready is always a good idea.

Objective vs Summary

As a nurse career coach and an active Director of Nursing who regularly hires nurses, a generic objective at the top of a resume doesn’t tell me enough.

A typical objective might be, “Experienced pediatric nurse seeking position where my skills can be utilized to their full potential.” If you’re applying for a position, I already know you want a job, and it’s obvious that you would like to use your skills to their full potential. Why don’t you tell me something I don’t know, instead?

The Summary Is The Ticket

Rather than forcing the reader of your resume to scroll through looking for crucial information, why not front load your resume with what you want them to understand about you right away? Make it easy for the person reviewing your resume and application.

The professional summary is, at the very least, one or two short, well-written, flawless paragraphs that elucidate who you are, what you’re all about, and the values and experiences that make you the nurse you are.

Summary Examples

Here’s an effective summary for a hospice nurse:

Certified hospice/palliative care nurse with extensive experience in hospice case management.

Background in public health provides keen awareness of the importance of diverse resources, holistic psychosocial assessment, and the connection between patients, families, and community.

Have provided intensive hospice case management in multiple settings, including acute inpatient hospice units, respite, private patient homes, assisted living organizations, skilled nursing facilities, and RCFE (residential care facilities for the elderly).

Is there any doubt what this person is all about? Can you tell right away where her professional focus has been? Do you know what kinds of facilities she’s been employed by? Do you know she’s certified? You see, the resume reviewer doesn’t have to struggle to know these details; it’s right there, front and center.

Skills Highlights

Part of the professional summary may also include skills highlights, as well; here’s some highlights for this same nurse:

  • Recognized for excellent nursing assessments, patient-centered care planning, and collaboration with interdisciplinary team members
  • Highly skilled in the coordination of collaborative and seamless patient transfers
  • Successful in the sensitive education of patients and caregivers in relation to dying process
  • Deep expertise in education regarding symptom management, diet, safety, and personal care
  • Extensive knowledge of hospice regulations and hospice enrollment eligibility
  • Effective therapeutic communication with patients, families and staff in emotionally difficult and stressful situations
  • Extensive technical skills include: central line management, subcutaneous infusions, portable infusion pumps, urinary catheter management, colostomy care, chest tubes, tracheostomy and wound care
  • Supervision of LVNs and nursing aides; precepting of newly hired hospice nurses
  • Proficiency in electronic documentation and communication

Summarize and Clarify

Your professional summary and accompanying highlighted skills tell the resume reviewer how awesome you are, and does so right up front. Once the reviewer has seen this information (which can take up as much of the first page of your resume as you choose), they can then move on to the other information which simply rounds out this snapshot of your career.

Summarize, clarify, highlight, and allow the person reading your resume to know as much about you as possible as quickly as possible. This will make your resume stand out and be counted.


About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at NurseKeith.com.