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RCN Careers: applications

CV Writing

Advice for nurses, midwives, and healthcare support workers

The RCN Careers Service can offer you advice and ideas on transforming your nursing CV into a powerful marketing tool that showcases all your skills and experience.

If you're a member, make sure you're logged in so you can download our sample CVs and take advantage of our free CV checking service.


Your nursing CV

Whilst most jobs will ask you to complete an application form, it’s also useful to create a CV that you can include in your portfolio and present to prospective employers or useful contacts. If you’re applying for jobs in the private sector, there may not be a formal application process, so a good CV will be even more essential.

Successful CVs are logical, engaging and concise. Most importantly they’re tailored to the people reading them, so make sure you adapt yours accordingly by matching it up to the job you’re applying for and using relevant keywords. 

If you're a student nurse, you can also read CV writing for student and newly qualified nurses.


Log in here to view sample CVs

  • Nurse CV 
  • Senior nurse CV
  • HCA / AP CV
  • Student / newly qualified CV

Checklist

Length - Ideally no more than 2 sides of A4

Layout - Clear, logical, flows nicely, easy to read

Presentation - Organised, neat, uncluttered, professional

Tailor - Make it relevant to the job you’re applying for

Review - Use spellcheck and get at least 2 other people to proof read it

Action words - Try to use ‘action’ words, to bring your CV to life. Attention-grabbing terms like 'identified', 'created,' or 'initiated,' really demonstrate to an employer that you are able to put your skills into practice. 

Covering letter - Do you need to include a covering letter as well?

First, create a 'Master CV'

A CV should be a concise account or snapshot of your skills and experience, tailored carefully to the job you're going for. You might think that writing a new CV every time you go for a job will be time consuming, but this needn't be the case.
 
Start off by creating a "Master CV," to act as a central database of all your skills, achievements and past jobs. Here you can list everything, (or as much as you want) and in greater detail. Ideally you'll continuously update this document as you go along your career, even if you're not actively looking for work.
 
You can include: 

  • All your strengths, qualities, nursing philosophies and/or passions/interests within nursing.
  • A list of your previous jobs, with details of the duties, responsibilities, achievements, skills, knowledge and experience obtained within those roles
  • A list of all of your qualifications
  • A list of your professional training and activities, (i.e. study days, short courses, articles published, etc)
Next time you have to write a tailored CV for a specific role, you can simply pick out the most relevant or most impressive elements from the Master CV as needed.

Structuring your CV

The structure of your CV is incredibly important, as you'll want to ensure the reader can find out what they need to know quickly and easily.

If you're not sure what format to use, follow the suggested layout below. In addition, you can download our example CVs for some inspiration.

Personal Summary 

This should be a short paragraph to open up your CV and tell your prospective employer a bit about yourself. (Remember, first impressions go a long way.) We recommend that you aim for around 50 - 100 words.

Always try and tailor this section to the job you’re going for. You may want to describe your personal qualities and strengths, offer a summary of your career history and experience, describe something you're passionate or interested in, and then conclude with what you're looking for in your career.

Try to be as original as possible so that you stand out. Some of the most commonly used words or phrases within healthcare CVs are:

  • Compassionate
  • Caring
  • Professional
  • Hard working
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Works well individually and as part of a team

These are all great descriptors, but if you use them, try and make them sound meaningful by giving context or examples, and making it personal to you wherever possible. For example, 

"Hardworking individual who gives 100% at all times / always sees all tasks through to completion / takes great pride in going the extra mile for both patients and colleagues." 

"Confident and decisive / self-motivated and disciplined when working individually, but equally thrives within a team environment by offering support and motivation to colleagues at all times / recognising and respecting the skills and strengths of others."

Key Skills and achievements

Next, bullet point 4 - 6 of your key skills and/or achievements. This could include your clinical skills, competencies, interpersonal skills, notable achievements, qualifications or experience.

You should always tailor this section carefully, thinking about what would be the most relevant, most impressive or most useful to your prospective employer. Studying the relevant job advert, job description, person specification and organisation values will give you vital clues about what the employer is looking for.

Including a section like this works really well, as you're effectively using it to grab the employer's attention early on, highlighting the things that will be the most desirable to them, and therefore making yourself look like the best match.

Sometimes it may be necessary to draw the employer's attention to a previous non-healthcare role, non work related achievement, or experience from a role you did a long time ago. For example, if you're applying for a clinical team leader post, and previously worked as a manager within the retail industry, this would be very relevant, so you may choose to emphasise it within this section.

Employment and experience

Starting with the most recent, detail your employment history, including job title, name of employer and relevant dates. You can then include some bullet points for each to showcase your duties, responsibilities, skills, knowledge and achievements. (If you ever feel stuck, it can help you read over your old job descriptions or search for similar ones on the internet.)

When listing your duties and responsibilities for each job, it's impossible to list everything, so again, prioritise the most relevant, useful or impressive. You should be prepared to tweak this section every time you prepare a CV for a different job to make yourself look like the best match possible.

You don't have to list your entire employment history. As a general rule you may want to aim to cover the last ten years, however it depends on personal choice and the circumstances so use your judgement. 

If you've got a lot of experience, you might find it helpful to summarise your older jobs and experience with a sentence or short paragraph. For example... "Prior to 2008: Held a variety of different roles within within surgical, A&E and elderly medicine wards, acquiring skills such as ..."

If you're a nurse, and you haven't been qualified for very long, or have only had one or two jobs, you may want to include details about some of the different nursing placements you did at university, and what your dissertation was on.

Education and Qualifications

Starting with the most recent, list your qualifications, including dates and the educational institute or awarding body and grades if applicable.

If you have done a lesser known qualification or an international qualification, you may want to explain briefly what the qualification entailed, or list an equivalent qualification in brackets for comparison.

If you've a nurse, and have been qualified a while, you don't have to list your school qualifications, so omit them if you're stuck for space. 

Professional Training and Activities

Here you can list training, short courses, workshops, or study days you've attended, articles published, volunteering, or membership of professional organisations or networks. 

You don't have to list absolutely everything. Prioritise the most recent and the most relevant. You can summarise to save space if needed. E.g."Prior to 2014, have attended over 20 study days in areas such as catheter care, venepuncture, IV therapy and...."

Additional information

If you have space, write a sentence about your interests or hobbies. Don't be afraid to be original and if possible, try and avoid commonly used terms like "socialising" and, "spending time with my family." 

You may choose to include information about whether you speak other languages, any IT skills, details of your LinkedIn account, or anything else you think your prospective employer would be interested in knowing.

You only need to include details about your driving license if you're applying for a job where it's actually needed as part of your role. (E.g. community nurse, regional manager, etc.)

References

If you have space, consider listing a referee or two with their contact details. If you're not going to list any referees, it's probably better to omit this section altogether to save space.


Personal qualities 

Ambitious
Analytical
Approachable
Articulate
Assertive
Calm
Confident
Conscientious
Creative
Dedicated
Detail orientated
Determined
Diligent
Diplomatic
Dynamic
Efficient
Energetic
 Enthusiastic 
Flexible
Friendly
Hands-on
Hardworking
Influential
 Innovative
Loyal 
 Methodical
 Motivated
 Organised
 Passionate
 Positive
 Practical
 Proactive
 Problem solving
 Professional
 Quick thinking
 Reliable
 Resilient
 Resourceful
 Role model
 Strategic
 Solution focussed
 Supportive
Trustworthy
 Warm

Action Words 

 Advocated
Assessed
Coordinated
Centralised
 Championed
Created
Demonstrated
Developed
Established
Evaluated
Fulfilled
Identified
Implemented
Initiated
Introduced
Managed
Negotiated
Organised 
 Trained
 Recognised
 Redesigned
 Represented
 Streamlined
 Supervised


Want to discuss your CV?

To discuss your CV and get feedback over the phone, call RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 to book an appointment with the Careers Service. 

Alternatively, if you want your CV checked via email, please send it to career.service@rcn.org.uk along with your membership number and a brief summary of your current situation, (e.g. what roles you're interested in, and what type of jobs you'll be using your CV.)

You may also want to see our online advice on Job applications, Transferable skills and Interview skills.

Please note: CVs will be checked based on UK requirements.

Want your CV checked?

To get written feedback on your CV, send your CV to career.service@rcn.org.uk  Include your full name, RCN membership no, and a brief summary of your current situation and career objectives.

CV writing for student & newly qualified nurses

Advice for student and newly qualified nurses on writing your first nursing CV.

Covering letters

Advice on how to write a covering letter to introduce and compliment your CV.

Job applications

What employers look for in an application and how to ensure you get shortlisted.

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