Advice for nurses, midwives, and healthcare support workers
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.
Length - Ideally no more than 2 sides of A4
Layout - Clear, logical, flows nicely, easy to read
Presentation - Organised, neat, uncluttered, professional
Tailored - Make it relevant to the job you’re applying for
Review - Use a spell check and get at least 2 other people to proofread 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'
- 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)
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.
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:
- 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 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 etc."
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.)
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.
Send in PDF format
Need feedback on your CV?
If you're an RCN member you can email your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive feedback via email within 10 working days. Please include:
- your membership number (or postcode)
- a brief of summary of your situation and goals for context.
Please note that CVs will be checked based on UK requirements.