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Nursing Critical August 6, 2019

How To Polish Your ER Nurse Resume

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, the demand for nurses is increasing. With a job growth rate of 15%, it’s twice the national average for all occupations. Despite this, finding an ER nursing position in your desired location can be extremely competitive. With many other qualified nurses gunning for the same spot, it’s important to have your resume polished and in the best shape possible.

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Polishing Your ER Nurse Resume

Knowing which skills and accomplishments to highlight and which to leave out is a crucial part of the resume. Many ER nurses are going to be in similar positions; gaining the upper hand comes from how you highlight the information. For building a powerful ER nurse resume, here are some things to consider.

How Resumes are Viewed from the Employer’s Perspective

Pay no attention to the employer behind the curtain! To understand what to include on your resume, it might help to see how it’s viewed from the other side.

Most applicants will have to fill out a resume form online or upload it on the employer’s site. The reason is they’re using applicant tracking systems. ATS allows employers to survey hundreds of candidates and keyword search to screen for the qualifications they want.

You might think this is a cheap trick. Instead of reading each resume and giving the person a fair shot, they’re parsing through the material and looking for specific key terms. While it is unfortunate how depersonalized this first step of the resume process is, it can be used to your advantage.

Beating the ATS

Once the employer or recruiter has set his or her parameters and determined what information the system should look for, the applicant tracking system will then scan through every resume and give each one a score. If the application has the right keywords and phrases, they’ll be scored higher and be taken to the second round.

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The logic then follows that all you need to do is determine what kind of answers employers are looking for. Easier said than done. But reading through the original job listing can provide some hints.

Breaking Down the Job Listing

Often, the person who will be working the ATS will also be the one posting the job opening online. Dissecting the job listing could then provide valuable information to include in your resume. What kind of terms does the employer include? Are they looking for applicants with critical thinking skills and communication skills? Strong leadership skills? Well-developed interpersonal skills? These are all terms that are going to be in the employer’s mind when they are deciding on the factors for the applicant tracking system.

Try to include as many key points as possible. If the listing mandates that shifts will be 12 hours, put in that your current position operates on 12-hour shifts. While this might seem like a given, remember it’s about beating the ATS. Otherwise, your resume will be tossed aside.

The Personal Touch

Once all the nursing resumes are scored, those in charge of reviewing resumes now have a list of about 20 to 30 of the “top” qualified applications. This is when the standard review process begins.

Here is where adding creativity into your resume is necessary to make your application shine. While recruiters and hiring managers will also look for their own set of criteria, they’re more focused on ensuring you will be able to excel at your position.

What ER Nurse Resumes Need to Include

There are two distinct objectives that a nursing resume needs to accomplish. One, pass the computerized portion by concentrating on keywords and phrases used by the employer. The second is to stand out amongst the other candidates who are also qualified for the ER nurse position.

To accomplish both of these, you’ll need to narrow in on three aspects of your resume: current job duties, acquired skill sets, and any accomplishments or rewards you’ve received.

Current Job Duties

What nurses often find tricky about dealing with their list of duties is that it feels impossible to make them stand out. It’s true: most ER nurses are going to be documenting the same list of work responsibilities. They provide quality patient care, collaborate with team members to ensure the best results, and administer proper medication when necessary.

To make yourself stand out, use the job duties section to mix in additional skills and accomplishments you couldn’t fit elsewhere. Try starting each segment with a preface: “As a member of the hospitals Patient Satisfaction Team…”

This will make each point stronger and give you more opportunities to show off your accomplishments.

Acquired Skillsets

There are two sets of skillsets to emphasize in your resume. There are hard nursing skills, such as 12 lead ECG placement and triage. Then there are interpersonal skills like emotional intelligence and teamwork. Having a healthy balance between the two will establish yourself as a well-rounded nurse capable of working in a high-stress environment.


Having accomplishments from your previous work experience will help you stick out. Some examples of these could be DAISY awards, Quest for Zero awards, or Magnet status.

Additional Material for Resumes

While the above material will create the bulk of your nursing resume, make sure to leave room for embellishments. These are the other areas not covered that round you out as an individual. Remember, employers would rather hire a nurse who brings in extra value to the hospital and community at large than just a qualified nurse. This is your chance to highlight why you would bring that value.

Volunteer Work

An immediate demonstration of value is through volunteer work. Nurses are already perceived as compassionate workers who seek to benefit their community. To see that spill over into free time shows a special commitment to improving others’ lives. This volunteer work can be nursing or non-nursing related. If you do both, mention each organization but highlight the duties related to the nursing skills you provide.

Education Details

Hospitals will want to see where and when you attended nursing school. Typically, this is just a formality to ensure you have gone through a credentialed program. ER nurse education requirements include either an ADN or BSN degree as well as an RN license. For first time nurses, having a BSN versus an ADN can improve your chances of being hired. However, for nurses with work experience, this trumps education.


If you are a certified ER nurse, you will want to highlight this on your resume. Certifications take a few months to acquire and demonstrate a strong proficiency in the emergency department nursing field. To become a certified nurse, registered nurses must take and pass an exam through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.

Professional Organizations to Which You Belong

Belonging to a professional nursing organization shows a dedication to improving your skill sets and reinforcing your career. Some common nursing associations include the AACN (American Association of Critical-Care Nurses) and the ENA (Emergency Nurses Association). When providing information on these organizations, be sure to include the name of the organization, the date you joined, any positions of influence you held, and a description of any roles.

Computer Skills

If somewhere between anatomy classes, licensure exams, and your late-night 2 a.m. shift, you managed to become proficient with computers, boast this on your resume. As technology advances, nurses are required to have a basic level of technical skills and expertise with computers. Inputting data, understanding how to use Office, and other fundamental computer skills are a great benefit to have as a nurse.

Fluency in Other Languages

America is a diverse melting pot of different cultures and languages. In 2013, the Census Bureau found that nearly 62 million U.S. residents speak a foreign language at home. And of those people, 41% reported they speak English “less than very well.”

For medical professionals, this number is concerning. Communication is the most significant factor in diagnosing because even the type of pain patients experience can indicate different underlying conditions—is it a burning sensation or a stabbing pain?

Being proficient in other languages will make you invaluable to any hospital, especially those located in diverse communities.


Some nurses are looking for extra part-time work, others are seeking full-time positions. Be concise with your availability. Are you available for day shifts and night shifts? How far are you willing to drive within an area? Remember, some hiring managers will refer you to other hospitals in the area if you are a good fit. However, they will only do so if you put this information on the resume.

Bed Count

How large of a hospital or emergency room have you worked in in the past? Try to include both the total number of beds in the entire facility as well as the number of beds in your unit. This will give the employer a scope of your previous hospital.

How to Create a Resume

Once you’ve put together all the correct and relevant information, it’s time to format everything and structure your resume to look professional. A resume needs to be a certain length, in a certain font, with a certain structure and style. There is room for creative improvising, but it’s always best to know the rules before you break them.

Organizational Structure

For any resume (not just nursing), there are three organizational structures you can reliably use. There’s the timeline resume that puts all education, work history, and other relevant information in chronological order. There’s a functional resume, which prioritizes relevant accomplishments and skill sets needed for the job. And finally, there’s the combination resume that blurs the line between these two.

The best format for an ER nurse resume is the one that suits your history. If you’re a new nurse with little to no prior experience, you’ll want to emphasize your skill sets and any accomplishments you’ve been awarded. If you’ve had a long and rewarding career, highlighting this through a timeline resume will show you are capable of handling the job requirements.

Regardless of which structure you choose, the layout and style will mostly be the same.

Headings and Section Layout

The different headings you should have in your resume depend on your career history. If you only have one accomplishment to point to and it was for something that happened in nursing school, this might be a section you omit. Similarly, if you spend a chunk of your free time volunteering in clinics, you’ll want to create an entire section dedicated to volunteer work.

Each section should come with a concise header that informs the reviewer what they’re reading. These include the summary section, the licenses and certifications section, work history section, specialty skills section, education section, accomplishments section, and volunteer work section.


While most resume builders will suggest you stick to a single page, for an ER nurse resume, this is not enough. Most nursing resumes are between 1.5 to 2 pages long.


Set your margins anywhere between 0.5 and 1 inches. Whatever size you choose, keep all four sides consistent. Use the adjustment of margins to make your resume look polished. If at 1-inch margins you cut off a paragraph between the first and second page, adjust it to 0.9-inch margins to see if it can be rejoined. This is a creative effort to make your resume as readable as possible.

Font and Font Size

When it comes to the font and font size, this is not the time to be creative. Use one of the standard three: Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri and keep it to 12pt font at a minimum. Headers can be made bigger between 14pt and 16pt font. And for your name, go with something between 20pt and 24pt font.

Naming Your File

Try to keep the name of your file as clear as possible. Traditional wisdom trends toward “Your Name” followed by “Resume.” For example: Jane_Doe_Resume.pdf.

Having a Polished Resume

Having a complete and polished resume can help you stand out among application tracking systems and hiring managers. When gathering information, try to figure out what the employer is searching for by reviewing the job listing and the job description on the hospital’s site. Then detail out your best skills and accomplishments and organize them in a way that demonstrates your nursing proficiency. Once you have a perfect resume, the hard work is over. Then, each application moving forward will only need minor adjustments.

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