9 Nurse Skills to Highlight on Resume

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A nurse sits at a table and works on her resume.

Changes to government health policy, an aging population, and an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases are causing more people to access the U.S. health care system, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that health care organizations will hire 210,400 registered nurses every year between 2018 and 2028 in anticipation of high patient demand.

There are many job opportunities for RNs and soon-to-be nursing graduates. Employers are looking for candidates who have the skills to care for patients in a rapidly changing industry. By effectively writing their nurse skills on a resume, students can showcase valued competencies and stand out among the field of applicants.

9 Essential Skills and Competencies

Nurses fulfill many roles, frequently taking on the responsibilities of care coordinators, primary caregivers, and educators. Each role leverages a unified set of core skills and competencies to provide quality patient care. When writing a resume, nurse skills that are related to clinical or educational experience should be highlighted. The following nine skills are considered essential for nurses.


Nurses must demonstrate an ability to acknowledge and empathize with the concerns of the patients they are treating. They should show compassion when patients are uncomfortable, and be able to communicate this understanding to patients. Nurses should also discuss medical matters with delicacy when interacting with the families of patients.

Attention to Detail

Nurses often work in a fast-paced environment, caring for multiple patients throughout the day. If a patient does not receive the correct treatment, medication dosage or lab test, the patient’s health and treatment plan could be compromised. Attention to detail is essential in dealing with both the clinical and ‘human’ aspects of patient care.

Interpersonal Skills

Nurses work with a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals, such as physicians, other nurses, and hospital staff. Together they discuss treatment plans, patient observations, and any additional details that are important to a patient’s health. Nurses must also communicate clearly with patients to explain instructions or treatment options. Effectively communicating during high-stress situations is an essential nursing resume skill.


A patient’s condition can change in an instant. Nurses must be able to think quickly and react to sudden changes. To provide the best possible treatment options, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) must use their problem-solving skills when assessing and diagnosing patients.

Technology Proficiency

Technology has rapidly changed, and continues to change, how nurses do their jobs. Nurses leverage digital technology to access patient records 24/7, order lab test electronically to increase efficiency, and share evidence-based practices with colleagues. Nurses must be able to use medical tools and software to administer treatments and record patient information.


A nurse’s primary purpose is to provide the best care to patients. Part of this effort includes working closely with industry partners — such as nurse educators, community groups, and insurance companies — to improve health care delivery. Collaboration is an essential nurse resume skill, as medical facilities seek to hire nurses who can work with their peers to improve health care delivery.


Every nurse has the opportunity to be a leader who inspires other nurses to improve the quality of patient care. Many employers look for nurses who demonstrate leadership through their involvement in the community, such as working at nonprofits or being active in professional associations.


For a nurse, no two days are the same. It can be challenging to manage the stresses of patient demands, traumatic situations, and long work hours. Nurses should demonstrate an ability to adapt to continually changing conditions.

Business Acumen

Health care systems in the U.S. are shifting toward a pay-for-performance model, in which hospitals and staff are rewarded for meeting quality or efficiency standards, according to the RAND Corporation. Facilities need to provide consistent, quality care at the lowest possible cost. Nurses who have a firm grasp of how their facilities are managed can support their organizations in meeting these standards.

Nursing Roles to Boost Qualifications

Listing core skills and competencies on a resume is not enough. When writing a nursing resume, nurse skills also need to showcase a connection to clinical experience. Nurses can also continue to boost their qualifications throughout their careers by pursuing different types of nursing degrees. In advanced degree programs, students enhance core skills and competencies that can better position them to seize new job opportunities.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

To become a registered nurse, a student must first earn a BSN. This degree helps prepare registered nurses to provide patient care by coordinating treatment, performing diagnostic tests, and educating patients and their families about at-home care. BSN students prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) after graduation by taking courses in chemistry, nutrition, and anatomy. All RNs who wish to work in a clinical environment must pass the NCLEX-RN. They may also need additional certifications if they wish to practice in select areas of patient health. RNs earned a median salary of $73,300 in 2019, according to the BLS.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

After performing in a clinical setting for a few years, nurses may earn an MSN to qualify to work as a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs provide primary care in specialized settings. They perform duties similar to those of physicians, such as assessing patients, diagnosing conditions, and prescribing medications. To attain a license, an NP must pass a certification exam administered by the organization within his or her specialty area, such as the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

The BLS reports that NPs earned a median salary of $109,820 in 2019. To augment their professional standing, nurses can earn a Master of Science in Nursing and choose to specialize in pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, or adult gerontology.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

DNP programs prepare nurses for specialized clinical roles as well as positions in leadership and education. DNPs may seek opportunities to work as nurse practitioners or nurse educators. The latter designs and implements curricula to improve learning outcomes for nursing students. They provide leadership and coaching to help both students and practicing RNs acquire the core skills and competencies to attain a degree or certification. Nurse educators earned a median annual salary of $83,160 in 2019, according to the BLS.

Nursing students who seek to advance their careers, earn a higher salary, and develop essential nursing skills for their resumes can consider pursuing a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice or an MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program, based on their current level of education.

Post-Master’s Certificates

MSN credentialed registered nurses who want to become NPs or existing NPs looking to expand their scope of  practice can pursue an online post master’s certificate. Students can earn a certificate and expand their knowledge and skills in pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, or adult gerontology.

Learn More

When writing a nursing resume, skills and experience based on educational and professional achievements are important to highlight. By doing so, applicants can help employers understand how their previous experience can enable them to effectively fulfill the responsibilities of the new position. Nurses who are looking to gain a competitive edge in the field would do well to consider pursuing an advanced degree.

Discover the benefits of earning an online nursing degree from Regis College. Learn more about how the Master of Science in Nursing, BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice, MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice, and post-master’s certificates programs can help prepare you for your future in nursing.

Recommended Readings:
NP to DNP: In Less Than 10 Years, All Nurse Practitioners May Need to Hold a DNP
Nurse Educator Job Description: How to Help Cultivate the Next Generation of Nurses
What Can I Do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

American Nurses Association, “Nursing Workforce”
Cambridge English Dictionary, “Empathy Definition” 
Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, “Nurse Educator”
RAND, “Health Care Pay for Performance”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners