What Nursing Skills Do I Need for a Resume?

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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 than ever before, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).

At the same time, nurses are retiring or leaving the profession in high numbers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that health care organizations will need to hire 194,500 registered nurses (RN) every year between 2020 and 2030 in anticipation of this high demand. Additionally, the BLS projects 29,400 openings each year for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners over the same period.

Job openings for RNs and nursing graduates are plentiful. What can applicants do to help improve their desirability as job candidates? A well-written nursing resume should emphasize the core skills, technical competencies, certifications, and education that will help students stand out in the job market.

When highlighting their nursing skills on a resume, candidates should showcase the connection of each skill to their clinical experience and highlight the MSN certificate that serves as the foundation of their professional career.

12 Essential Nursing Skills for a Resume

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. These skills can generally be divided into two categories: hard skills (technical and clinical competencies) and soft skills (leadership, communication, etc.).

Hard Skills

Demonstrating clinical and technical proficiency in a resume is crucial in the competitive nursing job market. Highlighting the following skills can help nurses stand out.

1. Patient Care Expertise

Dressing a wound. Prepping a patient for surgery. Taking vital signs. Interpreting test results. These and other patient care skills are essential to a job as a nurse. Education and training begin with these competencies. Resumes should emphasize patient care skills in each job description.

2. 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 tests electronically to increase efficiency, and share evidence-based practices with colleagues. Nurses need to be able to use medical tools and software to administer treatment and record patient information. These tools may include:

  • Electronic health records: EHR systems record all patient data. EHRs may include all medical treatments, prescriptions, and other elements of a patient’s history, as well as family history data. They also include patient information such as demographics, contact information, and billing and insurance.
  • Artificial intelligence: AI is increasingly used in health care. It can be used for clinical decision-making, data gathering, and decision trees to reduce medical errors.
  • Telehealth: Patients and clinical staff alike can benefit from the convenience and flexibility of telehealth applications. For example, telehealth can be effective in monitoring chronic diseases.
  • Mobile applications: The growth in consumer wellness apps and the advancement of wearable monitoring devices have increased the need for nurses who can effectively use these tools in providing patient care.
  • Internet of Things: More and more, medical devices are connected to the internet. This comes with a host of issues, including network security and patient data privacy.

3. Patient and Family Education

One of the most important technical competencies in nursing is patient and family education. This includes the ability to translate medical terminology for a non-medical audience. It also requires the ability to clearly communicate a patient’s condition, treatment regimen, interventions, and outcomes under stressful conditions. This hard skill also entails soft skills like empathy, patience, and kindness.

4. Patient Safety

Preventing the incidence of falls, medical errors, and other adverse patient occurrences is a vital part of nursing care. Nursing education and patient care include best practices for eliminating unsafe conditions. Nurses who undergo additional training in patient and hospital safety should highlight this skill on their resumes.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are often just as important for effective nursing as technical competencies. So much of nursing revolves around direct patient care, which transcends clinical treatment and incorporates compassion and understanding. When describing soft skills on a nursing resume, nurses should provide examples of how they apply these skills and the outcomes they produce.

5. Empathy

Nurses need to 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.

6. 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.

7. Interpersonal Skills

Nurses work with a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals, including 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 need to also communicate clearly with patients to explain instructions or treatment options. Effectively communicating during high-stress situations is an essential nursing resume skill.

8. Problem-Solving

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) need to use their problem-solving skills when assessing and diagnosing patients.

9. Collaboration

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.

10. Leadership

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 with care teams, focus groups in their hospital or practice , or in the community, such as working at nonprofits or being active in professional associations.

11. Adaptability

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.

12. 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 Education to Boost Qualifications

In addition to highlighting nursing skills on their resume, nurses should emphasize their educational background. Throughout their career, nurses can continue to boost their qualifications 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, such as management or executive-level roles.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Nurses can begin their career with an associate’s degree, but to advance or become a registered nurse, they must 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 $77,600 in 2021, 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 nurse practitioners (NP). NPs provide primary care in specialized settings. They perform duties similar to those of physicians, such as assessing patients; diagnosing conditions; and in some states, 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 $120,680 in 2021.  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)

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 students and practicing RNs acquire the core skills and competencies to attain a degree or certification. Nurse educators earned a median annual salary of $77,440 in 2021, 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 Certificate

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. By earning a certificate, students can expand their knowledge and skills in pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, or adult-gerontology.

Showcase Your Skills and Build a Rewarding Career

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 enables 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 certificate nurse practitioner online programs can help take your nursing career to the next level.

Recommended Reading

What Can You Do with a DNP? Career Outcomes and Skills

Using Nursing Skills to Provide Primary Care

Nurse Educator Job Description: How to Help Cultivate the Next Generation of Nurses


American Nurses Association, “Nurses in the Workforce”

The BMJ, “How the Nursing Profession Should Adapt for a Digital Future”

Cambridge English Dictionary, Empathy

HIMSS, “Nurses’ Perceptions of the Application of the Internet of Things in Healthcare Services in Indonesia: A Mixed Methods Study”

Indeed, “10 Must-Have Skills for Your Nursing Resume”

Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, Nurse Educator

RAND, “Health Care Pay for Performance”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses