The Travel Nurse Resume
Resume writing gives most of us nurses just a little bit of anxiety.
First of all, perfecting a resume―much less a travel nurse resume―isn’t something anyone really bothered to spend much time on in nursing school. And the unique nature of our profession makes it difficult to really structure our experience like a standard job CV. Our experience can be clinical, non-clinical, or even both, and we often supplement and complement our professional career with non-nursing roles. And even though many states are experiencing a nursing shortage, the most sought after positions are still incredibly competitive to achieve!
Also, if you're just starting to think about travel nursing, we highly recommend you read this Travel Nursing Guide. It covers everything from how to become a travel nurse to how to maximize your pay.
So, how do you effectively capture the depth and value of your experience as a nurse on your next job search? We’ve got you covered with tons of helpful tips and even a travel nurse resume example below!
How Travel Nurse Resumes Are Used
To really understand how to write a great travel nurse resume, you have to know how it’s used in the application process.
The typical image of a hiring manager with thick-rimmed glasses leafing through an endless stack of papers simply no longer applies to the general job market―even less so to travel nursing! In fact, there’s a chance that your hiring manager won’t even see your resume. (To better understand how the nurse hiring process works, you'll need to understand the roles of the MSP and VMS.)
That’s right. You send it to recruiters, they dissect it, and the hiring manager typically gets only the pertinent info.
For some nursing jobs, the process is even more distant (enter the applicant tracking system, or ATS). These come in handy because they’re able to quickly screen the applications that a company receives to filter out those without the qualifications that the position needs.
According to a recent Jobscan survey, the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use these as part of the way they evaluate applications. While medical facilities aren’t on that list, this trend is actually increasing in most industries (including travel healthcare) as well. Rather than hiring managers spending precious (wo-)manpower sorting through dozens of nursing resumes, they outsource that first step to the ATS. Essentially, it’s the first line of defense against the deluge of applications that a company is likely to get when they post an open position.
According to a recent Jobscan survey, the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems to evaluate applications.
This first line of defense isn’t foolproof, though. Computers using an applicant tracking system will scan for exact keyword and detail matches; they can't read typos and context in the same way humans can. That means that if a hiring manager is looking for someone with two years of experience in the ER and your resume includes a 20-month stretch in critical care, you could get overlooked even though you might be a perfect fit for the job. But applicant tracking systems are also way more efficient, meaning that they’re able to evaluate candidates and find matches in much less time than a human could. This translates into a faster application turnaround time for you!
As scary and impersonal as applicant tracking systems may seem, know that it’s absolutely possible to have them work in your favor―the key is making sure that you have a travel nurse resume designed to work with the system.
So, Why Do You Need a Strong Resume?
Even though hiring managers may not spend much time reading your resume, it’s still one of the best ways for a company or recruiter to quickly have a sense of what you bring to the table.
Having all the information about your professional qualifications and work history succinctly summarized in one place will allow your recruiter to quickly determine which positions will be a good fit. For the foreseeable future, there’s no escaping the this part of the application process as a travel healthcare professional.
But travel nurse applications aren’t the only place that your resume comes in handy. Whether it’s going back to school, taking on a PRN, or a permanent position at a medical facility, you’ll need a great resume. Rest assured that your hard work won’t be in vain. (Following a strong resume, you'll also have to have an excellent interview.)
General Tips for Your Travel Nurse Resume
Before writing your resume, you’ll need a foundation to build upon. Enter your travel nurse resume template: a skeleton that organizes all of the information you’ll need to fill in into neat, streamlined sections.
And before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what sections you’ll need (and the contents of each), we’ll want to make sure that you understand the general rules that should guide the way your template looks and how it is written―regardless of whether it’s seen by a recruiter, hiring manager, or an ATS.
Formatting Your Travel Nurse Resume Template
We’re willing to bet you’ve heard of the principle of K.I.S.S. (short for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”).
This handy acronym was created by the U.S. Navy over five decades ago to emphasize the importance of simplicity in design. Essentially, you want to avoid making things unnecessarily difficult or complex.
This translates really well to how you should think about your travel nurse resume template, especially when it comes to formatting. Because your application will likely go through an ATS at some point, you want to make it's as easy for the tracking system software to read as possible.
Some general tips for maximizing ATS-friendliness include:
- Don’t bother with fancy headers or footers
- Don’t include special fonts
- Don’t insert pictures, videos, graphs, or any other visuals
- Keep it black and white (no fancy font colors or backgrounds)
Don’t make your headings HUGE, but definitely make them large enough to draw your eye to the top of the resume, specifically to your name. If it’s too small or a weird font, be mindful of the perception. Also, look at the separation and create space for ease of the eye; no one wants to read lines or words that are too close to separate visually.
Beyond making your formatting super easy to read, your travel nurse resume template should use a conventional formatting style. That means using standard section titles, like “summary,” “work experience,” and “education.” Finally, save your document as a regular Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) rather than a PDF; this minimizes the chance that the applicant tracking system has issues scanning your resume due to file type.
Creating a fancy travel nurse resume (regardless of how impressive it looks) will likely do more harm than good for your application. If the ATS is unable to accurately scan your application for key information, those aspects of your application will risk getting overlooked, and you may not advance to the next round of the hiring process. It’s one thing to not get a position because you’re not a good fit, but you don’t want to be passed because your resume wasn’t a good fit.
The Ideal Length of Your Travel Nurse Resume
Long story short (pun intended), travel nurse resumes are a little different. Unlike other professions that have a generally accepted rule of about one page in length, when it comes to travel nursing, having a longer-than-normal resume doesn’t actually matter. In an industry where it’s common for nurses to switch jobs every three months, it’s actually expected by hiring managers!
If you’ll need to do some in-person networking, however, it may be wise to have a short and sweet version with only your most recent and/or relevant work experience listed.
Watch out for Grammar and Vocabulary
A good travel nurse resume concisely details your professional accomplishments. Grammar and vocabulary play a huge role in that.
Focus on including a skimmable list of your professional accomplishments, not writing a long essay about them. Don’t worry about paragraphs―in fact, you shouldn’t have them at all! Because large blocks of text are much harder for people to quickly scan than a list of single line bullet points, you should structure your entries as bulleted lists.
Keep your bullet points as straight-forward as possible, beginning each bullet point with a verb or adjective in order to keep yourself from writing full sentences and to eliminate any references to yourself (ex: “I was responsible for…”).
Also, be mindful of your punctuation. Before submitting your resume to your recruiter, do a proofread to make sure that any punctuation or other grammatical choices are intentional and won’t be easily misinterpreted. Occasionally, an ATS can misread an entry due to grammatical error.
Ideally, you’ll want to tailor your resume to the travel nurse job(s) you want by writing certain parts to “mirror” the requirements of the position(s) that you’re applying for. What’s mirroring? Simply put, it’s recycling the keywords or key phrases listed within the details about the facility and their job requirements when describing your own skill set in your resume.
By mirroring their phrasing, you help your recruiter, the people at the facility, and/or their applicant tracking system to easily connect the dots on how your competencies match with the job requirements.
Finally, choose your words carefully! A common mistake among travel nurse resumes is the use of passive voice with vague verbs and adjectives. This won’t present you in the best light because it won’t fully capture the initiative and critical thinking that you exercise on each nursing shift. Instead, be more intentional about using impact-oriented words over passive ones.
The (Many) Sections of Your Travel Nurse Resume
It’s easier than you think to master your travel nurse resume’s sectioning and organization. By arranging your information into clear sections, you present yourself in the best possible light and ensure that you cover everything potential employers need to know to make an informed decision about your application.
Important Stuff at the Top
First impressions are important, and the first thing that most readers will see on your travel nurse resume is the heading.
Within your heading, make sure that your name, any relevant professional titles (RN, BSN, MSN, NNP, FNP-C, FNP-BC, etc.), and your contact information (both phone number and email) are centered and visible at the top.
Also, remember to update your heading so that it contains your current cell phone number and email address. And while we’re on the topic of email addresses, be sure to use a professional email address. (It’s time to retire “XOCaliBabeOX@yahoo.com.”)
After filling out your name and contact information at the top, your next step should be piquing the interest of your audience by providing a snapshot of the awesome individual you are and the amazing work you’ve done: the summary.
There’s a difference between a summary and an objective, which is also a pretty common feature near the top of a travel nurse resume. So what makes one better than the other?
A summary describes what you can do for your (future) employer. An objective describes what opportunities you hope your (future) employer will provide for you. You can probably guess which one the employer is more interested in reading.
Your summary is prime real estate on your resume, so use it to highlight the following:
- Specialities that you’re competent in
- Years of clinical experience in your field or relevant specialty (still haven't found your specialty?)
- Skills you possess that are most pertinent to the position you’re applying for
Finally, make sure that all this is done in a couple of sentences. You want to give your reader enough of a convincing snapshot to want to read through the rest.
Licenses & Certifications
Hiring managers and nurse staffing agencies will always check for your licenses and certifications first, so be sure to have that information available up front!
When listing your license and certification information, remember to include:
- Type of license or certification (i.e. RN license, LPN license, etc.)
- License or certification number
- Name of the organization that granted you the license or certification
- Expiration dates on your documents
You should include all valid nursing licenses and certifications on your travel nurse resume, even if you don’t think they’ll be necessary for the job. Sometimes, it won’t be immediately obvious that a certain specialty or certification is preferred for a position, but you never know whether having a certain additional certification will give you a leg up!
In addition to the licenses and certifications, your travel nurse resume should also feature the educational institutions that you’ve trained at.
When it comes to the “education” section, create an entry for each school or program that played a role in your journey to being a nurse. That should include relevant tidbits like wherever you received your nursing degree from and should exclude less-specialized information like your high school diploma.
For each entry, make sure that you provide the following:
- Type of degree conferred
- Full name and location of the degree/certificate-granting institution
- Dates of attendance (from when to when)
The work experience section is the “meat” of your travel nurse resume. This is the part where you break down all the cool places you’ve worked and all the awesome things you’ve done while you were there!
However, there needs to be a method to your madness. It’s not enough to simply mention that you cared for patients in a hospital. Each entry in your work experience needs to address the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Within the headings for each entry, be sure to include:
- Facility’s full official name
- Facility’s city and state
- Exact start and end dates at the facility (if you’re still employed there, you can always write “present” in place of an end date)
Within your description, you should note factors like:
- Your unit’s specialty
- Number of beds in your unit
- Nurse/patient ratio
- Whether your facility was trauma or teaching
- Whether your facility specialized in a certain patient population (i.e. women’s or children’s hospital)
- Whether you floated to other units, and if so, what specialties/levels they were
- Whether you assumed charge duty
- Any computer skills (from Excel to Epic!) that you acquired or utilized on the job
Finally, if you have any large gaps in employment (30 days or more), hiring managers will get curious. Whenever you have these breaks, include a concise (but clear!) explanation for them on your resume.
Nurses are a multi-faceted group, and there’s no telling what amazing things you’re up to on your days off. That being said, sometimes, it can be beneficial to share some of your accomplishments away from the bedside with prospective employers―especially if you can link these achievements to your capacity to provide higher-quality care for your patients.
While you can consider “the extras” as optional to include on your travel nurse resume, if you have notable experience in any of these fields, you should list it. It may just help differentiate you from another similarly-qualified candidate.
If you’ve done clinical or scientific research―especially research that’s published―tell them about it! Include an entry stating the name of your article, your role in the research, and (if available) a link to your full paper. If you’ve presented your research at any conferences, remember to note this in your resume as well!
Participating in medical missions trips abroad or even community health events near home is a great way to practice clinical care beyond the typical settings of a clinic or hospital. You may encounter methodologies, patient populations, and illnesses unlike those you’re accustomed to caring for. Best of all, you’re often bringing these skills to the patients who need it most.
Volunteering in clinical care demonstrates critical thinking, passion for your field, adaptability to the unknown, and the willingness to stay open to learning new things as a clinician―all highly sought after traits for a travel nurse and great assets to your application! If you choose to include a section in your resume outlining your volunteering experiences, make sure that each entry includes the organization you worked with, the time period duration, and your responsibilities while you were there.
Awards and Honors
Being recognized for your hard work always feels great, but it also demonstrates a track record of going above and beyond what’s required of someone in your shoes. Think of your clinical awards and honors as additional references. Like a reference, having one co-signs your character, competence, and work ethic as a nurse, and it’s definitely worth including. Be sure to list the name of the award, the date it was conferred, and what it recognizes (DAISY awards being among the most impressive!).
Over the course of your career as a nurse, you’ll come across managers, supervisors, industry leaders, and others with more experience in your field who have seen your talent firsthand and are willing to vouch for you. You should look to these individuals for references.
Word of mouth carries a lot of weight in the nursing world. In the same way that you’ll want to get others’ opinions on a nurse staffing agency, a travel nurse recruiter, or medical facility that you’re thinking of working with, a hiring manager will want to get others’ opinions on you.
One of the best references you can secure for your application is someone above you who’s seen your work on a regular basis, so consider first reaching out to your former charge nurses, nurse managers, or nurse supervisors to ask for a reference. The hiring manager will want to know how you interact with a team and with authority figures, both details that previous employers will be able to attest to on your behalf.
On the flip side, there are also bad candidates for references. You shouldn’t seek references from people in a similar or junior position to you (unless they are for peer reviews). Also, avoid people who may not know you well and people with whom your working relationship was poor (or non-existent).
Beyond relying on good reference candidates for your next job application, consider leaning on them for mentorship in your nursing career as well! They’ve gotten where they’re at for a reason, and they’re willing to vouch for you. Clearly, this means that they’re invested in you becoming the best clinical professional you can be.
Building a meaningful relationship with nursing mentors not only gives you a fountain of advice to draw from whenever you feel stuck professionally, it makes future references much stronger, as they’ll have an intimate sense of who you are and where you’re going.
An Example of a Travel Nurse Resume
We’ve gone over a lot of resume tips so far (kudos to you for sticking with us!), so let’s stop here to show you what all of our advice looks like once it’s seamlessly assembled together in the below nursing resume sample.
Above, we’ve included a travel nurse resume example for Flo Nightingale. Notice that it contains the following gems:
- A clear, top-and-center heading featuring Flo’s name, nursing credentials, and contact information
- A short summary that outlines her years of experience, specialty, and clinical skillset
- A section for her licensing and certifications, including the respective types, numbers, expiration dates, and the organizations that awarded them to her
- An education section detailing where she received her nursing degree
- A work experience section using various action verbs within descriptions that are chock-full of pertinent information on her nursing responsibilities at previous jobs
- A spot for references who are excited to vouch for her nursing skills and competencies
This is a great example of a travel nurse resume because it gives the recruiter (or the applicant tracking system) the information they need upfront in a concise and professional way. Feel free to use our Flo example as a basis for your own travel nurse resume template!
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Like every step of your application, there are mistakes that are way too common among nurses. We want to make sure you avoid them!
Mistake #1: Being too Modest
Hiring managers and recruiters understand the difference between being confident and being cocky... and to the applicant tracking system’s software, it doesn’t matter. Resumes are one of the few spaces set aside for people to showcase their best selves, so when it comes to writing your own travel nurse resume, there’s little you can write that will come off as too arrogant. Don’t worry about asserting and displaying the work you’ve done so far.
As long as the achievements that you include are accurate, you’re in the clear. As a nurse, there’s no doubt you’ve done impressive things―this is your chance to show it!
Mistake #2: Not Proofreading
This is all too common. Please don’t be one of the nurses who loses out on an opportunity because of a misspelled word or poor grammar.
We know. After all the time you’ve already spent formatting and re-formatting the sections in your travel nurse resume template, wordsmithing your various entries, and researching your dates of employment, the last thing you’d want to do is read everything over again to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. But those mistakes can cost you. To a human reviewer, spelling and grammar mistakes appear unprofessional and careless. Worse yet, to an ATS, certain mistakes that are picked up can confuse the system’s ability to correctly read and process the information as intended.
Once you’ve written and proofread your travel nurse resume and assembled the references to go with them, send that golden ticket out to your chosen agencies! Hooray, you’re one step closer to being a travel nurse!
Take the Next Step
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