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Writing a Nursing Cover Letter (Everything You Need to Know)

Jul 16, 2020
Ashley Sayles, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC

What is a Cover Letter?

In general, a cover letter is a letter that is sent with something to explain the reason for it or to give more information about it. When it comes to nursing, a registered nurse cover letter gives more information about the applicant and usually accompanies a résumé.

You can find more on nursing résumés, including a custom resume builder, at Trusted for New Grads!

When you write a cover letter, it's your chance to elaborate on topics mentioned in your résumé or talk about something completely different that makes you an awesome candidate for the position you’re applying for.

When Should You Submit a Cover Letter

In short? Always! Especially if you’re a new graduate nurse or are a nurse looking to change nursing specialties. Cover letters can also be very useful in explaining gaps in employment or even to better explain being let go from a previous nursing position.

As a new graduate nurse, you enter the nursing job market with thousands of other nurses with pretty much the exact same résumé content. You went to ABC nursing school; you recently graduated and passed the NCLEX; and, you have clinical experience in Psych/Mental Health, L&D/Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Medical/Surgical nursing, and Public/Community Health. 

You may have some fun stuff to add, nursing honor society, or clubs and volunteer involvement that can help set you apart from other applicants. You may even have experience as a CNA or nurse extern, too—these are all great accomplishments to be proud of. 

If you have been out of work for an extended period of time, your cover letter is the perfect place to EXPLAIN your employment gap and reasons why you’re looking to get back into the swing of things.

If you have experiences that you can elaborate relevant information from (mission trips, study abroad, shadowing/share time, union involvement, research projects, etc.), you should detail it in your cover letter.

man typing on laptop nursing cover letter

Cover Letter Format 

A registered nurse’s cover letter should always be in formal letterhead format, including: 

  • Your full name, address, email, and phone number
  • The date
  • The employer/institution’s full name and mailing address
  • Salutation (“Dear Hiring Manager/Nurse Recruiter” or “To Whom It May Concern”)
  • Introduction paragraph, 1-2 body paragraphs, then conclusion paragraph
  • Complimentary close (“Sincerely, With Care, Regards, Respectfully”)
  • Signature—Your name typed (PDF image of your actual signature is even better)
  • Cover letter length should NOT exceed one page!

You can access a variety of templates here!

Cover Letter Layout

What should the format entail?

  • Always use formal letter format (and don't begin with a title like, "Cover Letter for Nursing Job")
  • Layout, font, colors should match resume (visual cues)
  • Introduce yourself in the first paragraph: credentials, graduation date, nursing school, NCLEX status (passed, will take on XYZ date)
  • Next, discuss why you’re right for the position—specific personal experiences, studies, etc.
  • In the third paragraph, discuss why the position (particularly the unit) and the facility is right for you
  • Finally, summarize your letter and thank the reader for their time and consideration

Make sure you look up the hospital and unit you’re applying to. You should know their mission statement and core values, and you should mention them in your cover letter; this is where you impress them with your research.

Example: “I truly admire XYZ Medical Center’s commitment to diversity and interdisciplinary collaboration as evidenced by the institutions mission statement…”

Yale's School of Nursing also has some great layout and format suggestions.

Cover Letter - Keep in Mind

Additionally, here are a few things to keep in mind as you work through your cover letter:

  • If you’re not sure who will be reading the letter, address it to “Hiring Manager” or “Nurse Recruiter”
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself!  

Hype up your extracurricular involvement, relevant clinical experience, your personal life that brought you to nursing, or the particular type of nursing for which you are applying, etc. 

  • Lastly, talk about how much you want the job—eloquently, of course, NO desperation!

Example: “Working at XYZ hospital has been a dream of mine for some time, and I’m sure I will continue to build on the skills and experience I have already come across in school while working on the unit among the amazing nurse educators and preceptors that make this institution great!”

Example Cover Letter Narrative

Cover Letter Sample, here is my back story:

I was a new grad applying to work in the pediatric ICU AND I just so happened to be a previous PICU patient as a child. Of course, this means I can offer empathy and understand what patients are experiencing while in the PICU but where would this information go in my résumé? Nowhere, it would be odd to put that in my résumé but does that mean it isn’t important?


And here is an excerpt from my actual cover letter:

“As a previous PICU patient myself battling severe asthma, I have a unique understanding of what my patients are experiencing and thus can offer empathy and enhanced patient care experience in a way many of my peers may not be able to.”

laptop notebook head phones and coffee mug with pencils in it sitting on pink carpet nursing cover letters

Nursing Cover Letter Do’s & Don'ts

  • Do reuse your cover letter for multiple positions
  • Don’t forget to change the facility name, address, etc. if you do so!
  • Do use personal experiences that cannot be fully detailed in the resume
  • Don’t ramble or simply summarize your resume

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