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How to Write the Perfect Travel Nurse Resume to Get the Job You Want

Think of your nursing resume as an advertisement that sells you. You want every aspect — from your description of your relevant experience to your formatting — to be a strong representation of what you have to offer an employer.

Here’s how to write the perfect travel nursing resume to get the job you want.


Plan your resume before you begin writing.

Before you open that Word document to write your resume, have a strategy in place.

Study resume samples

Check out some sample nurse resumes to get a better idea of what a successful one looks like. They provide a quick snapshot of what your resume should look like, what information you should include, and how to arrange it.

Start with the job

Every travel nurse position is unique, so the resume you send should be, too. You may have a general nursing resume for networking and other professional functions. But when you want a specific position, tailor your resume to that job.

Examine the job listing.

Really study the description. Notice the way the hospital or facility conveys the qualities they are looking for in a travel nurse. Look for ways that you can make your resume a response to the job description.

Ask for more information.

Travel nursing job listings are often brief and lack specificity. Though your recruiter may not have any more information than provided, it’s always good to give a call or a quick email to ask for additional details. This extra step could get you a piece of info no other travel nurse has — and help you make your resume really stand out.

Do your homework.

A lot of nurses know to tailor their resumes to the job description. You can go the extra mile and research the specific hospital and unit where you’d like to work. Check out their website and their nurses’ Facebook group, and give them a call. Find out specific information that isn’t listed in the job posting.

  • What qualities does the hospital highlight in its mission statement? List any demonstrated experience that exhibits those characteristics.
  • What challenges is the unit facing? Note any times you have successfully faced similar challenges in your previous positions.
  • What goals has the unit or facility recently accomplished? Mention a situation, perhaps in your cover letter, when you have met a similar goal.
  • What electronic records system does the facility use? Include your experience with that system in your computer skills section.

Optimize your resume to be read by a computer.

Most nursing resumes don’t get those six seconds of human contact until they’ve made it past one initial hurdle: a computer. Specifically, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

An ATS is a program that hiring managers and recruiters use to speed up the hiring process on their end. This program “reads” your resume, saves your information in a searchable file, and often ranks you against other applicants vying for the same position.

So, unless you are sure that your resume is going to be read by a human (for example, if you met a nurse manager at Mercy West who expressed interest in your resume), it’s safe to assume your resume needs to “impress” a computer first.

Optimize for the job you applying for

The ATS will assess and rank you on how well you match the job description. The computer will not be sensitive to synonyms or similar skills that aren’t stated in a way it understands. The standards it uses to rank candidates are given in the job description. So, this is where your close attention to the job posting will really come in handy.

  • Mirror the language of the job description in your resume. If the hospital uses the phrase “12-bed inpatient care unit providing specialized care to neuro-surgical patients,” echo some of that language in your description of your experience whenever applicable. For example:
    • 3 years experience as a neuro-surgical ICU RN in a 16-bed inpatient care unit
    • 1 year experience as a travel med-surg RN in a Level II Trauma unit providing specialized care to neuro patients
  • Headline your most relevant experience. If a job description requires up to three years of travel experience, be sure to highlight your travel work in your summary.
  • Pay attention to the specialty listed. If you don’t have that specialty, highlight your relevant experience. For example, if a hospital has a position in a neuro-surgical ICU and your specialty is med-surgical ICU, highlight any relevant neuro patient contact you’ve had.  

Optimize your formatting

Most ATS programs use something called a resume parser. To the ATS, your resume is a set of data, and a resume parser is a tool that codes and categorizes that data.

So, what does this mean for you? You need your resume to be as easy as possible for an automatic scanner to understand. To do that, follow these guidelines.

  • Keep it simple. A computer won’t be impressed by your fancy fonts or beautiful bullets. In fact, unique formatting can interfere with the program’s ability to read your skills and experience.
    • Use straightforward, traditional fonts, such as Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, or Times New Roman.
    • Don’t underline words — this can make them illegible to the ATS.
    • Avoid unconventional characters, such as emojis or symbols.
    • Use simple, easily recognized bullets, or no bullets at all.
    • Remove images, columns, fields, text boxes, and any other complicated structuring.
    • Avoid color. Black & white is best.
  • Stack your information. Rather than spreading information across the page, list it neatly.

Here’s what not to do:

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want

Go for this instead:

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (1)

  • Be consistent. The computer only understands information presented in a regimented, systematic way. If your headings, punctuation, or date formats aren’t consistent, your information may be miscoded. And if the computer can’t see what a qualified candidate you are, it won’t send you to the hiring manager’s desk. (More on the importance of consistency below).
  • Double-check your spelling and grammar. Computers don’t know what to do with misspelled words. Grammar mistakes may also confuse the system and make it more difficult for you to move ahead in the process. (More on spelling and grammar below, too).
  • Stick to industry-standard language. Use industry conventions to describe your experience. The computer many not understand your interesting way of expressing a job function. So say “travel ER RN” or “travel emergency room nurse” rather than “emergency traveler.”
  • Use conventional headings. Here are the most common headings found in a travel nurse resume:
    • Summary
    • Speciality
    • Licenses and Credentials OR Licenses and Certifications
    • Professional Experience OR Work Experience OR Employment History
    • Computer Skills
    • Relevant Skills OR Miscellaneous Skills
    • Education
  • Use keywords. Using the research you did in the planning phase, strategically place keywords throughout your resume. Don’t overload your descriptions with keywords or use them just to get points with the ATS. Cater to the computer, but make sure your resume is easily readable by a human, too.

Write your perfect travel nursing resume.

Now that you’ve determined the simple, straightforward, computer-friendly format you are going to use, you’re ready to write your resume.

Go long.

Unlike resumes you may have crafted for other positions, in travel nursing, there’s no need to keep your resume short. Employers and recruiters expect that you may have held many short-term positions — it’s the sign of a dedicated travel nurse! You want the nurse manager (or ATS) reading your resume to have a comprehensive sense of your experience.

Be consistent.

As a nurse, you know it’s crucial to be exacting. You don’t settle for getting medication dosages right “for the most part” — you strive for perfection. The same is true in your resume.

Show recruiters and employers that you are detail-oriented by being precise and consistent in all of the information you provide.

  • Pay close attention to formatting.
  • Capitalize consistently.
  • Provide the same set of information for every certification, job position, institution, and affiliation. Include all of this information in the same order for every entry.
  • Use precise start and end dates for all of your positions.

Take a look at these examples below. Who would you be more likely to hire?

Nancy Nursington

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (2)

Or Therese O’Traveler?

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (3)

With equivalent work experience and skills, Ms. O’Traveler stands out for her consistency and attention to detail, while Ms. Nursington sticks out for her inconsistent formatting, lack of structure, and carelessness.

Mind your spelling and grammar.

According to CareerBuilder, 58% of hiring managers will toss out resumes if they have spelling and grammar mistakes. Perfect spelling and grammar help you:

  • Look professional, committed, and detail-oriented.
  • Stand out from the crowd because mistakes are common.
  • Make the most of your six seconds, since a recruiter won’t be distracted by errors.

Go the extra mile:

  • Check your grammar repeatedly.
  • Use an app like Grammarly to check your work for you.
  • Ask a family member or friend to read your resume over for you.
  • Hire a professional to edit your resume. Services like Fiverr have highly rated, low-cost resume editors available.

The extra attention you pay to these small details can keep you in the running for the jobs you want most.

Use action verbs.

Action verbs, such as managed, led, and coordinated, are verbs that state a physical or mental action. These are different than being verbs, such as was, is, and are, that do not express action.

Action verbs in your resume clearly state something that you did in your previous work. They make the hiring manager picture you in action. Being verbs don’t have the same impact. Take a look at these two examples:

  1. “Was the leader of a team of four ER nurses.”
  2. “Supervised a team of four ER nurses.”

Feel the power in that second sentence? You can practically see that nurse in action, decisively leading the others through the ER. The first example doesn’t have that sense of action. It’s also longer, and when you have only six seconds to impress, less is more.

You can use action verbs throughout your resume — especially in the summary and in the job descriptions.

Here are some strong action verbs to use in your travel nurse resume.

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing... To Get the Job You Want - Google Docs copy

Nail the six essential sections.

These six essential sections are as important as those six seconds. So, take your time and fully articulate every aspect of each section:

  • Summary
  • Speciality
  • Licenses & Certifications
  • Professional Experience
  • Computer Skills
  • Education

The order of these sections will depend on what you want to emphasize most. For most nursing positions, you’ll want to go with the order given below. Here are some exceptions:

  • If an alum from your nursing school is hiring for a position, you might want to emphasize your education by moving it up towards the top.
  • If your specialty isn’t relevant to the position, you may want to eliminate that section.
  • If a job description requires experience with an electronic records system that you have used, you may want to include your computer skills in your summary, right at the top, and forgo a special computer skills section altogether.

1. Summary

Notice this says summary, not objective. A summary is much more effective in drawing in employers than an objective.

An objective tells the employer what you want:

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (4)

A summary tells the employer what’s in it for them:

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (7)

Returning to the idea that a resume is an advertisement that sells yourself to an employer, you want to start off immediately with what you have to offer them. A good summary includes your biggest selling points.

  • Highlight why you are the best person for the job.
  • Provide an overall statement about the type of experience and qualifications you have.
  • Quantify your achievements with specifics and concrete data whenever possible.
  • Use action verbs.
  • Summarize your experience, including duration, listing the most relevant at the top of the section.
    • The summary above includes a succinct, enticing review of this candidate’s overall relevant experience: Over 7 years experience as a traveling med-surg RN
  • Provide a concise list of your qualifications for the job.
    • For example, if a job description emphasizes safety awareness, highlight your achievements on your previous employer’s Safety Committee. You might say: Spearheaded an initiative as a member of Mercy West’s Safety Committee that reduced patient falls by 65% over an 18-month period.
  • Highlight your managerial or team style, as relevant.
    • For example, if the unit you are applying to stresses the importance of communication and teamwork in all of their past job listings, you could highlight your own skills like this: Communicate openly and collaborate easily.
  • List awards, education, and certifications that make you stand out from the crowd.
    • For example, if you noticed in your research that a hospital is very focused on the customer-service model for patient care, mention your relevant awards: Honored with several awards for improving patient satisfaction and enhancing customer service.

The summary is key real estate in your resume. Be sure to encapsulate everything that you want a hiring manager or recruiter to know about you.

2. Speciality

This is a straightforward section in which you list your specialty and the number of years you’ve worked in it. If you have multiple specialties, be sure to include all of them, putting the most relevant first.

3. Licenses & Certifications

You worked hard to be the skilled nurse you are. Let potential employers see your dedication by listing all relevant licenses and certifications.

  • Complete title of license, certification, or other credential.
  • Full name of the certifying body.
  • Identifying information, such as the certification number and expiration date, if applicable.  

4. Professional Experience

Along with your name and education, professional experience gets 80% of recruiter’s attention when they are looking at your resume.

Here’s a more extensive look at Ms. O’Traveler’s professional experience.

How to Write the Perfect Travel Nursing Resume To Get the Job You Want (8)

Be sure to include consistent, extensive information for each position:

  • Your complete job title. Be sure to adhere to industry conventions.
  • The hospital or other medical facility’s complete name. Don’t abbreviate or use colloquial expressions or familiar abbreviations.
  • The town and state where you worked.
  • The precise dates your job started and ended.
  • Your job functions, achievements, and skills.
    • Begin each entry with an action verb.
    • Connect your current and past work to the job requirements, as you did in the summary section.
    • Quantify achievements whenever possible.
    • Connect your experience to each aspect of the job posting.
    • Include relevant or enticing soft skills that may set you apart from the crowd.

5. Computer Skills

As the healthcare system becomes increasingly reliant on technology, computer skills, such as experience with specific electronic records management systems, are nearly as important as medical skills. They are as intrinsic to the everyday functioning of a hospital. If you have relevant skills, don’t skimp on this section.

  • List the complete, official name of the systems that you used.
  • List the amount of time you spent with each system and some of the key functions or duties you performed with it.
  • Highlight any computer-specific or EMR-specific training you have received.

6. Education

You put a lot of time, work, energy, and money into your education – show it off! Be sure to include:

  • Full, proper name of each institution you attended.
  • The complete title of the degree you earned.
  • The dates you attended.
  • Your GPA, if impressive.
  • Any honors that are specific or relevant to the job you are seeking.

Revise and finalize.

Once you have written the first draft of your resume, be sure to revise multiple times. Check for:

  • □ Errors
  • □ Inconsistencies
  • □ Grammar mistakes
  • □ Redundancies
  • □ Misspelled words
  • □ Redundancies
  • □ Skills or achievements you left out
  • □ Key job requirements you forgot to address

Once you’ve checked and double-checked, get someone else to review it one last time before you hit “Submit.”

Congratulations! You’ve completed your travel nurse resume, and you’re ready to get that ideal job. Contact TotalMed to search out more jobs today.

Want to see all of these tips in action? Download these travel nurse resume samples now.

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