Changing Your Nursing Specialty: Fine-tuning the Resume is Key

Melissa Mills
by Melissa Mills   Career Advice Contributor 

One of the best aspects of nursing is that it offers you so many different career paths. You may choose bedside care in nursing specialties such as medical-surgical, cardiac care, pediatrics or oncology. And, though these positions fit the mold of “traditional” nursing jobs, you may discover these roles don’t best suit your personality or long-term career goals.

Perhaps you’d like to explore some of the most common career changes for nurses, such as case management, utilization review, nursing leadership or health education. Nurse practitioners may also decide on career change options that may include not only switching from one specialty to another, but also exploring a non-traditional career in writing, politics or technology.

If you’re wondering how to change to a different type of nursing, start by updating your resume. Update your resume in order to:

  • Showcase your transferable skills
  • Communicate your willingness to learn
  • Create an easy-to-read list of your past nursing experiences

Preparing your resume for a change in nursing specialty takes a lot of reflection and a little creativity. We’ve rounded up a few best practices you should apply if you’re considering a nursing or nurse practitioner career change.

1. Choose the best resume format

You’re probably most familiar with the chronological resume format. This traditional format lists your experience in reverse chronological order. If you’re switching specialties, think about using a nursing resume template that allows you to set up your information in a functional resume format.

A functional resume allows you to focus on your nursing skills, experiences and abilities rather than listing your work history in order. You’ll downplay or omit traditional nursing resume details such as employment dates, jobs titles and employer names. Paring down this information lets you showcase the transferable skills beneficial in your newly chosen nursing specialty. This format also allows you to communicate your desire to continue to learn and grow as a nursing professional.

Another option is using a combination resume format, which blends the chronological and functional resume. The combination format lets you list your skills and highlight the most relevant components of your work history. A combination resume format is an excellent choice if you have little experience in a particular nursing specialty.

Still unsure what format best suits your resume and nursing career? Experiment with creating your resume in several forms. Then get feedback from a trusted nursing co-worker or mentor in the nursing specialty you wish to pursue.

Two nurses discussing results together

2. List your transferable skills

As a nurse, you have many skills. But can you effectively identify and communicate these nursing skills to potential employers? When seeking a job in one of the most common career change specialties for nurses, your resume must stand out in the crowd. To accomplish this, do these four things:

  1. Research the nursing specialties you are interested in and make a list of common skills and characteristics listed in job descriptions.
  2. Review your resume and list the nursing skills you’ve acquired over the years.
  3. Separate your skills into those that will or will not transfer to your intended specialty.
  4. Match your transferable skills to the skills listed in the job ad.

If you don’t have an extensive list of transferable nursing skills from previous jobs, don’t despair. There are other ways to show you’re qualified for different nursing specialties. These may include listing skills you’ve gained through:

  • Volunteer roles
  • Continuing education courses or professional development
  • Participation in nursing organizations that align with your nursing specialty

3. Create a professional summary

Resume experts used to recommend that applicants create a generic nursing objective at the top of their resume. Today, with the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), your resume needs a summary that’s tailor-made to include relevant keywords. This can significantly affect your first impression on the nurse recruiter or hiring manager. Your summary should describe your nursing career and successes and connect them to the position you want. If possible, offer examples of how you added value to past healthcare employers in various nursing specialties.

A professional summary needs to connect your experience to the role you want directly. List your strengths and any clinical skills that will transfer well into the new role. For example, if you have a certification in infusion and you want a position in an oncology unit, make sure to prominently mention this transferable skill. Writing a professional summary that grabs the attention of the hiring manager or nurse recruiter is an excellent strategy when making a nursing or nurse practitioner career change.

Make the successful change to a new nursing specialty

Changing nursing specialties is an exciting milestone in your career. To give yourself the best chance at succeeding, make sure your nursing resume concisely communicates your skills and abilities. Whether you need a new resume format or want to organize your accomplishments effectively, our Resume Builder will help you craft a resume that ensures success in your new nursing specialty.

About the Author

Career Advice Contributor

Melissa Mills Career Advice Contributor

Melissa is a nurse with over 21 years of experience, ranging from bedside to executive level leadership. Her writing has appeared in Oncology Nursing News, AllNurses, and MindBodyGreen. She enjoys helping nurses explore their careers to get the most out of the profession. She worked as a hiring manager for over a decade, and understands the importance of networking, creating a stellar resume, and writing a cover letter that tells your story as a nursing professional.


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