What to Put on Your NP Resume When You Don't Have Relevant Experience

I graduated from an accelerated nurse practitioner program that allowed students without nursing experience to obtain a nurse practitioner degree. The first year of the program I got my RN degree, and the second my MSN. The speed and efficiency of the program was a major positive and allowed me to fast track my education. But, once I graduated, finding a job without any nursing or NP experience was tough. What was I supposed to include on my resume to make it attractive to employers?

I talk with a number of nurse practitioners who, like myself, graduated from accelerated programs. I also talk with a number of new NPs who have limited nursing experience and face challenges landing a job. If you lack nursing and/or NP experience, what should you include on your resume in place of relevant work experience?

Clinical Rotations

Sure, you may not have nurse practitioner work experience, but you do have clinical experience through your education. If you're a new grad or an NP with limited work experience, list your clinical rotations on your resume. These should be included under a heading signaling that they are clinical rotations rather than employment. In addition to naming the facilities you trained in, include the specific skills you obtained in each rotation. This highlights your abilities as a provider even if you have yet to be employed as one. If you're a new grad, place your clinical rotations just below the education section of your resume, flowed by the employment section. This places your NP experience (although limited) front and center and makes it clear to employers that you're applying for a nurse practitioner role

Use Your New Title

I'm amazed by the number of resumes I review for new NPs that neglect to include credentials after their name on the resume. Some resumes I review even omit to put the nurse practitioner program in the education section of the resume. Don't be lazy! You're going to need to give your old resume a refresher before you look for NP jobs. You can't simply submit whatever document you used to apply for RN positions or to your graduate program. Open a fresh page, start by heading it with your name and new title and get to work! 

Tangential Work Experience

You may not have worked as a nurse practitioner or even a nurse, but you may have some additional employment or volunteer experience related to healthcare. For example, I worked in medical research labs throughout high school and college. While these skills don't directly translate to patient care, they do demonstrate commitment to and longstanding interest in healthcare. They also demonstrate a commendable track record of employment as a student. Include tangential work experience on your resume to highlight professional interests and personal character, like your work ethic. 

Relevant Skills

You may have had a career outside of the healthcare sector before deciding to become a nurse practitioner. Whether you worked in accounting, IT or human resources, to name a few, many of these skills can be beneficial in your role as a NP. It's OK to list other professional positions on your resume. In most cases, it's best to leave off jobs like flipping burgers in high school, however professional positions can be an asset. They speak to your professional maturity, ability to work with others and capacity to hold down a job. Include these work experiences on your resume along with a skills section at the bottom.

Add a Specific Cover Letter

Make the case that you're poised for success in the position by including a cover letter. Your cover letter must be specific to the job at hand rather than a generic template. Mention your career goals, motivation and interests and how this job in particular plays into these aspirations. Address your lack of experience while highlighting the foundational skills that you do have. If you have a professional career prior to becoming a nurse practitioner, you might also mention how the skills you obtained on your previous path will help you succeed in your new role. 

How did you account for lack of relevant work experience on your nurse practitioner resume?

 

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