If you are a modern-day Florence Nightingale caring for patients in Intensive care units (ICUs), you’ll be a registered nurse (RN) with specialized training and a nursing license. But that’s not enough.
To get the job you want in ICU, you also need a resume that will help you stand out. We have written a full resume sample plus lots of resume examples to help you write the most compelling resume possible.
Resume objective for ICU Nurses
The traditional objective for ICU nurses was specific and focused on the position being applied for. But nowadays, recruiters say that instead of an objective that is job-focused, you should use this space to draw attention to what’s special about you, and what you can bring to the position.
We sampled dozens of ICU nurse resumes and found that many included so-called resume objectives that did just this. Additionally, they used powerful adjectives that highlighted the talents, personality, and skills offered by applicants.
The argument against resume objectives for ICU is that everyone is applying for the same job, so everyone’s objective is going to be the same.
The recruitment company, Monster, advises using a short qualifications summary instead of an ICU nurse resume objective. You can use this to explain the value you offer. But make it interesting and focus on what the job requirements are.
So, instead of stating the obvious in terms of what the job description is, write a short, stand-out summary that highlights your qualities and draws attention to any awards or achievements you may have received or accomplished.
Just don’t headline it “objective”.
ICU nurse with five years of experience in critical care. Strong interpersonal, critical thinking, and collaborative skills. Caring and compassionate. Award recipient of Nurse of the Year.
Resume skills for ICU Nurses
To work as an ICU nurse you need specialized training, a state license, and certification. You also need very specific skills that make you suitable for the kind of intense work you will undertake caring for people in life-threatening situations.
But that’s not all. To be noticed by the employer or recruiter sifting through what could be hundreds of applications for the same job, you need to shine on paper.
One proven way to do this is to incorporate your skills in the form of keywords that match those in the job posting. These should include hard and soft skills that make you suitable for a particular job.
Keywords are particularly important for jobs posted by recruiters that use the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to automatically pull out keywords to thin out resume numbers. This is why it is so important to tailor every resume to the job you are applying for.
The ATS will match specialist skills required with those you list in your resume.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies some of the important qualities and skills that registered nurses should have. These all qualify as keywords: critical-thinking, compassion, communication skills, detail-oriented, emotional stability, organizational skills, and physical stamina.
Patient care | Critical thinking | Competency | Compassion and empathy | Observation and evaluation | Teamwork | Technical ICU ability | Passion | Well organized | Tenacity
ICU Nurse work experience
Experience is important in any job, but even more so for ICU nurses who are seeking positions in life-and-death situations.
We scanned through dozens of job posts to see what sort of experience is commonly required. Like most things, it varies according to the job. Some prefer experience with direct patient care, some want one or more years of experience in emergency care, others specify acute care or ER experience.
This shows that recruitment officers and employers are often looking for dependable candidates who have already proved their skills and abilities. But if you don’t have much experience as an ICU nurse, you can list previous staff-nurse or other nursing positions.
You can also include volunteer work on your resume. Not only will this boost your work experience it will also show that you have a desire and commitment to help people outside of paid opportunities.
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers volunteer opportunities that can be helpful.
Don’t just list where you have worked, also list accomplishments and skills and qualities that you want to highlight to show how well-positioned you are for the job.
In nursing school, did you organize study groups? Did you serve as an officer, maybe president of your class? If so, say so.
Sample Work Experience
Cleveland Clinic, OH
RN – ICU, 2018 – 2020
Provided direct nursing care to patients following established policies, procedures, and protocols. Monitored and recorded patients’ conditions. Updated plans of care. Acted as primary coordinator and administered medication.
- Assessed the educational needs of patients in line with cultural issues and other special concerns.
- Validated and documented patient and family understanding of teaching.
- Maintained professional growth and development through ongoing formal and informal education and clinical nursing studies.
- Completed an Oncology Nursing Society chemo/bio course in 2019.
WellStar Health System, GA
Registered Nurse – Critical Care ICU, 2016 – 2018
Acted as a proactive member of an interdisciplinary team of caregivers that ensured patients and their families received high-quality, individualized care. Worked closely with the nurse managers in charge.
- Cared for individual patients on a daily basis attending to their medication and other needs.
- Commended for achieving the expected supporting-service excellence goals of the facility.
- Assisted with database computer work.
- All my clinical rotations received excellent evaluations.
Kaiser Permanente, WA
Registered Nurse Cardiac Device Clinic, 2015 – 2016
Provided nursing care to cardiac patients. Developed written care plans for patients and assisted their families to develop health care goals.
- Provided numerous nursing interventions competently and safely.
- Assessed patient lifestyle risk factors and worked with patients to help them improve their health.
- Participated in a daily huddle and helped to solve unusual challenges.
- Supported other professionals in the team including social workers.
ICU Nurse education
The courses in nursing education programs typically include physiology, anatomy, microbiology, psychology, and various behavioral and social sciences.
There are several basic routes that nursing students can take: a diploma program that lasts two to three years, or a degree that generally takes between two and four years to complete.
There are various degree options including a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), and an associate of science in nursing (ASN).
ICU nurses looking for supervisory positions or specialist jobs often continue their studies and complete a master’s degree in nursing (MN). Specializations include neurological, cardiac, medical, trauma, burn, transplant, pediatric, and neonatal ICU nursing.
Recruiters will be looking to see where and when you were educated, and what diploma or degree you graduated with.
Montana State University College of Nursing, MT
Master of Nursing, 2018 – 2019
- BSN to MN on campus
Shepherd University School of Nursing, CA
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 2014 – 2017
Reedley College, CA
Associate Degree in Nursing, 2014 – 2015
Continuing education is part and parcel of every registered nurse’s, including ICU nurses’ lives. US states determine just how many continuing education units (CEU’s) nurses must complete every one to three years to maintain their state nursing licenses.
CEUs are monitored by the ANCC which offers a selection of certification options and has a Pathway to Excellence Program.
According to Study.com, courses are available from colleges and nursing associations, as well as universities that often hold one- to two-hour seminars that focus on specific nursing-related issues.
The National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) hold frequent workshops that are designed for nurses of all professional levels.
In general, courses range from basic life support to advanced cardiac life support. There are also courses designed for critical care (or ICU) registered nurses.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) knowledge, training, and experience are vital for ICU nurses.
There are CPR and more intensive basic life support (BLS) course options available from the American Heart Association (AHA) via authorized training centers (TCs).
AHA emergency cardiovascular care (ECC) course cards are issued by TCs so that healthcare providers can show these as easy evidence of what they have achieved.
- Continuing education courses including CPR
- AHA ECC courses.
ICU nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination NCLEX-RN to be able to get an RN license to practise in the state where they plan to work.
As the Colorado Technical University points out, an ICU or critical care nurse might have to satisfy additional licensing requirements to earn specialty certifications. This varies by state.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) comprises boards of nursing in the 50 US states and four US territories, and they can advise.
Certifications add credibility and improve job prospects.
There are various options including the Healthcare Accreditation Certification Program (HACP) which indicates competency.
The ANCC, mentioned above, awards a credential, RN-BC, which stands for Registered Nurse – Board Certified.
Valid for five years, it entails a competency-based exam that provides a valid, reliable assessment of medical-surgical specialization after qualified nurses have obtained their RN licensure.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers acute and critical-care credentials for RNs. These include three acute/critical care nursing certifications (CCRN) – adult, pediatric, or neonatal.
The AACN also offers certification for cardiac medicine (CMC, adult), which is a good one for ICU nurses.
MNs are eligible to sit the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC).
- NCLEX-RN license valid in a specified state
- CMC (adult)
Complete ICU Nurse resume sample
We chose a job advert for a registered nurse required for an ICU post at a medical center in California. We have used this ad to show you how you can write a resume tailored for an available ICU or critical care nurse position.
The job description shows that the RN – ICU needs to be someone who can work in several related roles, as a leader, a teacher, and a health practitioner. He or she will be expected to work independently with minimal supervision.
At least an associate degree is required.
The skills and experience required for this position are clearly shown, as are the license and certification requirements.
The job posting includes a brief description of the people who are generally admitted to the center. It has the only neonatal care unit in the area and is the only center in the area that accepts stroke patients.
Compassionate and caring critical care nurse with a BSN, licensed in California. Six years of experience in a hospital environment. Patient advocate committed to working through problems with families.
Professional | Collaborative team player | Oral and written communication | Organized | Critical thinking | Good at troubleshooting | IV competencies | Computer and telephone skills
Kaiser Permanente, CA
Special Procedures (Sp) Unit Staff RN – Hospital (ICU), 2019 – 2020
Provided professional nursing care in accordance with established standards of care, policies, and procedures. Demonstrated performance that was consistent with the Medical Center’s Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan.
- Worked as the leader of the healthcare team delegating tasks and demonstrating accountability.
- Introduced new ideas that increased efficiency.
- Mentored and coached dozens of junior and more experienced nurses in the unit.
- Commended regularly for providing an optimal patient care experience by actively listening and responding to the needs of patients and their family members.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, CA
RN Clinical Staff ICU, 2017 – 2018
Provided high-quality individualized patient and family care. Documented all elements relevant to patient care including assessments. Demonstrated commitment to meeting the learning needs of patients and families.
- Worked according to the Watson Model of Care which involved identifying the special needs and considerations for age and population-specific awareness.
- Actively supported the hospital’s strategic plan and foals for continued quality and performance improvement.
- Mentored 16 junior nurses during my two years at the hospital.
- Presented with the Martin Luther King Core Values Award in 2018.
Kindred Healthcare, CA
RN ICU, 2015 – 2016
Provided compassionate critical care for extended recovery periods. Played a vital role in the recovery process for medically complex and chronic or critically ill patients.
- Commended for delivering exceptional patient experiences with meaningful outcomes.
- Worked closely with patients’ families to ensure they were constantly informed of progress or negative impacts.
- Monitored pain management procedures and made informed suggestions to physicians.
- Participated in discharge planning processes when patients were well enough to go home.
- NCLEX-RN California
- RN-BC (valid until 2022)
- CCRN – adult, pediatric, and neonatal
- CMC, adult
- Current BLS certification (AHA)
California State University
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 2000 – 2009
- Specialty: Combined Critical Care & Emergency Nursing
- American Heart Association CPR
- American Heart Association BLS
- ANCC accredited continuing education courses:
- Advanced cardiac life support
- Critical care registered nurse
- Trauma nurse core course
- Neonatal resuscitation program
ICU nurses need to be qualified, licensed, and certified. But these elements vary from job-to-job and it’s important that your resume matches the specific skills and abilities required.
- There is a strong argument for omitting the resume objective, but an equally strong case for including a summary at the beginning of your ICU nurse resume that shouts out your unique values and talents. However you choose to approach it, a short statement drawing attention to your skills and abilities might just be what you need to get an interview for the job.
- Keywords can be used to draw attention to your skills and abilities. You know what yours are, try to match them with the obvious keywords in the job post. This really can make your resume stand out.
- Continuing education is essential for ICU and other registered nurses. Highlight the courses that you have taken recently.
Tips from Experts
“It is very important that you create a very punchy, genuine statement or objective that will catch the reader’s eye. Highlight your clinic experience and be specific. Do not use short terms like OR. Say operating room, because keywords will help get your resume to the top.“ – Jeanette White, RN
“You only have a few seconds, when the nurse referrer is scanning your resume, to make a favorable impression and to stand out. Remember that the resume is not about you, it’s about the employer. Include the accomplishments and contributions you have made to the organization and include metrics rather than a list of tasks or clinical rotation .“ – Nurse Beth, MSN, RN-BC, HACP, Allnurses.com Inc
“Do your research about the employer. What is their mission statement? What qualities are they looking for in an ISU nurse that you possess? What are their cultures and values? If you don’t have the same values and you don’t agree with their mission statement, move on – there are plenty of nursing jobs out there.” – Nurse Katherine, RN3, medical surgical
Whether you’ve been working as an RN or an ICU nurse, your resume is the place to show just how good you are at your job.
Only you can market yourself and there’s not a lot of time to do so. If recruiters are using an ATS and it doesn’t pick up the keywords they are looking for, or they don’t immediately notice you from an upfront summary or resume objective, you might never make it to the interview.
You need to attract attention to yourself. Use what you have learned in this article to craft a resume that will show how you will add value to the position.