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Can I list my extensive volunteer work as my most recent “job” on my resume?


Dear Donna,

I recently listened to your Career Alternatives for Nurses® CD and followed along in your book. I’m 60 with an RN and BA, and I have worked in various nursing settings for more than 25 years. My experience includes time in med/surg, fitness, auditing, holistic health, IV infusion and as a visiting nurse. I’m currently a volunteer parish nurse, and I have done only volunteer work for the past five years.

Can I list “Volunteer Parish Nurse” at the top of my resume since it is what I presently do? And how do I gain more confidence in myself when I have not had a salaried job in five years?

I also am considering going for a master’s degree in psychology, but I am questioning if it is appropriate for me to go for it. I believe it might give me more confidence, but is this realistic or am I wearing rose-colored glasses?


Dear Donna replies:

Dear Barbara,

You certainly have an extensive, diverse background, and that’s great. It’s also wonderful that you have been doing volunteer work as a parish nurse for five years. Although you haven’t been in a paid position, you have solid nursing experience to account for the time.

That being said, you could do something a bit unorthodox and use the heading “Volunteer Work” at the top of your resume, listing the parish nurse work just as you would do with any job, just under a different heading. Then use the heading “Experience” and list your other employment. Refer to the sample resume you have in the workbook for Career Alternatives for Nurses®. (Seminar home study versions are available at and

Regarding the degree in psychology, by all means pursue it if it interests you. Higher education is a wonderful thing at any time in your life and at any stage of your career, but it is not necessary for you to do that before plunging back into the world of paid employment. Start doing that by attending career fairs, applying to jobs found in classified ads, and using all of your contacts to network. Focus on all of your great experience, skills and assets.

I also suggest that you start attending meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses Association ( to reconnect with your profession on a broader scale. Attend meetings as a guest at first if necessary but consider joining now and getting on a committee. You will get more out of the association that way, make more contacts and assimilate more quickly.

Read “Ten Steps to a Successful Job Search” ( It’s scary to get started, but you have to start somewhere and sometime. Start putting one foot in front of the other and begin the journey. Create positive momentum with the aforementioned steps and move forward in faith. The path will be illuminated for you as you go.

My best wishes,

By | 2010-04-06T00:00:00-04:00 April 6th, 2010|Categories: Blogs, Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

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