How can a psych nurse who wants to transition into med/surg nursing make her resume more marketable?

By | 2022-05-05T11:45:23-04:00 September 10th, 2014|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I have been working as a psychiatric nurse for three years and would like to apply for a medical/surgical position. How can I make my resume more marketable?

Psych Nurse Who Wants Med-Surg

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Psych Nurse Who Wants Med-Surg,

For starters, know the hospital job market for nurses is rapidly changing and evolving. Hospitals are slowly downsizing as more care is delivered in the outpatient/ambulatory care setting as well as alternate inpatient settings (sub-acute care, rehab, etc.). Many hospitals also are only hiring nurses with current med-surg experience because there is an abundance of them in the market. Even new nurses are not being hired by many hospitals right now.

It doesn’t mean you can’t try for a med-surg position, but you do need to understand what you’re up against. You might consider taking an RN refresher course, but understand there is still no guarantee you will be hired into a med-surg position at this time. I say “at this time” because the job market changes every five years or so.

You resume needs to be written in a contemporary, high-impact style focusing more on accomplishments along with unusual and marketable skills and experiences rather than tasks. Show diversity of experience on your resume, not just clinical skills. Include any business, administrative or managerial experience you have had, such as working on budgets and schedules, as well as any supervision or charge responsibility. Mention special projects you worked on such as cost-cutting or downsizing committees. List quality management activities you were involved in as well as any interdisciplinary committees you sat on. Mention any teaching or training you have done, including acting as a preceptor to new hires, working with students and giving an in-service presentation. I provide many specific details and sample resume forms in my book, “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses.” To purchase the book, visit (

Understand a resume is only one tool in an effective job search process. Networking is one of the more effective ways to find jobs and get hired, especially when making a transition. You should be getting out to local chapter meetings of nursing associations such as the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses ( and/or the American Nurses Association ( When there’s something you want to do, it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it. Read “How to change specialties” ( for more specific tips and advice.

You also should get out to nursing career fairs. Speak to hospital recruiters there and ask them what it would take for you to be considered for a med-surg position. See what type of feedback and advice you get. Here are some events coming up in your area (

Best wishes,


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