How to Write a Nursing Cover Letter

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Updated March 7, 2023

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Have you ever felt confused about how to write a strong and effective nursing cover letter? Let’s explore best practices for making this important document count!
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Man typing cover letter on a laptop Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill / Tetra images / Getty Images

A nursing cover letter is still crucial in the job application process. It’s often the first impression a potential employer will have of you. A cover letter is a chance to tell your story and call attention to aspects of your resume you want a reviewer to notice.

It’s also a chance to explain to an employer why you want to work for them, what you know about them, and why you’re an ideal candidate. A strong cover letter can tip the balance in your favor, helping you stand out from the competition and land an interview.

In the following guide, we walk you through writing a strong nursing cover letter, mistakes to avoid, and real-world tips that will keep you focused. Check out our downloadable nursing cover letter template and a sample letter to get started. Once you master the process, you’ll be writing winning cover letters in no time.

4 Steps to Write Your Nursing Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter can feel overwhelming for many nurses, especially because it’s difficult to know what to say, how much to reiterate what’s on your resume, and what information to include or not. A cover letter is an opportunity to explain aspects of your professional or personal history that a resume can’t always get across. Your passion and interests come through, along with your ability to communicate clearly. Review the following steps to write a stand-out cover letter. Feel free to use our sample letter and downloadable template. The cover letter is a significant part of convincing employers that they absolutely need to meet you!

  1. 1

    Create a Header with Your Contact Information

    The information in your cover letter’s header should match your resume’s header. In a perfect world, these two documents have the same design and make a cohesive package.Include your full name in the header, usually in a larger font. You also want to include your credentials (e.g., Jane Otto, BSN, RN). You also want to include your address, or at the very least your city or town, state of residence, and your phone number and email address. Don't use your school email address or casual email address, as it can seem unprofessional. Rather, create a Gmail account that includes your first and last name (e.g., jane_otto@gmail.com). Using color, text boxes, fancy fonts, and other bells and whistles aren’t necessary on either document. You can find templates offering these features, but our template and cover letter sample follow a straightforward, no-frills format.
  2. 2

    Introduce Yourself and Note the Position You’re Applying for in the Opening Paragraph

    In the first paragraph, identify what position you’re applying for and where you saw it listed. If you’ve been directly referred by an employee of the organization, mention them here. This is also a good place to say something about the organization to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework —this makes your letter seem less formulaic. You can reference their mission, recent recognition they’ve received (e.g., Magnet certification), or something else that shows your knowledge of what they’re all about and how your values align with theirs.
  3. 3

    Highlight Your Skills and the Reasons You Want to Work For This Employer

    This section can be anywhere from 2-5 paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs can improve readability. As you’ll see from our cover letter template and sample, you can separate hard, soft, and computer skills into different paragraphs for clarity. If you’re a new graduate or nursing student, you can highlight relevant healthcare-related experience, including paid and volunteer work. If you’re an experienced nurse, this is where you highlight your most prominent skills and anything else that makes you stand out. If you’ve taken part in an internship, externship, or other activity that sets you apart, mention it here. As a new nurse, if you’ve begun to master some aspects of any particular skill set (e.g., interpreting ECGs, caring for catheters, dressing wounds) you can bring that up here as well. This is also a good place to highlight your nursing soft skills (e.g., communication, collaboration, patient counseling or education). Computer skills are key, so if you’re proficient with a particular electronic medical record or have facility with computers, that’s also a plus.
  4. 4

    Write a Closing Paragraph and Restate Your Interest

    The closing paragraph reiterates your interest in the position. You can restate your enthusiasm for the organization and express how you look forward to further discussing the intersection of your experience, knowledge, and skills with their need for dedicated nurses.

7 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Nursing Cover Letter

  • Submitting Spelling and Grammar Errors: Nursing requires excellent documentation and attention to detail. Grammatical errors are unprofessional, and they can paint a picture of someone who doesn’t value attention to detail. Many resume reviewers will likely pass on a candidate whose resume and/or cover letter contain errors.
  • Copying Your Resume: Your nursing cover letter can highlight aspects of your resume, but it shouldn’t be a verbatim copy. Find creative ways to underscore your key characteristics, skills, or experiences without repetition.
  • Using Incorrect or Inconsistent Format: It’s best practice for your cover letter and resume to match in terms of design, font, and format. This creates a branded, visually cohesive application package.
  • Forgetting to Tie Your Qualifications to the Position: Your cover letter should be targeted and specific, addressing the position you’re applying for and its qualifications, skills, and responsibilities. If you don't tie your qualifications to the job in question, that makes a weak case for you getting an interview.
  • Failing to Address the Letter to a Specific Person or Department: Many postings fail to provide the name of an individual or a department to address in your letter. If they provide this information, use it. If they don’t, you can use the generic “Hiring Manager” or “Hiring Committee”.
  • Starting Every Paragraph with “I”: Be creative in finding different ways to begin each paragraph (see our sample letter for examples). If two paragraphs begin with “I”, that’s OK, but no more than that.

Tips from Nurses on Writing Your Nursing Cover Letter

  • Research Potential Employers

    The more targeted and specific your cover letter is, the better. If you demonstrate your understanding of the organization’s mission, values, or other aspects that seem important, this can let a potential employer know that you’re savvy and did your research. Impress them with your knowledge of their facility!
  • Explain Relevant Skills that Meet the Position's Qualifications

    Writing about your relevant skills tells potential employers that you have what it takes and are a viable candidate. If your letter doesn’t point out anything that makes you significantly qualified to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, they might not call for an interview.
  • Include Your Soft Skills

    While nursing can be very task-based and focused on hard clinical skills, communication is an enormous part of what makes nurses effective. Collaboration, cooperation, emotional intelligence, forging positive relationships, and being able to empathically connect with patients and their families are key to being a successful nurse. Be sure to mention that you can meet these aspects of what being a nurse is all about.
  • Highlight Your Best Qualities

    You can’t cover every single thing that’s amazing about you, but, based on the position you’re applying for, you can cherry-pick the most important qualities. For example, for a hospice position, you’re going to need excellent communication and patient education skills, and the ability to empathize and show compassion. Showcase qualities that make you the ideal candidate.
  • Demonstrate Your Passion

    Expressing passion is a plus and shows potential employers that your interest in the position is authentic. Enthusiasm and a go-getter attitude are positive attributes in employers’ eyes. Being able to communicate your deeper motivations and desire to be of service can make you stand out.
  • Showcase Your Ability and Willingness to Learn

    In nursing, being willing to learn from your mistakes is essential, as is being ready to acquire new skills and gracefully receive feedback. Tell them you’re coachable, teachable, amenable to feedback, and a sponge for learning new things. Show open-mindedness and a desire to always improve and grow as a nurse.
  • Check for Errors

    Ensuring your cover letter is error-free could not be more important. Proofread multiple times for spelling, grammar, flow, readability, and sentence and paragraph structure. Be sure to run spell check or use a free online grammar checker. Ensure that you vary your word choice and formulate clear ideas. Ask a trusted friend, colleague, or family member to also check it over. If you have the budget for it, hire a proofreader —or better yet, a career counselor or coach.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nursing Cover Letters

What should a nurse cover letter include?

A nurse cover letter should include a header with your name, credentials, and contact information, plus the receiver's contact information. The body of the letter should specifically address the position you’re applying for, and how you can fulfill the characteristics, credentials, skills, knowledge, and expertise required.

What should a nurse cover letter not include?

Your cover letter does not need to include phrases like, “My references are available upon request”; “Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns”; or “I can be contacted via email at _____________or via phone at _____________.” These are all givens, and if your contact information is in your header, there’s no need to say it again.

What's the difference between a new grad nurse cover letter and an experienced nurse cover letter?

A new grad nurse cover letter can't demonstrate the level of skill, expertise, and knowledge as a seasoned nurse. New grads haven’t accumulated years of nursing experience, but they have their academic and clinical performance, enthusiasm, passion, and related healthcare experience to share, whether paid or volunteer. When employers advertise new grad positions, they understand that new grad resumes and letters can't reflect the resumes of experienced nurses.

Are nursing cover letters necessary?

In these days of online applications, a cover letter may be optional, meaning that applicants can upload a cover letter if they choose to. For some applications, a cover letter will be required. Consider this: if a cover letter is optional, why not go the extra mile and write a strong one? If your resume and experience are comparable to another candidate’s, your cover letter could give you the edge. After all, a resume can’t by nature express much personality, but a cover letter can. So, make a strong impression with a well-crafted letter, whether it’s required or not.

Nursing Cover Letter Template

Download our cover letter template (DOCX, 14KB)

Name and Credentials

Town, State | Phone | Email

Personalized LinkedIn profile URL (optional)


Date

Dept and/or contact person
Facility or organization
Street
Town, State, Zip

Dear ________________:

Paragraph 1: Begin by stating the position for which you are applying. Say something about the organization to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and understand what they’re all about, and that this letter is not at all “cookie-cutter” in nature.

Paragraph 2: Share select highlights of your career, expertise, experience, skills, or personal characteristics that are directly applicable to this position and/or this employer. You can emphasize something from your resume that you want them to make note of, as long as you don’t use exactly the same language as your resume, which is redundant.

Paragraph 3: This is a good place to highlight some of your “soft skills” (e.g., communication, emotional intelligence, relational intelligence, patient education, compassion, empathy, etc).

Paragraph 4: Here you can call attention to your computer skills, EMR experience, etc., as well as any other tech skills worth mentioning.

Closing paragraph: Tie the letter together, reiterate your interest, and express your enthusiastic desire to have the opportunity to meet to discuss your experience and the position further.

Sincerely,
Your name and credentials


Sample Nursing Cover Letter

Miguel Schwartzkoffnian, BSN, RN

Annabelle, HA | 000-000-1000 | mschwartzkoffian9999@sawmail.com

LinkedIn.com/in/MichaelSchwartzfoffianbsnrn


April 3, 2023

Department of Nursing Recruitment
University of Tabula Rasa Medical Center
301 Rasa Drive
Glen Tabularea, MOO 22222

Dear Nursing Recruitment Department:

As a caring and dedicated summa cum laude graduate of Adelphi University’s BSN program, please accept my enthusiastic interest in the Registered Nurse - Respiratory/Intermediate Care position posted on your website. I am both personally and professionally aligned with the values that are a very clear aspect of your organization’s mission. From your “Power of Caring” funding of your expanded Outpatient Care Center to your “Next Generation” initiative, I can clearly see the forward-thinking philosophy underlying UTRMC and its reputation as an innovative facility and community member.

During my education, I thrived in clinical practice where I received positive preceptor feedback following each rotation. I am highly coachable, and as you can see from my resume, I bring more than six years’ related healthcare experience as both an EMT and CNA. I am already well-versed in code blue response, Foley catheter insertion and care, venipuncture, ECG interpretation, and non-complex wound care. Comfortable in new settings, I am not afraid to ask questions to enhance my learning and improve the quality of care I deliver to patients and their families. I thrive in multidisciplinary environments, and I use my highly-developed communication skills and emotional and relational intelligence to foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration among my colleagues, and nurse-patient relationships built on trust.

As a digital native and quick learner, I am highly competent using the Epic and Cerner EMRs and Microsoft Office Suite, and I have full confidence in my natural curiosity and powers of critical thinking in relation to learning new technologies and digital interfaces.

I have a great deal to contribute as a member of the UTRMC community of clinicians. I look forward to discussing the intersection of my skills and experience with the needs of your inspiring organization that embraces its role beyond the actual facility and into the surrounding community it serves.

Sincerely,
Miguel Schwartzkoffnian, BSN, RN

Page last reviewed on February 24, 2023

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