How to Write a Nursing Cover Letter
Updated 26 February 2021
What Is a Nursing Cover Letter?
A cover letter is often the first glimpse a hiring manager will have of you when you apply for a job. In fact, a great cover letter could be the reason you get through the initial stages of the application process and get an interview.
Having a well-thought-out and interesting cover letter that describes and demonstrates relevant qualifications will ensure that the hiring manager identifies you as a great match for the advertised role.
A nursing cover letter is specific to applying for a graduate role in nursing, nurse training or even for a promotion in another facility or hospital.
A good CV is still important, of course, but a nursing cover letter allows you to personalize your application to the specific role advertised for a particular facility.
You can expand on the information you have given, adding color and anecdotes where they can make the biggest impression.
For many nursing jobs, there are often multiple applications – so providing a polished cover letter can catch the attention of a hiring manager.
What Should a Great Nursing Cover Letter Include?
A great nursing cover letter should be geared specifically towards the role you are applying for.
The job description will have information that you can use to enable you to highlight your own specific experiences and qualifications to make you a stand-out applicant.
In your cover letter, you need to expand on the qualifications you have earned. The basic details of these will be provided in your resume – but in your cover letter, you can describe how you have used your learning, making you uniquely qualified for the role as described.
For each level of nursing, you will need to demonstrate different levels of achievement:
- For an entry-level role like a Licensed Practical Nurse, you might only need an associate degree. As most nurses are RNs (Registered Nurses), you must demonstrate you have at least an associate degree, but many facilities prefer a bachelor’s degree.
- Nurse practitioners are some of the most advanced nursing professionals, often having extensive experience, including specializations as well as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
All these qualifications need to be taken alongside the usual licensing NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses).
How to Write Your Nursing Cover Letter
Starting a cover letter can be difficult, but it is easier if you have a framework.
Keep the cover letter short – ideally less than one A4 page – to ensure that you are clear and concise in the information given.
Make sure you structure the cover letter as if it is an actual letter to be posted – even if you are sending it online – so include your full name, license number, address and contact information, as well as the date.
First Paragraph – Introduction
Do your homework before writing your nursing cover letter and try to find out who the hiring manager is.
Addressing them by name gives a great impression if you are respectful and use the correct title. It is good practice to use 'Ms', rather than 'Mrs' or 'Miss'.
If you cannot find the name of the person, then ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ is fine.
The opening paragraph is the first impression that the hiring manager has of you. Style-wise, the best cover letters are enthusiastic but professional.
Make sure to note what role you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. Find something in the job application that you can use in the opening paragraph to immediately demonstrate your suitability for the role, too.
It might look something like this:
I saw the advertised Registered Nurse position at Sacred Heart on Jobsite.com, and I have the specialized knowledge in neonatal care that I think would make a real difference.
Second Paragraph – Background and Experience
The second paragraph is where you can get specific about what you have accomplished that relates directly to the job posting.
Whether from previous work experience or a challenge during training, this is the place to highlight that achievement.
Using this space to directly link what makes you a good fit for the role in terms of what the hiring manager is looking for is a great way to build interest – especially when there could be a number of similarly qualified (on paper) nurses applying for the role.
If the job posting mentions that the RN would be in neonatal care, you might want to mention that you have experience there, for example:
At [Big Hospital], I completed my neonatal specialism and was responsible for improving the outcomes of several babies. I received positive feedback from patient families for my outstanding care.
Third Paragraph – Nursing Qualifications
In your resume, you will have already listed your qualifications – do not fall into the trap of simply regurgitating this information here. The best way to use this paragraph is to expand on what you learned specifically.
For a neonatal nurse role, this might be the time for a brief anecdote about a patient that required neonatal care and presented a challenge during your education, so that you can demonstrate the physical application of your learning.
If that does not fit, then consider giving more information about the qualifications themselves; were you top of the class, did you receive extra credit, where did you complete an internship? These might give some more depth to your qualifications.
It could read like this:
I studied for my bachelor’s degree at [Nursing College], which is affiliated with [Big Hospital]. As part of my studies, I took a special interest in neonatal care and received the Baby Award from the college as recognition of my achievements.
Fourth Paragraph – Why Choose You?
In this paragraph, you can take some time to answer the job posting. The hiring manager will often add a list of essential and desirable qualifications and experience for the role, and by providing examples of your knowledge and experience in that area, you not only demonstrate why you are the best candidate but also give details about what you can do for the organization as a whole.
If the job posting is looking for a neonatal nurse that can take charge of patient registration, then you could highlight your neonatal experience, like this:
My specialism in neonatal care has made me an essential RN at [Big Hospital], and as my responsibilities grew, I began to have more interaction with patient referrals. I was instrumental in creating a referral system that improved patient outcomes by 24%.
Fifth Paragraph – Conclusion and Call to Action
Making this final paragraph succinct and memorable needs careful thought. You need to be able to conclude your main points about why you are the best candidate, with enthusiasm.
Add a call to action, rather than a bland ‘thank you for your consideration’. Ask directly for a meeting or invite the hiring manager to call you for an interview.
Finish the letter with a professional sign off, using 'Yours sincerely' if you know the name of the person you are writing to (or 'Yours faithfully' if you don't).
The last few lines should be something like:
I welcome a call to arrange a meeting with you about the next steps; you can reach me on [number].
[Title, name, RN]”
Nursing Cover Letter Top Tips
1. Show That Nursing Is Your Passion
A successful and employable nurse needs to be passionate about what they do, so enthusiasm about previous work, experience and qualifications will demonstrate that nursing really is your passion.
Use personal stories and relevant anecdotes to make the letter authentic and relatable – although you are striving for professionalism, you want to be human, too.
2. Show (and Evidence) Key Soft Skills
No amount of paper qualifications can demonstrate what soft skills you have – so it is important to highlight and show them where you can.
Use your stories and anecdotes to help the hiring manager see how you deal with problems. This can be a great way to demonstrate that you have the soft skills needed to be a successful candidate and more likely to progress to the next stage.
3. Tailor It to the Hospital or Facility/Job Description Specifically
A bland, boring cover letter might as well not have been sent.
Even if you are applying for multiple roles, take the time to craft a letter for each one, making the information tailored to not only the facility but also the position and the job descriptions.
Using information that you have gleaned from the job description shows that you have read and understood what is expected of you, and allows you to demonstrate clearly how you can help that organization as a whole.
Doing further research about the facility can add color to your cover letter and shows that you have taken a real interest in the job opportunity, too.
4. Keep It Short and Check for Errors
The hiring manager will likely have more than a few applications to look through when they post a job, so ensure that your cover letter is not lengthy and dense.
The best advice is to stick to a framework, and make sure that it is less than an A4 page.
Whether it is to be sent electronically, or through the postal service, make sure that there is plenty of ‘white space’ on the page. This makes it less daunting to read and allows the reader to take frequent breaks from the text.
Read the finished piece through carefully to make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors and be sure to choose a font that looks professional and is simple to read.
Example Nursing Cover Letter
Dear [Ms Hiring Manager]
I am applying for the role of Family Care RN as advertised on [JobBoard.com] at [General Clinic]. I have three years of experience working within the [Other Clinic] with a special interest in acute care, decreasing the cost of the acute care service by 23% in the last year.
I have been instrumental in implementing a new patient system that allows for appointments to be conducted via video call to save time, freeing up the doctors in the clinic to be able to take more patient-facing appointments. Alongside this cost-saving exercise, I have also managed vaccination clinics, given patient advice and supported the care of post-operative and palliative care patients. I understand that [General Clinic] is looking for an RN to work in a multi-disciplinary team, providing acute care for patients, and I have experience in a similar role at [Other Clinic].
I achieved my bachelor's from [Nurse University], working in [Big Hospital] as part of my studies. During this time, I took a special interest in acute nursing, and have completed extra studies on discharge planning, quality of care in acute settings, and improving care outcomes for acute patients. I received a Nurse Award during my studies for the work I completed in the ICU.
With my extensive experience in cost-saving and the use of new technology to improve patient care and access, I know that I can make a positive difference in [General Clinic] in terms of reducing the administrative load through software applications. I am a well-regarded RN in my current clinic, with many patients giving great feedback about my kindness and empathy. I have been lucky to work with a large, multi-disciplinary team and have been able to support clinical and non-clinical staff, provide extensive patient education, and perform usual nursing tasks with care and consideration.
I would welcome a call to discuss the next steps in my application. I can be reached on [number] at any time. With my experience in acute nursing at [Other Clinic], I know that I will be a valued acute nursing RN for [General Clinic], improving the service to patients and the efficiency of the clinic.
[Mr. Registered Nurse RN]
A great nursing cover letter needs to make you stand out as an applicant. By using a framework to guide your writing, you can ensure that all the important points are covered, without unnecessary rambling.
Each cover letter should be written for a specific job role at a particular organization. Hiring managers do not want to read a bland letter that has been thrown together at the last minute and sent to 13 other facilities – they want to see evidence of why you are the best candidate for the role they are hiring for.
The most important thing to remember is that a great cover letter should accompany a great resume – it should not simply duplicate it. Expand, make it personal where you can, and be positive and enthusiastic about your qualifications, experience and the role of a nurse at all times.