How to Write a Nursing Cover Letter That Wows

Learn how to write the best nursing cover letter. Follow these simple steps to create a cover letter that gets you one step closer to your best job yet. Nurses Career Support Article

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How to Write a Nursing Cover Letter That Wows

Many nursing job postings say submitting a cover letter is optional. You might be surprised to learn that best practices show you should submit a cover letter 98% of the time. The remaining 2% is reserved for situations where the job says explicitly not to submit a cover letter, the system won't allow you to submit one, or you don't have time to customize your nursing cover letter to the job. You should submit a cover letter with your resume at any other time.

What is a Nursing Cover Letter?

Nursing cover letters are instrumental in helping you land the job you want. Whether you're a new grad nurse or an experienced one, taking the time to create a good cover letter is time well spent. In addition, it might be the one thing that separates you from candidates with similar nursing experience. 

A good cover letter grabs the recruiter's attention and piques their interest enough to review your nursing resume. It's your chance to share details about yourself, showcase your personality, and explain how your accomplishments and skills can benefit the company. Recruiters use cover letters as a recruitment tool, but you should use them as an open opportunity to land your new nursing job. 

So, what should your cover letter contain? We'll get into the details later, but as an overview, your cover letter must include your most relevant nursing skills. You should start by stating how your nursing job experience meets the job requirements and then wrap up by describing why you want to work for the healthcare organization. 

Differences Between New Grad and Experienced Nurse Cover Letters

Simply put, there isn't a big difference between a nursing cover letter for a new grad versus a nurse with years of experience. The structure and content of the letter remain the same. However, new grad nurses might struggle with what to include in the letter since they don't have work experience. 

Don't discount your nursing school journey if you're a new nursing grad. For example, if you completed a clinical rotation in the same nursing specialty as the job you're applying for, include details about your experience. You can also explain why you enjoyed that rotation and share any goals for continued nursing career advancement within the specialty. Hiring managers want to know that you understand the basics of being a successful specialized nurse and these details will do the job. 

For tenured nurses, include your most relevant nursing job experiences. You might have to highlight past roles if they're the most suitable. You'll likely have multiple ways to correlate your past nursing roles with the job. Creating a seamless connection for the hiring manager takes time and skill.

When to Use a Nursing Cover Letter

Sometimes, a nursing cover letter is required to apply. The healthcare organization's hiring manager and human resources department set this requirement. Other times, a cover letter is optional. So, when should you include it? 

It's best practice to include a cover letter with your nursing resume every time you apply for a new nursing job. One study showed that 56% of employers prefer receiving cover letters from candidates. And another one found that 45% of recruiters feel that not having a cover letter could get your application rejected.  

Remember, a good cover letter is your one opportunity to shine and set yourself apart from the competition. It quickly achieves this goal and has the recruiter wanting to know more about you and your skills. 

Advantages of a Cover Letter

If you're still not sold on why you must include a nursing cover letter, let's think about it this way. You're the best candidate for a nursing job. You used a nursing resume template and customized it to the role like a pro. 

However, so did 15 other candidates, who also included a cover letter that grabbed the eye of the recruiter before they ever reviewed resumes. As a result, you don't get the job. You only lost out on this nursing opportunity because you didn't seize it by submitting the perfect cover letter. 

You mustn't let talk of the nursing shortage or abundance of jobs fool you. Nursing is a competitive industry. Many nursing careers are in demand, like school nurse or nurse educator. Unfortunately, leaving your fate in the hands of your nursing resume leaves little room to wow and stand out. 

The perfect nursing cover letter showcases your skills in a few specific ways and allows you to clarify any issues. So let's dive into how a good nursing cover letter can put you on the top of the pile of possible nursing candidates. 

Opportunity to State Your Intent

A good nursing cover letter reveals your intentions for the job opportunity. Explain how this nursing job fits your career advancement goals. This strategy not only lets the hiring manager know why you're interested in this job but also lets them know your overall goals. Healthcare companies love to know that you see yourself as a long-term employee, not just someone who fills an immediate nursing position.

Explain Career Gaps

It's challenging to explain gaps in employment in your nursing resume. However, your cover letter is the perfect place to explain gaps due to family commitments, shifting gears into nursing, or other reasons. Keep the details specific and include the months or years you were away from the workforce. In addition, include details of any continuing education courses you completed during the gap to demonstrate how you stayed current with nursing best practices. 

Let Your Light Shine

The best cover letters showcase your personality and accomplishments. If you're energetic and playful, let those qualities show in your cover letter. Ensure the cover letter is consistent with who you are as a professional. 

You should also showcase your strengths, interests, and accomplishments in your nursing cover letter. For example, if you're a new nursing grad who received an award or maintained a high GPA, include those details in your cover letter. Or, if you're a tenured nurse who received an achievement award or completed a certification in a specialty, highlight this in your cover letter. These small details explain the kind of nurse and person they'll get when they extend a nursing job offer to you.

Steps to Writing a Cover Letter

Now that you know why nursing cover letters are crucial to landing your next nursing job, let's talk about how to write one. Below are three steps to create a nursing cover letter template you can customize when applying for your next nursing position.  

Create a Template 

A nursing cover letter template is a must-have. A template contains basic information that applies to most jobs and keeps you from writing different cover letters for each interview or position. It also gives you space to provide details that match the job description precisely. 

A base template with flexibility for customization means you'll write the basic structure just once and then make minor adjustments for each job application. 

Below are a few tricks you can use to create a nursing cover letter template that works for you:

  • Write the template in Google Docs or another online document suite for easy accessibility
  • Save the template and then create a new copy of it each time you need to customize it to a new job
  • Highlight the areas of the letter that you need to personalize in the template so that all you need to do is change the date and a few other details 
  • Describe how you meet a few required job skills listed in the job description in the highlighted areas of the nursing cover letter template
  • Download the fully customized cover letter as a pdf so it's easy to upload to an online application or copy and paste the text into the online form if you can't upload a document

Hook Them With the First Sentence

Gone are the days of starting a cover letter with something like, "I would like to express my interest in the [insert job title here] position.” Today, you must stand out with an impactful first sentence that describes your skills and experiences well. Below are a few examples of great intro sentences:

  • My nursing experience spans the life spectrum in multiple healthcare settings, making me the nurse everyone comes to for thought partnership.
  • My servant leadership style creates lasting relationships with the nursing staff and provides insight into the needs of the nurse. 
  • I've built my career in various healthcare industries, so my job title is more than director. I'm a project manager, strategist, and problem solver rolled into one. 

Use Professional Salutations

The cover letter is crucial from start to finish. While you don't have to be overly formal, you also want to show you can write a professional letter. If you don't know the hiring manager's name, you can use a general salutation such as "Dear hiring manager" to open your letter. Then, go directly into the body of your cover letter, which includes all your work experience details. 

Then, finish by thanking them for their time and consideration. Let them know you're open to discussing the details of the nursing position further when it fits into their schedule. Next, close the letter using a professional and polite closing, such as best, sincerely, or respectfully. Finally, sign the letter with your full name and credentials. 

Tips from Nursing Hiring Managers

Nursing hiring managers are busy. They don't have hours to choose the top nursing candidates from a big pile of resumes. So, you'll need to grab their attention as quickly as you did the recruiters. So, what do nursing hiring managers expect in your cover letter? Here is the top feedback from fellow nursing managers and personal experiences I've had during my nearly two decades of nursing leadership.  

1. Be Data-Driven

Like your resume, your cover letter should contain data points affirming your achievements. For example, if you are a home care case manager applying for a team leader position, to demonstrate your expertise in OASIS and other home care processes, write something like, "I've completed over 100 home care admissions, and I'm ready to use that knowledge to train the next generation of home care admissions nurses.” This sentence helps illustrate both your knowledge and your goals with facts.

2. Keep It Short

A 2018 eye-tracking study showed that hiring managers spent about 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume. While this study was based on resumes, the importance of brevity in a cover letter can't be understated. You don't need to highlight all of your credentials and experience because these details are in your resume. Instead, choose one or two key performance factors from the job description and thoroughly explain how your experience meets or exceeds the requirements.

3. Explain How you Work

A 2021 literature review by Laari, Anim-Boamah, and Boso quoted a 2009 study by Wats and Wats stating, "hard skills contribute to only 15% of one's success in maintaining a job while the remaining 85% is made up of soft skills.” This statistic is accurate even in a clinical-based nursing role. Soft skills are personal attributes that help you work effectively with others. You use these skills daily with colleagues, supervisors, patients, and their families. 

Here are a few soft skills hiring managers are looking for that you might highlight:

  • Communication - Nurses need stellar written and verbal communication skills to work effectively on a team and deliver patient care. 
  • Teamwork - Are you a servant leader? Or, maybe you're the teammate everyone leans on during stressful times. Include these details about how you work with others. 
  • Critical Thinking - The best nurses are critical thinkers and problem solvers. If this is you, share a story or details about how your skills can add to the team.

I always skim nursing cover letters for soft skills. These are more important than hard skills because nurse educators can teach you the hard skills you need to be successful. However, poor soft skills are more challenging to teach and can make it difficult for the nurse to fit into the company culture and the current nursing team. 

4. Explain Any Licensure Issues

Proactively explain any past issues or discipline related to your nursing license in your nursing cover letter. As a nursing manager, I always respected nurses who informed me upfront about disciplinary actions against their license. You know it will appear once they run your name in Nursys, so why wait? Instead, use your cover letter to explain the issue and the steps you've taken to rectify it. 

Provide only the highlights in your cover letter. You can give the details during your interview. Include facts such as the following:

  • Date of the incident that led to disciplinary action
  • Dates specific to any restrictions on your license
  • Current status of your license
  • Any steps the employer will need to take on your behalf during employment 

5. Learn About Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

ATS software is used by many large healthcare organizations and designed to source the most qualified applicants. One way it does this is by tracking keywords. Resumes are essentially processed and screened by a computer before ever getting to a human being. So it's essential to understand how they work in relation to keywords.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Cover Letter

You may be nervous about writing a cover letter. The worst case scenario is spending extra time on a cover letter only to hinder your chances instead of helping them. But we're here to ensure that doesn't happen. Here are a few common mistakes you can easily avoid. 

  • Stretching the Truth - It might be tempting to lie on a job application or stretch the truth a bit in your nursing cover letter to stand out. However, honesty is always the best policy because the facts always have a way of coming out. So, avoid this practice, even if it feels insignificant.
  • Misspelled Words and Grammatical Errors - A 2016 Forbes article reports that 49% of hiring managers will toss out a cover letter with spelling errors. This mistake is a risk you don't need to take. You can leverage many free apps or free trials, such as Grammarly, to quickly catch any errors before submitting your cover letter. It's also a good idea to ask a trusted colleague or mentor for cover letter help to review your draft before you submit it. 
  • Not Balancing Formality - You don't need to be so formal that your nursing cover letter comes across as cold. However, you also don't want to be unprofessional. It's a balancing act when writing a good cover letter. 
  • Bragging - No one likes a braggart. But, there's a way to say you graduated top of your new grad nursing class without sounding boastful. Having someone review your cover letter template can help identify these areas so you can fix them before you send it.
  • Do not use a stock cover letter - A cover letter template or builder is fine. However, you must customize it to your experience and job requirements. 

FAQs and Additional Readings

What should a nursing cover letter include?

You have a unique set of nursing skills and experiences. Explain how these individualized skills fit with the goals of the new job. Include examples of how your past nursing roles prepared you for your next nursing position. Wrap up by explaining why you're the best candidate for the nursing job.

What's the best way to explain a medical situation in a cover letter? Sharing too much personal information in your nursing cover letter can be tricky. So, discussing any required, reasonable accommodations you might need in person is best. This strategy allows the interviewer to get to know you and consider how you fit into the nursing team. And you have a chance to make sure this is the job for you before you share details about your health or needed accommodations.
How do I start a nursing cover letter? Start your nursing cover letter with a professional salutation or greeting. Then, state the job title you're applying to before sharing why you're a great candidate.

Nursing Cover Letter Template

AllNurses strives to give every nurse what they need when needed. So, we've got you covered if you're looking for a customizable cover letter template. This new grad cover letter template uses the basics included in this article. First, copy the text and add your details. Then, you must find your next nursing position and wait for the offer letter.

Nursing Cover Letter Template


Option 1:

Dear [First and Last Name of Hiring Manager, if known]

Option 2:

Dear Hiring Manager,

Paragraph 1

[Describe your interest in the job opportunity using the specific job title and company name.] [Explain why you're applying for the job and how it aligns with your experience and career goals.]

Paragraph 2

[Explain relevant nursing and clinical job skills and qualifications without repeating details included on your resume.] [Highlight one or two achievements or skills that correlate well to the open position.] 

Paragraph 3

[Explain the soft skills or personal attributes you possess that make you a good candidate for this role.] [Highlight one or two soft skills and provide data or facts about how they correlate to the job.] [Optional - address employment gaps, disciplinary actions, or career transitions here.]

Paragraph 4

[Explain why you want to work at this institution.] [Summarize your qualifications.] [Restate your interest in the role and facility.] [Thank them for their consideration and provide a call to action.]

Complimentary close,


Cover Letter Example

February 22, 2023

Dear Hiring Manager,

I'm excited to express my interest in the ICU Registered Nurse position at Mercy Hospital. I've built my nursing career over the past five years in the busiest emergency department in the city. During this time, I've worked in a rotating charge nurse role, received two internal Excellence in Care awards, and expanded my medical and nursing skills. This experience and my recent earning of my bachelor's degree in nursing from Capital University make me an excellent fit for the ICU Registered Nurse position.

My emergency department experience taught me how to respond quickly to medical emergencies and patient status changes. In addition, I've worked on many challenging cases that have allowed me to sharpen my assessment skills and learn how to work quickly within a team environment. I believe my ability to work under pressure and stellar nursing care expertise contribute to my current success and will allow me to become a successful member of the Mercy Hospital nursing team.  

I've gained invaluable nursing experience in the emergency room that goes far beyond bedside care. I have strong communication and interpersonal skills and can fit well into any nursing team. I'm an excellent problem solver and possess great attention to detail. In addition, my bedside manner allows me to quickly connect to the patient and their family members to gain their trust to provide the most holistic care possible. 

I'm interested in Mercy Hospital because of your dedication to growth, innovation, and Magnet Hospital status. In addition, my clinical expertise and team mentality make me a strong candidate for your facility's ICU Registered Nurse position. If you'd like to discuss my application or set up an interview, please contact me at any time. I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing back from you. 


Sally Smith

Nursing Cover Letter Template.pdf

Cover Letter Example.pdf


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  6. Integrative review of soft skills the desirable traits and skills in nursing practise
  7. What Are Soft Skills? (Definition, Examples and Resume Tips)
  8. Lying on a Job Application
  9. 8 Common Cover Letter Mistakes To Avoid
  10. Cover Letter Help & Critique
Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a nurse with over two decades of experience in leadership and workforce development. She loves to help other healthcare professionals advance their careers.

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Specializes in Community Integrated Svcs, PeriOperative Svcs..

Fantastic, thorough description of the importance of cover letters in the Job Search. Thanks, too, Melissa, for the template & example of a textbook cover letter. So helpful & generous. 

Specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement.

Glad you found it helpful, @Robin McNaueal❤️

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.


Excellent, clear updated advice  regarding cover letter to grab a recruiter or HR staffs attention.