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Article: How to Create a Nursing Portfolio That Stands Out

How to Create a Nursing Portfolio That Stands Out

As a nurse, you have a ton of documents, letters, and certifications that are important to you in your nursing career, that don't really have a place on your resume.  

These documents, certifications, notes, etc. are probably scattered all over your house, car and purse, and maybe some made it to a filing cabinet.

So what is a nursing portfolio?

A nursing portfolio is a compilation of every document you have that's nursing related, in a professional, organized binder.  

Why do you need a nursing portfolio?

Because you're pretty darn busy and you need all of your nursing-related documents in one place to save time (and your sanity). 

You never know when you'll be asked for a certain certification card or proof of your flu vaccine.  Or, if you unexpectedly interview for another job and need to put together a portfolio overnight (I see this way too often - your dream job pops up without warning or you're unexpectedly left without one, so let's be ready just in case).  

How to create a nursing portfolio:

Get a 2" black, white or navy blue binder (keeping it professional here..) and a ton of page protectors (50 or more). 

Search your house, car, purse, computer bag, file cabinet, for any nursing-related documents and put them in a big pile. 

Once you think you've collected it all, spread it out on your kitchen table and categorize each document (examples below).

Depending where you are in your career, your nursing portfolio can include these sections:

  • Cover page (with your name, credentials, and contact information)
  • Updated Resume
  • Nursing License
  • College Diplomas
  • Certification cards: BLS, ACLS, PALS, etc.
  • Copies of certificates for additional trainings & classes, including continuing education
  • Letters of recommendation
  • References
  • Copy of Daisy nominations
  • Awards
  • Copy of recognitions from coworkers
  • Sample of Academic writing
  • Evidence of committee/hospital involvement
  • Community Involvement or Volunteer Experience
  • Thank you notes from coworkers and families of patients
  • Transcripts from nursing school
  • Evidence of community involvement
  • Copies of evaluations
  • Copy of professional presentation posters
  • Research and papers 
  • Immunization Record
  • Professional Philosophy 

How to make a nursing portfolio stand out:

Since every nurse's portfolio will contain the same files, think of what you can include that makes you stand out.

What can you add that shows you've gone above and beyond your normal nursing duties?  To show that you're a caring, compassionate, and damn good nurse?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer Experience or Community Involvement (type up your role, what you did/duties, hours served, and you can include a photo or two)
  • Hospital Involvement
  • Proof of any extra projects you took on (presentations, poster creation, etc.)
  • Any little notes you've received along your nursing journey that include praise or thank you's.  These can be from your former teachers, coworkers, patients, or families of patients.  Or, maybe you were featured in the hospital's newsletter.  Include these hard copies!
  • Your professional philosophy or goals, or your WHY.  Some of you have a deep passion for nursing for personal reasons - feel free to type up your story.  If you have a big picture goal, share it (ex. something that helps others, not just a personal career goal).  
  • The way your portfolio LOOKS is incredibly important. If your portfolio is a hot mess of different colors and fonts and is unorganized, what impression does that give about you as a professional?  Not a good one!  You need to be incredibly organized and deliberate in your job as a nurse, and your portfolio needs to reflect that as well.  

What NOT to include in your nursing portfolio:

  • Don't use cursive or cutesy fonts
  • No bright colors
  • Don't treat it like a scrapbook - this is a professional portfolio
  • Don't use any cute or flower graphics (I see this a lot and I don't understand it) - you need to keep any design elements nursing-related
  • Don't include page numbers. This is just for your own sanity. You're going to be adding to this often, and don't want to have to run to your computer every time to edit the page numbers and reprint every single page - you're busy enough and page numbers are NOT important.
  • Don't try to make this a digital portfolio, you'll go crazy. There is really no need to scan and keep a digital file of every document you have, and no need to make copies. This portfolio should be ONE hard copy portfolio of all your originals that you will keep. No one will ask for a copy of your entire portfolio, and you don't need copies of it for an interview.  

A nursing portfolio not only keeps you prepared for a sudden interview and organized, but having a compilation of everything you've accomplished and the lives you've touched helps make even the bad days worth it. 

I hope these tips will help you get started, and feel free to comment below what's worked for you that might help others.

Happy organizing!


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