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How to Write a Nursing Application Essay

An application essay can have a critical effect on your chances of landing an interview, a job or a placement in nursing school. The challenge for you is make yours memorable. You can do that by using these 5 tips.

How to Write a Nursing Application Essay

When asked to submit an essay along with your application for employment, the employer is using the essay as a way to screen applicants. All things being equal, the essay will help them to narrow down the list of candidates and can make the difference between landing an interview or not.

Most candidates will submit an uninteresting, cliche-ridden essay with grammatical errors. By contrast, if you follow these tips, your essay will stand out.

Follow Instructions

How to Write a Nursing Application EssayIt is highly important that you understand and follow instructions as you are being evaluated on your ability to follow instructions. If the length is not specified, use no more than two pages.

The essay can take several forms. You may be asked to write a one page essay on a single topic or question. You may be asked to pick from several questions, such as:


  • What made you decide to be a nurse?
  • Why do you want to be a nurse here, at St. John’s?

Allow Ample Time

You will probably find it more difficult to write about yourself than you anticipate. Do not put it off  until the last minute. If you rush, it will show. Start early and give yourself plenty of time.

 Make an outline and organize your thoughts to show you are a good thinker.

Your essay must be polished  and that takes drafting, editing, and rework. Any less and it will not be your best effort. When you are finished, put it down for at least 24 hours and then pick it up. You will find room for improvement. Have 3 other people proof read it.

Put Yourself in the Recruiter’s Chair

Put yourself in the recruiter’s chair. 

Think how many times by 1100 in the morning the recruiter has read “I’m a people person” or “I want to help people”.

How to Write a Nursing Application EssayNow picture the recruiter picking up your essay and yet again reading “I’m a people person”’ or “I want to help people”. It’s important to keep the recruiter’s perspective in mind the entire time and with every sentence you compose.

Avoid using broad generalizations and platitudes. Be genuine, personal, and not intellectual. Everyone responds to realness and connection. This comes from being authentic and through telling stories. Use a meaningful quote for interest and use short paragraphs with enough white space to avoid dense blocks of text.

Stand Out With Stories

It’s essential that you stand out from all the other applicants. Use details and examples to stand out and be memorable.

Describe yourself in a way that illustrates your skills.

“I learned in clinical rotations to look past a patient’s angry behavior and try to find out why. One day my patient was very angry that his discharge was delayed because the physician had not rounded. He was rude to me but I just said “You seem very upset, do you want to talk about it?” and he shared that his wife with Alzheimer’s had been home alone for forty eight hours and he was worried about her. I was able to get the discharge order and send him home.”

It’s an engaging story that shows your people skills and compassion.


“I always try to plan ahead so I’ll be prepared. My patient had a low H&H, but before I called the doctor, I checked to see if they had any blood available or a type & cross. I also checked the chart to see if they had religious objections to receiving blood. It turns out they were Jehovah Witness and I was able to let the physician know”.

How to Write a Nursing Application EssayThis illustrates how your critical thinking skills, and every nurse manager is concerned with critical thinking.

Be a Good Fit

To answer “Why do you want to work here?” you must know something about the company. When the recruiter reads your essay, you want them to think “They’d be a great fit! Let’s get him on the phone, now.”

Study the website. Perhaps they are featuring a service line they are proud of, such as oncology services, or heart care. Maybe they were voted “People’s Choice” by their community, or have badges on the site for awards. If they have been distinguished by Healthgrades or Leapfrog, it will display on their site. Incorporate this knowledge into your essay.

In some way show that your are aware of what they stand for in the community. Then explain how your skills and values align with theirs. For example, consider a hospital that bills itself as doing “sacred work” and is a Christian organization. Reflect if or how your values align with theirs, and speak to that. You will be seen as a good fit.

The next step is to prepare for your interview 🙂how to write a nursing application essay for job or school


Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :)

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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