Categories: Career Development

How to Perfect Your Nursing Portfolio: What is it, what goes in it, and what should you do with it?

The portfolio. Every nurse needs one, but many just cobble something together at the last minute when going for a job interview, have the portfolio they made when studying but never update it, or just don’t understand how to build and utilize a nursing portfolio effectively. The nursing portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have when applying for a new job or for advancing your nursing education, so today we’re looking at just what a nursing portfolio is and isn’t, how to build and maintain one, and why you should. With this practical, actionable guidance and the reasoning behind it, you should be able to build an outstanding nursing portfolio that impresses potential employers.

Portfolio vs. Resume

Although many people misguidedly dismiss the term “portfolio,” thinking instead that it’s just a resume, let’s be super clear: A nursing portfolio is absolutely not a resume. Your resume is important, yes, but it’s a completely different beast than your portfolio. The resume should be one (maybe two) sheet of paper that provides an overview of your skills, education, and experience. Your nursing portfolio, on the other hand, provides evidence of your skills, education, and experience. In your resume, you may note that your last role included developing patient risk assessments. In your portfolio, you’d include an example of the patient risk assessments.

How Does a Portfolio Help Me Get a Nursing Job?

A well-maintained nursing portfolio helps you get a job because it showcases your skills, experience, and insight. It demonstrates your continued educational achievements and your practical skills. Presented correctly, your nursing portfolio also highlights your professionalism and your interest in continued development. If you’ve got a strong nursing portfolio, it shows potential employers who you are, what your goals are, and what you’ve achieved. A well-crafted nursing portfolio does wonders for your chances at landing your next job as it provides a chronological, visual, verifiable representation of your growth and experience.

How Should I Use My Nursing Portfolio?

Think about what skills you consider the most important. What achievements are you most proud of? Which documents best act as supporting evidence that tells people you’re the right person for the job? How do you want to present yourself to your potential employers? Remember, a nursing portfolio is far more than just a resume, it’s a representation of your professional self. Use your nursing portfolio as evidence that you are, unequivocally, the best nurse for the role.

It’s a good idea to keep one large portfolio where you store everything of any importance related to your nursing career. This is for your eyes only and contains every piece of evidence you think might prove useful at some point while searching for a new opportunity. Then, when you apply for a new nursing job or a learning opportunity, you build a bespoke professional nursing portfolio, taking only the most relevant documents from your central repository. This is one of the best tips for nursing interviews, because it immediately puts you ahead of much of the competition who just submit generic portfolios. You’ll stand out because yours is clearly made for the role you’re applying for.

What Should I Include in My Nursing Portfolio?

There’s no real right or wrong regarding what you should include in your nursing portfolio. You need to decide which achievements, skills, qualifications, evaluations, reflections, and other evidence you deem to be most important to your career. It is, however, important to remember not to go overboard. You don’t want to create a giant tome with everything you’ve ever done in it. This puts employers off as they simply don’t have time to digest anything so huge. Therefore, establish which items are the most relevant, and cut out the gymnastics awards you received when you were seven. When compiling your portfolio, consider this list of items as the absolute essentials:

  • Simple, well-formatted title page
    • Include your full name
    • Include your highest qualification
    • You can also include your contact info
  • Table of contents for easy navigation
  • Your Professional Mission Statement
    • Tell the reader what your long-term career goals are
    • Describe the professional standards you hold yourself to
    • What do you hope to accomplish as a nurse?
    • Why did you become a nurse?
    • What are your core professional values?
    • What specialty, disease, or group of people are you most interested in working with?
  • A cover letter that’s specific to the job you’re applying for
  • Your resume
  • Professional licenses, registrations, awards, and certifications
  • Transcripts or evidence of your educational qualifications
  • Performance evaluations and appraisals
  • Examples of your professional work
    • Education
    • Articles
    • Research
    • Advanced roles or learning
    • Professional development activities
  • Reflections

As well as these basics, it’s a good idea to write out your career goals. Once a year, write down your professional goals for the coming year, as well as your long-term goals for the next five years. Keep an up-to-date copy of your job description, competency checklists, and special projects you’ve worked on. Alongside reflections, gather summaries of patient cases in which you played a significant role. If you’ve mentored other nurses or students, keep a record of them, how you aided them in their professional development, and how the mentorship impacted your own development. If you participated in a research project, published an article, performed a presentation, or were involved in a voluntary initiative, keep a record and provide as much supporting evidence as possible.

What Are Reflections in a Nursing Portfolio?

Reflective practice is encouraged among student nurses, as it helps to develop professional self-awareness, logic, and critical thinking. It’s a powerful learning tool that shouldn’t be disregarded upon qualification. Instead, qualified nurses should take the time to write thoughtful reflective accounts. A reflection is essentially a journaling exercise. When writing a reflection, choose something notable to discuss, whether it’s a new placement, a challenging scenario, or a new learning experience. It could even be a particular patient case that interested you, provided a new perspective, or touched you in some other way. Although reflections are used for professional development, they are primarily personal accounts. Describe the situation you found yourself in, what you saw or did, how you felt, and what you learned. Then go further and reflect on what this situation taught you about your strengths and weaknesses, what you couldn’t have done any better, and where you need to improve. And, showcase your logical and critical thinking by describing how what you saw or what you learned could be applied in other situations. Take a look at this example of a nursing reflection to get a clear idea of what yours could look like.

Even if you’re only just setting out on your path to becoming a nurse, it’s worth starting your portfolio right away. It gets you into the habit of doing so, helps you with your studies, develops key skills like logical and critical thinking, and impresses tutors and potential employers. Use Paysa salary data to figure out how much you could earn in your chosen nursing field and read our nursing articles to help you land your dream nursing job.

Author: Katy Willis