Reference letters are commonplace in the employment world. Just like letters of recommendation, they provide support for the claims an individual makes about their own capabilities. Nursing reference letters are no different. They’re an easy way for prospective employers to confirm the good things that a nursing candidate has told them in person or on their job application.
Whether you’re requesting a nursing reference letter from your former employer or trying to write one for somebody you know, there are some important things to remember. While reference letters aren’t legal documents and don’t need to be extremely formal, there’s an expected format and style. So let’s dig a little deeper and find out how to write the perfect nursing reference letter.
What is a Nursing Reference Letter?
A nursing reference letter is a written statement from a trusted individual (usually a former employer) that confirms a nursing applicant’s capabilities and skills. Essentially, it’s a recommendation letter (similar to the one you might submit to a college) designed to showcase support from a qualified superior or mentor.
Nursing reference letters are quite short and explain how the referee knows the nursing candidate, what skills and achievements they have seen the candidate demonstrate, and why they agree with the candidate when they say they are the right person for the job.
There are some exceptions to the rule, but the majority of nursing applications require a reference letter from candidates. Some recruiters will ask for it to be submitted before a job interview so it can be discussed in person. Other recruiters invite nursing candidates to interviews and then ask a select few to follow up with a reference letter.
What Is a Nursing Reference Letter Template?
If you’ve been asked to write a reference for an employee or student, you might want to use a nursing reference letter template as a guide. This is a preformatted document that can be downloaded from the internet and edited with your own information.
Some nursing reference letter templates come prefilled with information about a hypothetical applicant. Use this hypothetical content as an example of what you should write in each paragraph. If you use a prefilled template, don’t forget to proofread it carefully and make sure every section has been replaced with your own writing.
Other nursing reference letter templates come with a prepared format, but the sections are empty, so you can begin adding your own details right away.
Who Should I Ask to Write My Nursing Reference Letter?
It depends on the type of job you’re applying for and where you are currently in your nursing career. For instance, if you’ve only just qualified, you may not have any on-the-job nursing experience and no former nursing employer. In this case, it’s appropriate to ask a teacher or training mentor to write a letter confirming your skills.
If you’re applying for a job that requires similar skills to the one you’re doing now (or recently did), it makes sense to ask your employer to write the letter.
If you’re unsure who to ask, keep these credentials in mind when looking for a referee. They should (ideally) be superior to you. If asking a colleague, find somebody with authority and a respected, trusted position. But don’t forget they should know you well enough to talk confidently about your abilities.
You can ask a former or current employer, a teacher, a trusted colleague, or an academic advisor. There are no hard and fast rules for references, but certain individuals are seen as better referees than others.
Essential Elements of a Nursing Reference Letter
If you are asked to write a nursing reference letter, keep it succinct and straightforward. Remember that the candidate has already spoken about themselves at length in their job application or in person. Your job is to confirm the candidate does have the necessary qualifications and that you’ve seen them demonstrate the skills required for the job.
These are important things to include in a nursing reference letter:
- Strong introduction: state who you are, where you work, and what your job role is. Describe the capacity in which you work or have worked with the nursing candidate. Explain (briefly) that your intention is to recommend the candidate for the role.
- Reference the nursing candidate’s qualification status. Confirm that they have the necessary qualifications for the new role and mention any other qualifications or skills you think might be a benefit. If they acquired any of the qualifications or skills while working or studying with you, make this clear.
- Add some references to the nursing candidate’s personal skills (communication, intrapersonal, empathy, critical thinking, calm under pressure, etc.). If possible, write about a time when you witnessed the candidate achieving something noteworthy or exceptional.
- Lastly, reiterate your belief the nursing candidate is right for the job. Close your letter with a formal greeting such as ‘sincerely’ or ‘best regards’.
How to Write (with Examples)
Step One – Open the nursing reference letter with a formal salutation. If you do know the recipient’s name, use it here. If you do not, use ‘to whomever it may concern’ instead.
Example: Dear Dr. Evans…
Step Two – Start with a strong, confident opening paragraph. State who you are, where you work, what role you provide, and how you are connected to the nursing applicant you are recommending.
Example: I am writing this letter of recommendation for [candidate’s name] because, as the [your job role] of [job location], I have spent [length of time] working alongside them and consider their dedication and professionalism to be of the highest level. As their supervisor, I can say with confidence that they’ll make a fantastic [prospective role] at [prospective workplace].
Step Three – Confirm the nursing candidate has the required qualifications for the job and reference any skills you think will help them be successful in the role.
Example: [Nursing applicant’s name] has a [qualification status] in [subject/discipline] awarded in [year]. During the years I worked as their [referee’s position], I was impressed by their coolness under pressure during nursing emergencies. They were fearless when it came to communicating with patients and their families, no matter how angry, upset, or anxious individuals may have been. [Candidate’s name] first priority was always to treat those in distress with compassion. Aside from being an intelligent, fast-learning [candidate’s previous role], they are also exceptionally kind and care intensely about providing the best possible nursing care to everyone who needs it.
Step Four – If possible, provide one or more real-world examples of occasions when the candidate demonstrated key skills.
Example: In [year], [candidate’s name] demonstrated an ability to work under pressure when multiple critical patients arrived on the ward after a building collapse. They responded quickly and managed to get four on-call nurses and a surgeon to the hospital within an hour of the emergency, which I am confident saved the lives of those seriously injured people. As a [prospective role], I have no doubt they will continue to exert a positive impact with their compassion, quick thinking, and superb communication skills.
Step Five – stress your belief in the candidate and their ability to perform the job skillfully. Consider ending the letter with an offer to provide more information and include an email address or phone number.
Example: These are just some of the reasons I believe [candidate’s name] will make an excellent [prospective role] and quickly become an asset to your team. If you wish to talk more about their skills or have any additional questions about their time at [candidate’s previous workplace], don’t hesitate to get in touch on [referee’s phone number].
Sample ICU Nurse Recommendation Letter
The following excerpt is an example of how a nursing reference letter might look and read. Remember, it’s up to the referee to decide which qualifications, achievements, and demonstrations of skill to focus on. Keep your letter brief and make sure the information is relevant to the prospective role.
Feb. 07. 2017
Dear Dr. Maguire,
I am delighted to recommend Patricia Warner for the role of ICU Nurse at St. John’s West Hospital. Until Nov 2016, Patricia was an exceptionally talented, highly skilled RN on my hospital’s largest pediatric ward. As her supervising nurse, I would describe her as self-assured, quick thinking, and always compassionate. She’s a fast learner and a very responsible medical professional but, most of all, she’s a real people person. She works diligently to ensure she can give every patient the best outcome and would go beyond her duties to comfort, cheer and support the youngest visitors to our hospital.
With a BSN from Northcote University, Patricia arrived in my childrens’ ward with the right combination of optimism and determination. I trained with her for about two hours before an unexpected emergency came in. She didn’t hesitate, and despite being new to the role, was right there, ready to help by fetching instruments and assisting the other RNs with triage responses.
For this reason and many more, I don’t hesitate to recommend Jackie for the ICU role at your hospital. I think she’d do a superb job and have the same positive impact as she did on our ward. If you have any more questions and would like to chat about Patricia’s skills further, please do give me a call on 555-230-8888.
Paediatric Ward Manager
Sample Nursing Reference Letter
Dear Dr. X
It is with great joy that I solely endorse Clare Jones as your next clinical nurse at Shalom Hospital. I worked alongside Clare for a couple of years and can tell you that she possesses a great sense of accountability and dedication to her patients. We do not have any opportunities in our clinical department, and that is where Clare wants to work. It is for this reason I endorse her to you.
As a professional nurse, Clare shows professionalism that impacts her patients as well as persons close to her. She is loved and respected by the nursing staff here and has regularly been utilized by other staffs for challenging cases.
Clare possesses sufficient experience and education to be a great clinical nurse. If you require any more details, feel free to contact me via 345-678-900 or email me at [email protected]
Dr. Mr. Y
Nursing Reference Letter Examples & Templates
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Tips to Ask for a Nursing Reference Letter
Provided a nursing candidate has a good relationship with their current/former employer and any teachers or mentors they might ask for a reference, getting a letter of recommendation should be no challenge. It’s a very common request, and though the individual has a right to refuse the recommendation, they are unlikely to do so.
Even so, you should always ask politely and recognize that a referee has to spend their own time writing the recommendation letter. Don’t forget to thank them for their support.
Here is some advice on the best way to ask for a nursing reference letter:
- If possible, ask a potential referee in person. It shows that you understand the importance of the request and respect them enough to take time out of your day to speak with them.
- If your preferred referee would like to write you a nursing reference letter but is struggling to find the time, ask if they’d be willing to sign one. If necessary, you can compose the letter, send it to them and have them send it back with their signature included. Make it very clear to the referee if you intend to do this.
- If there are very specific skills and abilities you need to demonstrate, let the referee know. Otherwise, you risk having to ask them for a revision. Be clear. Be concise. Be straightforward about what you need to see in the letter.
- Don’t expect an essay. A good nursing reference letter can be anywhere from three sentences to several paragraphs long. It depends on how much the referee is willing to write and how much valuable information they think they know about you. Even if your referee only has time to write a few sentences, it’s still a valid recommendation.
Can a nurse write a letter of recommendation for another nurse?
Yes, of course. Ideally, the referee will be a superior of some type with authority and responsibility. The higher their status in the clinic or hospital, the more weight their recommendation will carry. However, if there are no managers, supervisors, or team leaders available to write your reference letter, consider asking a nursing colleague. They have experience of working with you day in, day out and should have examples of occasions when you proved your capabilities.
If you cannot get a recommendation letter from your preferred individual(s), ask the next best person for the job. It is always better to have somebody than nobody on your side.
Should I include a list of referees on my application for a prospective nursing role?
It’s standard practice (at least within the nursing world) to wait to be asked for references and letters of recommendation. So do not include the names of potential references on your application unless explicitly requested.
Always read job adverts carefully. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully because lapses in concentration reflect negatively on nursing candidates. Demonstrate your attention to detail and ability to follow instructions.
On a nursing reference letter, what is the correct way to list a candidate’s licensure? Does BSN or the RN come first?
Nurses in clinical practice are expected to include their licensure first, followed by any degrees and then their certifications. For instance, RN, BSN, CCRN. But nurses who are academic educators normally list their degrees first, then their licensure, and then certifications. For instance, DNP, RN, CNE.
How many letters of recommendation should I get to ensure my nursing application is as strong as possible?
In most cases, it will be made explicitly clear how many nursing references to ask for. If you’re unsure, two or three is a good number. But remember that one superbly written recommendation from a respected figure can carry more weight than three letters from colleagues who haven’t been trained for long. It’s definitely about quality, not quantity.
Getting a good nursing reference letter is a relatively straightforward process for nursing candidates with good track records. If you have strong relationships with colleagues and superiors and/or left a positive impression at your old workplace, there’s nothing to be concerned about. Whomever you ask should be happy to spend 10 or 20 minutes writing you a glowing reference. Don’t forget to say thank you if you get the job.