Prior to starting my first nursing job, I hadn’t heard of a nursing portfolio. As far as I was concerned, all the important documents representing my nursing career were a mumbo jumbo pile somewhere in between my nursing school books and my long lost social security card on my black hole of a bookshelf. Every time someone asked me for my CPR card it was a five-day task that got moved to the bottom of my to-do list each day. When I started my nursing residency at my new job, I was told i was going to have to create a portfolio. I dreaded this, too. I continued to put everything in a pile on my bookshelf until the week before it was due. While that wasn’t the best idea, the outcome was fantastic. I now have a large binder that is my go-to for anything nursing related.

So what is it, and how do you make one?

A nursing portfolio is a compilation of anything and everything nursing related. The idea is to have everything in one place so that when you apply for a new position, apply for certification, or are asked for a copy of your CPR card, you’ve got it in a second! Some items that I included in my portfolio are:

  • Nursing license
  • College diplomas
  • BLS Card, ACLS Card, PALS Card
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Copy of resume & CV
  • Copy of Daisy nominations
  • Copy of recognitions from coworkers
  • Copy of all certificates for training, classes, etc.
  • A collegiate writing sample
  • Evidence of committee/hospital involvement
  • Thank you notes from coworkers and families of patients
  • CEU certificates
  • Transcripts from nursing school
  • Evidence of community involvement
  • Copies of evaluations
  • Copy of professional presentation posters

Start by gathering items like these. Place them all in a box if you need to, or spread them out over your entire dining room table and drive your family crazy (like I did). Then, start organizing them into sections like professional development, community involvement, education, recognition, CEUs, etc. I strongly recommend organizing your portfolio using labeled tabs so you can easily find something or easily open up to a specific document if asked to do so in an interview. I stuck to six sections total so I wasn’t overwhelmed.

Other hints from my residency director (also known as the lady who knows this stuff inside and out!) include remembering that nursing portfolios are professional—they are not a scrapbook! As tempting as it is to add decorative pages, pretty colors, etc., do keep in mind that this portfolio is to be used as a collection of all of your professional accomplishments. As such, a handy dandy tool for your portfolio are page protectors. I went ahead and invested in a 500 count box and placed several extra at the end when I was finished. When i get a certificate now, instead of throwing it on my bookshelf, I at least put it in a page protector in the back so I can organize it the next time I sit down to refresh my portfolio.

Feel free to add anything relevant to your career, whether it be work-related or not. For instance, if you work on a neuro unit and volunteer with children with spinal cord injuries, you would definitely want to include something about your experience. You can type a simple word document outlining your duties, role, hours spent, etc. and have it in your portfolio. This would be a place that would be acceptable to place a picture or two of your volunteering experience.

Finally, get creative! Think: if everyone else had a portfolio, what would make mine stand out? While your nursing license and college degrees are essential, everyone has these items. Don’t forget the little things that make your career special—notes from families and patients, pictures and articles of you in your hospital newsletter, and so on. These not only make your portfolio more appealing and personal if you utilize it in an interview or professional setting, but also will make it that much more memorable in 20 years when you can look back on everything you have accomplished.

I hope these tips will help you get started. Feel free to comment any other suggestions you have or questions you have for me. Good luck and happy organizing! I guarantee you’ll thank me next time you have to provide your CPR card.

Alicia Klingensmith

Alicia Klingensmith is a BSN Student at the University of North Florida.

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