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Curriculum vitae, nurse practitioners, professional development, resume



  1. Hicks, Rodney W. PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN (Assistant Dean for Research and Administration, Professor)


ABSTRACT: Advanced practice nurses (APNs) now have great opportunities to serve in leadership positions for organizations, institutions of higher education, community and public agencies, and more. The need exists for APNs to have a full set of professional business documents readily available. Such common documents would extend beyond the professional business card and professional photograph to include the curriculum vitae, the resume, and the National Institutes of Health Biographical Sketch (biosketch) and a professional biosketch. Advanced practice nurses should understand the differences between the documents as each document helps to share the professional identity.


Article Content

Advanced practice nurses (APNs) now have great opportunities to serve in leadership positions for organizations, institutions of higher education, community and public agencies, and more. Many opportunities arise with little planning or advanced notice. Regardless of the amount of notice, the need exists for APNs to have a full set of professional documents readily available. Such professional documents would include a business card, curriculum vitae (CV), resume, and a professional biosketch. Advanced practice nurses should also consider having a current professional photograph. The professional documents are among the soft professional skills that contribute to success (Hamby, 2019). This article describes each document and its purpose, shares some of the best practices for each of the documents, and highlights similarities and differences between the documents. The examples given are entirely fictitious and reinforce the important concepts (Supplemental Digital Content 1, and Supplemental Digital Content 2,


Introducing the documents

Each of the documents have long histories. Due to the long history, the style and format of the documents evolved over time. The CV has the longest history and traces back to 1482 and Leonardo Da Vinci (Christenberry, 2014). At that period, the CV was a self-marketing portfolio to demonstrate accomplishments. With Latin translation, the term CV means the course of one's life. Today, the CV is one of the most important documents of the scholar with applicability beyond academia (Hicks & Roberts, 2016). The CV lists accomplishments in broad areas of a professional's career including scholarship, education, research, service, and practice. A CV is different from a resume, although sometimes writers interchange the terms.


The resume also shares a long history. Some historians credit the origin of the resume as the same as the CV. The word resume is French and means summary (Hicks & Roberts, 2016). Many English publications transform the word to resume by dropping the accent point. The resume provides summaries of experiences, abilities, and skills.


An essential part of a professional identity includes a professional biographical sketch (San-Franchini, 2019). Advanced practice nurses will encounter many types and formats of biographical sketches. The most common type of biographical sketch is the narrative approach. An effective professional biosketch captures information about the time, context, and status in the field of the individual. The professional biosketch highlights achievements and influence within the discipline (Hamby, 2019). Federal research grants require a formal National Institutes of Health (NIH) biosketch. The NIH biosketch identifies key personnel involved in a specific role for competing federal grant applications and project renewals. Other nonfederal granting agencies may accept the NIH biosketch as well. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides detailed instructions for NIH and other public health agencies (DHHS 2018).


Purpose of the documents

The CV is among the most widely used documents when applying for positions within academia or for general positions in Europe. Many academic institutions use the CV to assess an individual's qualifications and assign rank (instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, or professor). Levels of rank are progressive and require evidence of accomplishments in traditional areas of teaching, research (or scholarship), and service. The format of the CV allows the individual to organize accomplishments for easy presentation. Given the cumulative nature of the CV, there are no page limits on length.


The purpose of the resume is to convey unique qualifications in response to an advertised position (Jilk et al., 2018). Securing a nonacademic position often requires the candidate to submit a resume. The ideal resume is two pages in length, whereas concise resumes can be a single page. This space limitation forces the author to be highly selective to match the details of the most significant past accomplishments to standout to the reviewer. Professionals may develop different versions depending on the nature of the job.


The purpose of the NIH biosketch is to identify qualifications of senior and key personnel for a funding opportunity. Federal agencies use the required standard form in assessing magnitude and significance of scientific contributions. The NIH biosketch is also space limited, and each federal agency can determine the page limit for the specified grant proposal. Page lengths vary from two to five pages.


The main purpose of a narrative biosketch is to describe professional identity in less detail than in a CV or resume (Hamby, 2019). An effective professional biosketch captures information about the time, context, and status in the field of the individual. In professional circles and conferences, the biosketch can be a short document used to introduce speakers to establish the topic, the importance of the topic, and the how the speaker is qualified to address the audience (Dlugan, 2010). Overall, a biosketch serves to introduce the individual, situate the individual within a professional role, and emphasize elements of the background that match the activities the individual supports. Every biosketch should be brief, concise, and clear (George M. Pullman Foundation, 2014) and should highlight the abilities and accomplishments that are pertinent to the purpose. If the purpose is an introduction to a presentation or article, highlight the elements from the background that support such (Khazzoom, 2019). With introductory intent, the average length of a professional biosketch would be less than a page.


Elements of the documents

Several elements are common among the documents. For every element given, there can be an equally true but other definition or interpretation. The order of the elements is at the discretion of the author. Early career individuals may not have content in each of the broad areas, and this is understandable. Truthfulness and correct reflections of accomplishments outweigh content within any area. The rest of this manuscript will unfold the similarities and differences of the key elements of each document type. Table 1 identifies common elements of the professional documents.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1. Elements common to the business documents

Name and contact information

Each document carries the name of the professional. A CV, resume, and professional biosketch generally include a block identification of the person's name, professional credentials, and contact information (Hicks & Roberts, 2016; Jilk et al., 2018). There is no need to label the document as either "Curriculum Vitae" or "Resume" as reviewers of the document should already recognize the type of document by its length. The NIH biosketch is more restrictive. The form has predefined fields for the individual's name (but do not include credentials), the eRA COMMONS Username, and the position title The eRA COMMONS name designates registration in the electronic Research Administration system and will help researchers access and share information related to grants (Office of Extramural Research, n.d.).


For a CV, resume, and narrative biosketch, always include the use of credentials. The standard styling of credentials is to list the highest degree right after the last name (Hicks & Roberts, 2016; Jilk et al., 2018). Users may eliminate lesser degrees within the same discipline, for example, include Dr. Ph. but omit M.P.H. as both represent the public health discipline. Do not include degrees in process, only awarded degrees. Professional licensure typically follows the degree. Certification within the field would be common after professional licensures. Finally, fellowships or similar designations should end the credential string. Here is an example for a nurse practitioner: Jane Smith, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP.


Individuals should include current contact information as address, phone number, and email. Typically, the address is the home address. The email address should reflect a professional address (Hicks & Roberts, 2016), given that individuals use these documents when applying for employment. Therefore, having the prospective employers contact the individual outside the current employment setting may be desirable.


Individuals purposively omit some information from the documents. For example, an individual would not include marital status, social security number, date of birth, religious preference, gender, a photograph, salary history, or an explanation of gaps in employment. Such information is private and omitting helps prevent identity theft and minimize discrimination.


A CV could have a second block to highlight licensure and certification (Hicks & Roberts, 2016; Jilk et al., 2018). Licensure and certification disclosure should identify the issuing authority, date earned, and next renewal date. Individuals should omit the exact license number to prevent identity theft.


Personal statement

The resume and NIH biosketch both include a personal statement but not the CV or professional biosketch. For a resume, the personal statement can be a career goal or a brief description of the candidate's accomplishment. For the NIH biosketch, the personal statement serves as a description about why an individual is well suited to the proposed project (DHHS, 2018). Well-suited statement draws on past education, career, or other research experiences that demonstrate qualifications.



Each formal document includes an individual's education history, albeit with some minor variation. The CV can use a block format to summarize educational achievements in reverse chronological order. The individual must prioritize how much education to list on a resume given space limitations. The NIH biosketch does not include educational history below a baccalaureate degree and has a slightly different style for display. Individuals also list postdoctoral training or fellowships. Sentences within the narrative biosketch express educational achievements.


Employment history

Employment history infers name of employer, location, dates, and job title, and professionals should include on a CV, resume, and NIH biosketch. Reverse chronological order places the most recent entry at the top of the section. A resume is the one document that allows the person to provide significant details about the position, such as accomplishments, achievements, and responsibilities. The narrative biosketch has broad description of the work history rather than significant details of the location. This document also emphasizes accomplishments and abilities.



Many individuals receive professional honors. Professional honors include scholarships, awards, fellow designation(s), or other prestigious recognitions. All the documents present the opportunity to list professional honors. At a minimum, the author should list the professional honor, the award sponsor, and the date in a reverse chronological approach for the CV, resume, or NIH biosketch. The professional biosketch should highlight the professional honors by title in narrative form and could include the year of the award.


Scholarly works

Scholarly works are important elements for the CV, resume, and NIH biosketch. Scholarly works include details about funded grants, publications, and both podium and poster presentations. On the narrative biosketch, it is enough to mention a GENERAL history of scholarly works rather than details.


Funded grants

Extramural and intramural funding demonstrates responsibility and accountability and professional achievement. Funding details are more important to list on the CV and NIH biosketch than on the resume. For the CV, the funding history demonstrates historical expertise, whereas on the NIH biosketch, the funding pattern supports qualifications. When listing grant applications, the individual discloses the funding source (sponsor), the grant period, funding amount, and the role held. The author may choose to include grant applications that are either under review or did not receive funding. The listing of these demonstrates skills and work effort. For the professional biosketch, a mention of a history of funding would be sufficient. For the resume, consider simply noting some of the details and patterns.



A CV always includes every publication in reverse chronological order. Although there is no need to number the entries, some individuals choose to do so. Numbering brings an extra burden as each new entry requires renumbering. Individuals would not list works currently under review for publication. Individuals can list accepted publications, or works in early view, when the editor supplies the digital objective identifier (DOI). Individuals should update the listing when complete publication information becomes available.


For a CV, the individual documents the complete citation formatted in the prevailing style of the discipline. For nursing, the prevailing style is from the American Psychology Association (APA). The traditional elements of the citation include author, year, title, source, and DOI. The DOI is unique to the article, regardless of which database indexes the works. Another item outside the elements that APA includes is the Pub Med ID number (PMID). Pub Med assigns the manuscript the unique PMID number during indexing of the manuscript. Individuals should consider the implications of including hyperlinks to scholarly works. Publishers hold the copyright for publications and freely linking to the publication could result in copyright violation (Hicks & Pierson, 2014).


Individuals make an informed decision about what elements of scholarship to include on the resume. The inherent length constraint of the resume informs the decision about the quantity of entries. For the resume, the individual selects work that contributes to the overall intent of the resume. In some instances, an individual may prefer to highlight presentations over publications depending on the intent of the resume.


For an NIH biosketch, the scholarly section is known as contributions to science. This section affords the author an opportunity to list up to five contributions to science that are most closely related to the project. Authors describe the significance of the contribution in about a half a page and their role in the work (DHHS, 2018). Individuals may wish to use technology within the biosketch and create a "My Bibliography" and then provide the link to the original works. For the professional biosketch, mention of a publication history is appropriate.



Presentations, either by podium or poster, are scholarly works. Much like publications, the CV should list all presentations. Word processing capabilities easily allow the author to subdivide and keep poster presentations together as well as podium presentations. One approach is to divide podium presentations into general presentations or invited presentations. Another natural division can be designating the scholarly works as regional/local, national, and international. Individuals should put identifying information into the list, such as title, date, location, and conference sponsor.


For a resume, individuals selectively pick the presentations to support the candidate's alignment of qualifications to the position. For some, the resume may not have any presentations. The NIH biosketch would not likely have presentations as the emphasis is on published contributions to science.



Consultations show the ability. A CV should detail all consultations by naming the client, scope, and possibly subject matter area. On the other hand, the resume is the best place to provide extensive details about the skills and outcomes of the consultation. Individuals should remember to review all consulting agreements and take precautions not to violate terms of any nondisclosure agreement. Consultations are not part of an NIH biosketch, but individuals should include such abilities on a professional biosketch.



Disclosure of patents is another element to include on professional documents. The CV simply lists patents in terms of patent number and date issued. For the resume, the inclusion of patents occurs on a case-by-case basis to reinforce skills. For an e-NIH biosketch, the disclosure would be appropriate because it shows discovery and past accomplishments. Investigators use this opportunity to show the applicability to the project. For as professional sketch, mentioning the topic of patents depends on the intended audience.


Professional associations and positions within professional association

Professional associations are valuable opportunities to grow professionally. Membership within a professional association demonstrates an individual's higher level of engagement. The CV is the professional document most likely to include professional association membership and the length of time as a member. Participation in professional associations range from membership (alone), committee involvement, and either elected or appointed leadership positions. The resume, NIH biosketch, and professional biosketch would not include professional association membership. A professional biosketch should highlight the leadership accomplishments not membership.


Service to the organization

A CV has the most detail about an individual's service to an organization. Organize service by level, be it at the unit level or at the organizational level (Hicks & Roberts, 2016). Delineate service as committee membership and/or leadership positions. To list on the CV, describe the committee, role, and dates of service. Omit the details of the committee work. For the resume, be able to draw on the service experience to highlight important skills. Likewise, for the professional biosketch, demonstrate the linkage of the past service to the current opportunity. The NIH biosketch does not include service.


Service to the profession

Service to the profession can overlap with service within professional associations. However, service to the profession can include other activities. For example, authors should list serving as a peer reviewer for publishers. Abstract reviewing and participating in scholarship selection committees are other examples. These activities are appropriate for the CV but not the resume or either type of biosketch.


Community service

Service to the community is within the professional role. Community service is broad and includes services to community agencies, religious institutions, and other sources. The individual would list the sponsoring organization, address, role held, and time frame. Delineate leadership positions within the agencies as well. Include on the CV with relevant details and use your best judgment about inclusion on your professional biosketch or resume. Omit from the NIH biosketch.


Courses taught/projects supervised

Teaching courses and supervising projects are part of the faculty role. No clear guideline exists as to how to include on the CV. On one hand, seeing the type of courses taught can support expertise. The structure of the course, be it online, on-ground, or hybrid does infer different skillsets that could be useful to reviewers. Likewise, supervising capstone projects or dissertations demonstrates a skillset. Including these sections does lengthen the CV and may not be pertinent except when applying for an academic or related position.


Other information

Several rules for writing a professional biosketch are apt. First, the use of third person is most common in the professional biosketch (George M. Pullman Foundation, 2014). Every biosketch should be brief, concise, and clear (George M. Pullman Foundation, 2014). Highlight the ability pertinent to the purpose of the biosketch. If it is an introduction to a presentation or manuscript, highlight the elements of your background that demonstrate expertise for the subject matter (Khazzoom, 2019).


Formatting the documents should reflect a professional demeanor. Professional appearance transcends the document. Individuals should select an appropriate base font for readability. Consistency among fonts is important but excessive changes in font size distort the visual appearance. Font size must be 10 point or greater for ease of reading as well. Individuals should limit bold font to section headings only and avoid the use of italics in major headings. Many word processing and other software programs allows for adding borders to tables. Tables help authors keep information aligned and organized. We recommend creating information in tables and block and then turning off the border. The result is a balanced appearance. Remember, readability and clarity are essential points.


Proofing of the document is essential. In addition to self-proofing, individuals should select a set of "friendly hostile" colleagues to review, critique, and provide feedback (Hicks, 2017). The friendly hostile infers that you have a trusting relationship with the individual(s) and the individual(s) can openly supply feedback for purposes of improvement. Friendly hostiles are critical of the document not the author.


Maintaining the professional documents requires ongoing diligence. A CV is meant to be a living document and individuals should plan to update on a regular schedule. Add new publications and accomplishments as often as needed. The resume's purpose is highly personalized to a job opening and requires modification based on the intent. A web search on the term resume will yield many examples. Using a date stamp in the footer or at the end of the last page helps ensure currency. Individuals should plan to save the documents in native word processing file format (e.g., doc, docx, wpd). Most of the popular word processing programs allow conversion to PDF. Individuals would distribute PDF files on request. Distribution of the PDF resolves version issues within some word processing programs and helps ensure integrity of the document.



Advanced practice nurses have a professional responsibility to create and maintain a CV, resume, and a narrative biosketch. For those involved in research, the NIH biosketch should be current. Having these documents readily available helps ensure a proper professional identity and positions you to readily respond to requests for these documents.




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George M. Pullman Foundation (2014). Professional bio-writing 101. [Context Link]


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Hicks R. W. (2017). Friendly hostiles: An important link to success publishing. AORN Journal, 106, 191-193. [Context Link]


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