Keeping a record of your career as a nurse is not only essential to your NMC registration, it's also the best tool you have when applying for a new nursing job. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

Your nursing portfolio is one of the most vital career tools you will ever posses as a nurse. It can often swing a job offer when the interviews have been so close there is no other deciding factor between two excellent candidates. In this current climate of recruitment downturns and budget cuts, the competition for nursing jobs will only get more intense.

A good portfolio will show a nursing recruiter that you are self-aware, in control of your own personal development and focussed on your career as a nurse. Having an organised and up to date nursing portfolio is also a requirement of continuing registration with the NMC, and if they choose they can ask for it to be presented.

What should be in your nursing portfolio

An up to date CV - this is the perfect introduction to your nurse portfolio. It should give a detailed history of your nursing education and career so far as well as dates, employer names and responsibilities. You key competencies as a nurse should also be listed as well as all professional development courses. If you need more advice about your CV, check out our guide how to build your nurse CV.

Professional development certificates - these are essential as you may be asked to prove certain competencies to be eligible for a particular nurse job. It’s also a good idea to keep all your certificates together in your portfolio so you don’t mislay any of them because replacements can be expensive and difficult to get hold of.

Reflections - Regular reflections about any area of nursing that challenged or interested you can be included as they demonstrate commitment to your personal development and your ability to analyse and learn from a situation. You can use positive or negative feedback to reflect upon your personal performance. Negative feedback is especially good to reflect upon in order that you can understand why you received that kind of feedback and if there is something about your nursing practice you need to adjust in order to improve.

Incident Analysis and Review - this is similar to a reflection but just as essential because a future employer may be interested in how you performed during an incident situation. This should be an analysis of your performance prior to, during and after a critical incident. You should look at how your actions affected the situation in either a positive or negative way and give an explanation of how you would perform differently, if indeed you would do anything differently should the situation occur again. It may be relevant to include your thoughts on the performance of another member of the team and how you might learn from how they handled the situation.

Personal Statement - you should include your most recent personal statement because it's your opportunity to pull all your experiences together and express yourself directly to the employer or recruiter. You can talk about your nursing career ambitions and the experiences that have lead you to form these ambitions. It's a good idea to reference some of the contents of your portfolio, especially the reflections in order to bring the document together as a whole and present a rounded view of you as a nurse. If you're applying for your first nurse job, you can read our guide about how to write a personal statement for more details.

How to present your nursing portfolio

Nursing jobs are now more often than not advertised online and it’s increasingly common for NHS trusts and private organisations alike to accept online applications only. While you can still take your portfolio in a ring binder to the interview, some nurses choose to keep their portfolio entirely online. This is sometimes preferable because you can simply email everything straight to the employer, but it’s also advisable to have several digital backup copies and to keep the original paper certificates just in case.

Use it as a reference and reminder

Your nurse portfolio is there to not only be your aid when applying for a new nurse job, it’s also there to remind you how much you have achieved. As a student nurse this is particularly important during your third year as you approach qualification. Reading back on reflections you completed as a first year student will tell you just how much you have learned and how much more competent you are now.

If you keep it updated regularly as you progress through your nursing career you will always have a record of how far you’ve come, all the amazing things you’ve achieved and where your career is heading. Looking back at the things you’ve enjoyed and the areas of nursing you’ve gained particular satisfaction from can often guide you into the ideal nursing job in the future.