Career Resources / Nursing Goals & Professional Development
No matter what career path you choose, it’s crucial to come up with professional development goals. It is important to ensure these goals align with your overall life plans. Having objectives in place is the foundation of your potential success. The earlier you plan, the greater the possibilities. Remember, goals can change over time, so you need to reevaluate them on a regular basis.
In this article, we will cover:
- What professional development looks like for nurses
- SMART goals
- Importance of SMART goals
- How to set SMART goals
- Align professional goals with personal goals
What professional development looks like for nurses
Professional development in any line of work tends to evolve as time passes, and the specialty of nursing is no exception.
One factor affecting the evolution of professional development in nursing is the rapid technological advancements that have occurred over the past few decades. As technology advances so do treatment capabilities which makes staying up to date on best practices so important. Professional development is critical!
Some common nursing goals include:
- Acquiring skills in advancing technology
- Fulfilling continuing education unit requirements (CEUs)
- Refining interpersonal skills
- Honing a specific skill set to an expert level
- Taking a management/leadership position
- Obtaining professional certifications
The more you advance in your nursing career, the more money you could make.
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Nursing goals for improving communication
Strong communication skills are vital to improving your nursing practice. As you interact at work, paying attention to different ways you communicate can be helpful.
Strong communication skills can also help you earn extra money in a nursing side hustle. You can polish your skills to become a nurse writer, a nurse educator, or even use your medical terminology knowledge as a transcriptionist. Some nurses even make a career by doing chart reviews or testifying in court.
As you consider what direction you want to take your career, identify the skills that will make the biggest impact on your goals. Do you want to provide more effective patient education? Become a nationally known speaker? Teach nursing students? Something else?
Some communication goals you can consider include improving your:
- Active listening skills
- Non-verbal communication
- Written communication
- Specific techniques like asking for a return demonstration or teach-back
Nursing goals for improving skills
Professional development goals can focus on nursing skills too. You can work on improving basic nursing skills, deep dive into skills needed for a particular nursing specialty, or learn how to use new technologies.
Hands-on skills may have been covered in nursing school, but learning how to care for patients and their medical devices is a lifelong process. You can learn at work, take a continuing education class, or decide to work towards an advanced nursing degree.
There are nursing skills checklists available for you to review and determine where you have the biggest opportunity for growth.
For example, you can set goals to improve different skills including:
- Improving your assessment skills for different body systems including lung sounds, cardiac murmurs, or abdominal assessments
- Mastering the use of technology like cardiac monitors or communication devices
- Adding on a clinical skill to improve patient care like ultrasound-guided IV access or learning to place intraosseous access devices
- Learning how to use and troubleshoot medical devices in your patient population like chest tubes, continuous glucose monitors, or ostomy care supplies
- Skills specialized to a nursing role like management, education, or quality improvement
Nursing goals for advancement
Some nurses spend their entire careers in one role; others look to change directions and advance. If you are interested in advancement in your career, research to see what opportunities are available. Find out what is required to advance to your desired next level or role. There are tons of career resources available for nurses.
Healthcare is always changing, and achieving your goals for communication and skill improvement may open future doors that don’t even exist today. For example, telehealth and remote work have become much more common since 2020.
Working towards your nursing goals may have up-front costs, especially if you return to school. However, improving your skills opens opportunities for you to earn more money in the long run. As you decide on your goals, it’s important you understand the costs of pursuing them and the benefits you’ll get when you achieve them.
Only you will know what career path is right for you. As a nurse, some examples of some advancement goals would be:
- Your nursing degree
- By earning a specialized certification
- From the floor to ICU
- From working as a Registered Nurse (RN) to Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)
- Your role from staff nurse to management and nursing leadership
Nursing SMART goals will help you identify your goals and come up with a plan of action. SMART stands for:
Importance of SMART goals
Setting SMART goals will give you a much better chance of advancing your career and reaching new heights. Additionally, setting these goals can help you provide better care for your patients because you will be motivated to progress as a nurse. Taking classes on technological advances in medicine or the need for bilingual nurses are great examples of how to better serve your patients. Learning ever changing best practices is critical!
When you are incentivized internally it makes everyone’s job easier and improves overall nursing care.
Expert advice from nurses like you
How to set SMART goals
- Be specific: When crafting your goals, include details that allow them to be clearly defined. Goals lacking concrete details cause a lack of focus on what needs to be accomplished. For example, say you are mapping out goals paving the future of your career as a nurse. Simply writing that your goal is to advance in your career is too vague. Try something like: I want to obtain my Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
- Make it measurable: To achieve your short (weeks, months) and long (years) term goals, it’s important to know how to measure your progress. This allows you to stay motivated and keep on going.
- Keep it attainable: Not everyone can become the president of the American Nurses Association. It’s important to set goals that showcase your capabilities. Though it’s important to have ambition, you don’t want a goal you can’t possibly achieve. You want to create a practical goal that you can accomplish in the timeline you choose (weeks, months, years).
- Be relevant: Make sure you set goals that align with your needs, desires, and short- and long-term goals. Ask yourself if you have the resources required to achieve it.
- Make it timely: Creating goals won’t work if they don’t have time stamps or deadlines. For example, if you want to get your MSN, choose a date you want to finish it by. Choosing a date will give you a sense of urgency and help motivate you to get it done.
Examples of nursing SMART goals
Now that you understand the SMART goal definition, it’s time for some examples:
- Become a nurse practitioner within 3 years: This goal is concrete and has a timestamp. The nurse will have a firm understanding of what they want to achieve and when they want to achieve it.
- Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing within 4 years: With the goal of obtaining a BSN, a nurse is able to grow and expand career opportunities. This goal works because it’s specific and has a deadline.
- Become a nurse mentor within 1 year: Finding an opportunity to mentor another nurse is a great way to help improve your job satisfaction and help someone else. This is a great SMART goal because it’s attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive.
- Earn a certification in the next 2 years: Nurses who pursue certification have a better chance of moving up the ladder or being able to switch to a different specialty. For example, Informatics is a fast-growing field so obtaining your Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) would be a great way to advance your career.
Align professional goals with personal goals
When developing your professional goals as a nurse, it’s important to investigate your personal goals as well. Sometimes, these two things conflict. Aligning personal and professional desires can bring you a greater sense of joy and increase motivation. What’s the sense of working so hard to achieve a goal if it won’t make you happy?
In order to make sure your personal and professional goals agree with each other, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I want out of life?
- How will my work affect the relationships in my life?
- What makes me happy?
- What are the pros and cons of my professional development goals?
- What are the pros and cons of my personal goals?
- What resources are available to me?
When your personal and professional goals align, you are more likely to lead an enriched life. Try to write your goals in ways that capture your life passions.
Professional development for nurses can take your nursing career to places you never thought possible. From obtaining new nursing certifications to managing more than 100 nurses, your nursing career possibilities are endless.
No matter the professional development plan you put into place, you’ll need to maintain an active nursing license to achieve your career goals. This includes keeping up with your CEUs, certification specifications, and licensing requirements.
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