No matter the career field you pursue, it’s crucial to come up with your own professional development goals. You may change some of these goals as you reassess them every few years to ensure they’re aligned with your overall life goals, but having goals set in place is the foundation of your potential success.
What is professional development for nurses?
In 1985, the Journal for Nurses in Staff Development was first published. Only four years later, it was incorporated with the National Nursing Staff Development Organization, which is now known as the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD). Throughout the 1990s, there was a massive increase in nursing professional development (NPD) activity and publications, and in 2016, ANPD defined NPD as:
A specialized nursing practice that facilitates the professional role development and growth of nurses and other healthcare personnel along the continuum from novice to expert.
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Professional development in any line of work tends to evolve as time passes, and the specialty of nursing is no different. This is largely due to the rapid technological advancements that have occurred over the past few decades. As technology and diagnosis and treatment capabilities continue to become more advanced, so do professional development goals for nurses.
Professional development goals for nurses
No doubt about it, a lot of us have a strong desire to advance in our careers, but when we take a second to reflect, there’s only a blurry picture of what we see ourselves doing in the future. Some of us may not know the exact job title we want to achieve, and there’s a lot of us with no solid plans in place to help us develop on a professional basis. This is why nurses NEED to create professional development goals for themselves.
When it comes to setting goals, it’s important to choose ones that YOU want to achieve. Don’t think about what everyone else wants you to do.
Also, keep in mind that professional development isn’t necessarily all about the money, but do remember that when advancing professionally, you usually get opportunities to make more money. So, if you prefer to advance as far as you can go with financial gain being your primary motivator, then definitely take a look at salary estimates for nurses in your specialty and at different locations. You may find that part of your professional development goals require you to move to a new location, and it’s important to prepare for these kinds of changes as early as possible in your career so you can eventually get settled.
Some of the more common professional development goals that nurses set for themselves are:
- Acquire advanced technology skills
- Maintain continuing education unit (CEU) requirements
- Refine interpersonal skills
- Hone specific skill set to mastery/expert level
- Take a management position
- Obtain professional certifications
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Creating a nursing professional development plan with SMART goals
Nursing SMART goals help nurses identify their goals and come up with a plan of action. SMART is an acronym that nurses can use when mapping out their goals.
- Be specific: Try and create a goal that is concrete and detailed. If you set a goal that’s too wide in scope, you might get pulled in many different directions. Say for instance, that you are charting goals and want to advance as a nurse. Simply having a goal as advancing as a nurse would be to vague and broad. This could happen in so many ways. Try instead something like: obtain my Master of Science in Nursing degree.
- Make it measurable: To achieve your goals, it’s important to know how to gauge your progress. This allows you to stay motivated and keep working toward your goals.
- Keep it attainable: Not everyone can become the president of the American Nurses Association, however, there are unique goals that you can achieve. You want to create a practical goal that you can set out to accomplish.
- Be realistic: Similar to the last specification, it’s important to have goals that are indicative of your capabilities. Though it’s important to have ambition, you don’t want a goal that you can’t possibly achieve either.
- 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 to get it by. Choosing a date will give you a sense of urgency and will help motivate you to get it done.
Examples of SMART Goals
Now that you understand what the definition of SMART goals is, it’s time to give some examples of them.
- Become a nurse practitioner within three years: This goal is concrete and has a time stamp. The nurse will have a firm understanding of what they want to achieve and when they want to achieve it.
- Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree in the next two years: With this goal, you are able to grow as a nurse. The goal works because it’s specific and has a time stamp as well.
- Find a nurse to mentor within the next 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 easily attainable, realistic, and time sensitive.
Nurses benefit extensively from a professional development plan or SMART goals. This is mostly because the industry’s highest-performing organizations show great favor to those with verification of their advanced skill sets (and there is much assessment and verification of skills made during professional development).
A nurse can begin their professional development plan as soon as they like. The earlier a nurse starts in his or her career with professional development, the greater the possibilities become.
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Professional development for nurses can take your nursing career to places you never thought possible. From entering new nursing specialities to managing more than a hundred nurses as a facility supervisor, your nursing career possibilities are as wide open as you make them.
No matter the professional development plan you put into place, you’ll need to maintain an active nursing license to achieve your goals. Check out these free nursing CEUs to get you started on meeting your state’s CEU requirements.