4 Tips for Setting Nursing Goals and Objectives

Setting goals is a fundamental component to achieving longterm success in any career or personal endeavor. For those in nursing understanding your objectives and setting nursing goals is instrumental in helping you stay the course. All too often those in nursing can become overwhelmed by the demands of coworkers, patients, and ever-changing shifts. It’s difficult to maintain your objective without having clearly set nursing goals to use as mileposts along the way.

On your way to becoming a nurse you likely had a clear idea in your mind of the type of specialty you wanted for your nursing career. Your teachers, clinical advisors, and mentors helped you determine how to achieve your objective. You stayed the course, maybe you faltered a few times, but at the end of it all you were able to begin your nursing career in the specialty to which you felt committed.

Learning to Set Your Own Nursing Goals


Since graduation day your objective has probably changed as it has grown to encompass a career path beyond graduating nursing school. Once you began the day-to-day job of patient care plans, charting, meetings, and shift coverage setting your nursing goals didn’t seem nearly as important as when you were starting out.

Now you may find you’re overwhelmed by the idea of setting-and achieving-even more nursing goals. Who has the time to devote to actually thinking beyond the next shift? But, giving yourself the gift of setting your career objectives and nursing goals can actually make your life easier, provide more direction, organization, and help you keep your head in the game as you move forward. Additionally, once you’ve set clear cut nursing goals for yourself you’ll feel you have more control over where you’re going and be able to enjoy your vocation as one of the most instrumental professions in medicine.

4 Tips for Setting Nursing Goals and Objectives


Identify Your Goals: The first step in achieving your nursing goals and objectives is to identify the specific goals you wish to achieve at this particular point in your career. Realize these goals may change as you move forward and the goals you have at, say, 25 are not the same goals you may wish to achieve in 5 years, 10 years, or on down the road. A career in nursing, like most things in life, is fluid and dependent on many circumstances beyond your control.

However, once you identify and define those goals which you recognize as attainable you are able to move on to the next step. Make certain these are nursing goals that may challenge you but are most assuredly, with a bit of work, within your reach.

Develop Your Strategy: Having clearly identified attainable nursing goals you can now develop your strategy. How are you going to achieve the objectives you’ve set for yourself? First you must define the goal and what it will take to meet it. Will you need to go back to school? If so, begin making those plans. Do you need to expand your experience? Obtain additional certifications? Talk to your nurse manager or administration and let them know your intentions.

Once you’ve thoroughly assessed your nursing goals, and defined the path necessary to achieve those goals, it’s time to implement your plan. Strategizing helps you to build a foundation on which to move forward toward your nursing goals.

Break it Down: Some nursing goals can seem a bit daunting, even after you’ve examined and refined the process. Start breaking your larger goals into less overwhelming smaller pieces. If you need to go back to further your degree begin by applying then enrolling then attending classes. By outlining these “baby steps” and ticking each one off of your list, the entire process becomes far less intimidating. Stating the goal of “obtaining a graduate degree” might even seem somewhat abstract to you. “Apply to graduate program” is much more concrete and something that seems immediately achievable.

If you find yourself sure of your goal but not so sure how to start the process try informational interviewing. For an RN-BSN who may want to become an NP, take some time to sit down with an NP and ask what steps they took to achieve their goal. This type of networking can also lead to mentoring, a wonderful tool in attaining your nursing goals and objectives.

Stop to Assess Your Progress: On the path to achieving any goal it’s necessary to be accountable. With that in mind you need to set appointments-with yourself or an accountability partner-to check in and evaluate your progress. Are you where you wanted to be at this measurable point in your career? Do you need to retool your process, recommit to your goal, or even change your nursing goals?

Be firm but don’t be too hard on yourself. Longterm goals can easily change as your life changes. You may experience complacency; you feel fine where you are and the thought of moving up in your career is no longer important. You might be feeling burnout or compassion fatigue, a common occurrence in the care field. Talk with someone who can help you get back on track. A trusted advisor, friend, or mentor, or even a professional therapist, will help you to see and evaluate your nursing goals.


Keep Your Goal in Focus

A word of caution: setting too many nursing goals can cause you to become frustrated. Striving to overachieve is often counterproductive to achieving. You’ll get burned out and your career will suffer. Keep your clearly defined goals in focus and don’t try to reach too far beyond your grasp. You’ll set new goals when you meet your current objectives.

Use these four tips for setting nursing goals and objectives and you’ll easily be able to keep your “eyes on the prize”. Daily practice and reinforcement will help keep you on track. Write your goals down or share them with a trusted advisor or friend. Stick to your gameplay and you’ll be a happier, more fulfilled, and even better nurse.

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