“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs”

Zig Ziglar


The above quote very well explains the importance of goal setting in our lives. Each goal that you set on the path to success is a staircase to the top. As long as we are accomplishing our goals in a worthwhile way, we are on the right track to meeting our visionary goals. After all, any goal without a plan is only wishful thinking. Having said that, in every professional field, SMART Goals hold the key to success.

Speaking of nursing, in contemporary times, it is one of the most sought-after career fields. As per the World Health Organization, the global registered nursing workforce includes 27 million nurses. In fact, nursing accounts for more than 50 percent of the global healthcare workforce. While these numbers are fascinating, they also hint at the cutthroat competition in the nursing field. So, if you aspire to make it big as a nurse and claim the zenith of success, your goal setting is going to make a real difference.

However, now that we are speaking about goal setting, does it make sense to set goals you can’t measure or track? Do irrational or irrelevant goals give you any purpose or are they only going to deviate from your ambitions? The fact of the matter is that your goals have to be highly systematic. Simply put, you need to set SMART Goals and find smart ways to achieve them. Not sure what SMART Goals are and how you can set SMART Goals in nursing?

Well, you need not worry at all. This is your exclusive guide to understanding and setting SMART Goals in nursing. But before we move toward SMART Goals of nursing, let us first understand nursing goals in a generic sense.

What are SMART Goals?

As discussed above, with the increasing complexity of the healthcare sector, your goals need to be SMART enough for you to sustain yourself in the highly competitive healthcare industry. This is where the concept of SMART Goals can be efficiently helpful for you. George Doran in the year 1981 came up with the concept of SMART Goals and objectives. He gave an ideal framework on which the goals of an individual should rely on the most efficient results. As per Doran, all the factors that are necessary to carry out a successful execution of a goal or objective are covered in the framework of SMART where SMART is an acronym for

S- Specific- The very first section of the framework depicts that your goal should always be specific.

M- Measurable- Next comes measurable. This implies that in order to accomplish an objective or goal, it is essential for you to key performance indicators through which you will measure the set goal.

A- Achievable- A in the SMART stands for achievable in the section you will highlight the key skills or tools that are needed to carry forward the successful accomplishment of your set goal.

R- Relevant- Next comes R which stands for relevant. This section will highlight the relevance of your SMART goal to your overall vision values or other major goals that you intend to achieve through the short-term goals.

T- Time-bound- Last but not least is T which stands for time-bound. In the section, you will highlight the time period through which you wish to achieve your set goals.

If you want to learn more about the framework of SMART Goals with some effective examples, go through our detailed SMART Goals learning guide. Now that you have learned about what exactly the framework of SMART Goals is, the next section will shed light on how you can set SMART nursing goals.

What could be your goals as a nurse?

5 goals you can set as a nurse

1. Constant improvement in theoretical and practical knowledge

Thanks to all the latest technological advancements, healthcare is a field that changes at a constant pace. Besides, after the pandemic, the human body has also been extra vulnerable to certain infections. This is the reason, your first nursing goal should always be to have a constant improvement in your theoretical and practical knowledge.

As the time and human body change, you never know when you will have a certain case under your observation. Hence, it is essential to constantly keep a check on the improvisations and changing scenarios in your field of study in terms of practical and theoretical aspects.

You can access various nursing courses that can assist you in making constant improvisations in your knowledge. These learning apps or other various online or offline resources can efficiently help you in enhancing your theoretical and practical knowledge of your subject field. Besides, the more knowledge you will have, the more enhancement there will be in your professional career. And isn’t that what you want, right?

2. Regular advancement in soft and hard skills

Being in the nursing profession, you might also agree with the fact that it is not a piece of cake. You need to have certain soft and hard skills that make you different from others. In the nursing profession, some of the must-have hard skills are

  • Advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS)

  • Proficiency in EHR

  • Ventilator care

  • Emergency and critical care nursing

Besides, some of the soft skills that are crucial for being an efficient nurse in the health care industry are

  • Cordiality

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Positive personality traits

  • Communication skills

  • Workplace étiquettes

  • Time management

With respect to communication skills, the 7Cs of Communication holds immense significance in nursing jobs given the vitality of precise communication while dealing with patients or during surgeries.

Besides, having the above-mentioned hard and soft skills will effectively assist you in finishing your jobs with utmost efficiency.

The more you advance in your soft skills and hard skills, the stronger will be your claim to the top. Eventually, every nurse wants to escalate to the position of a nursing officer and for that, your skill set along with your expertise will be the most important determinant.

3. Effective maintenance of work-life balance

A survey suggests that more than 95 percent of nurses experience burnout situations. Besides, around 91 percent of nurses have thought about quitting their jobs because of the enormous amount of stress. Needless to say, when you are in such a critical profession, it is obvious that you will experience paramount stress. Moreover, this stress can also turn into trauma at times. However, quitting is never an option for achievers. You need to find a way around the stress that comes with this profession and get your work-life balance right.

A perfect work-life balance is not only essential from the stress management perspective but also for your productivity. A disrupted work-life balance and work efficiency cannot co-exist for long. Having said that, meeting the goal of a positive work-life balance will clearly aid your productivity and success.

4. Get field-specific certifications

Being a nurse is good but being a certified nurse is even better. Certification of any industry always tends to provide a validation of your knowledge, skills, and expertise. Hence, it is really essential to get field-specific certifications that will enhance your professional value and credibility.

Hence with regular intervals getting certified validations should also be one of your major goals as a nurse. Clinical certifications will demonstrate your high competence in the highly competitive market of the nursing industry. Field base certifications will provide you better confidence which can add value to your prospects and can also assist you in providing higher salaries.

However, one has to realize that this should be a constant process that you need to get certified validations from esteemed professional institutions that can assist you in enhancing your specialty. Some essential and common nursing certifications are mentioned below.

  • Wound care certification

  • Advanced practice nursing certification

  • Medical surgical nursing certification

  • Nursing specialty certification

  • Registered nurse certification

  • Certified cardiovascular nerves practitioner

You just need to critically analyze the right certification for you and you are ready to enhance your value and knowledge in the highly competitive market.

5. Competency in patient care

People may not remember you as a nurse by your name but will definitely remember how you care for them. But you will only be remembered if you do something worth remembering. Besides, providing patient-centered care can be one of the most significant comparative advantages that you can have. Hence, getting competency in patient care should be another crucial goal for you as a nurse.

To provide patient-centered care, it is essential for you to identify care and respect every patient’s diverse culture, values, preferences, needs, and so forth. For the successful accomplishment of the same, you need to develop personality traits such as empathy and emotional intelligence in the nursing. The reason is when you will have these qualities you will effectively be able to continuously coordinate lessons and communicate with your patients regarding their wellness, healthy lifestyles, and other disease prevention.

This way only you will be able to provide quality service and care for the patient which will not only add value to your prospect but will also enhance the efficiency of the workplace you are working for. Once you will be able to provide quality service to patients it will enhance your competency in the particular field.

How to set SMART nursing goals?

1. Make your goal more specific

Adding specificity to goals will ensure that you see a clear path to improving your professional efficiency. In the nursing profession, specifications matter a lot. One small mistake can lead to serious consequences. Hence, even when setting a goal in order to improve in your nursing profession, it is really essential to add specificity to your goal.

Hence, the very first step that will assist you in setting a SMART nursing goal is that you have added a unique specificity to it. To simplify, you need to note down the exact nursing goal you desire to achieve.

The simple logic behind the same is that the more you'll be specific about your goal, the more specific directions you will be able to give yourself on achieving that goal. In order to make your nursing goal specific, you need to keep four main Ws in mind. Detailed elaboration of all the 4Ws is given below

  • What- The first W stands for 'what' that simply refers to the agenda you wish to achieve through your goal. For example, as a nurse what is the main goal that you wish to work on? Whether it relates to your professional development or your personal development?

  • Who- The second W stands for “who” that aligns with all the people concerned people with the who. For example, if you set a goal, you will keep your and every person that will assist you in accomplishing the goal in mind before developing the SMART goal. For example, while setting your nursing goals, can include other doctorate staff members, your colleagues, or your seniors.

  • When- The specificity of time will assist you in framing your goal more precisely.

  • Where- In this section, you will focus on specifying the location (if any) involved in the accomplishment process of your goal. For example, you wish to accomplish your goal in your workplace or nursing institutions, etc.

Once you will successfully specify your goal, formulating all the further strategies will get much easier. Besides, after specifying the goal, you are ready to move ahead to the next phase of setting a SMART goal.

2. Make your goals measurable

As discussed above as well, the competition in the nursing workforce is increasing at a rampant pace. Hence, it is really essential to constantly improve yourself in the nursing profession in order to outshine all your competition. But, how, as a nurse, are you supposed to improve, if you can not measure?

Besides, Peter Ducker also once correctly quoted, "you cannot improve if you can't measure". Hence, another crucial step that is really important in setting a SMART nursing goal is to make your goal measurable. This factor will determine whether you were successful in achieving your desired goal or not.

For making a goal measurable, it is really essential to set some of the key performance indicators beforehand that will assist you in measuring the success of your performance in achieving your desired goals. For example, as a nurse, if your main goal is to provide the best service to your patient, then there are some crucial healthcare KPIs that will assist you in measuring the success of your overall performance.

3. Consider the achievability level

In this step, you need to consider the fact that how achievable your set goal is. Moreover, all the factors, skills, or tools that might be needed to make this goal achievable will be discussed in your section. The very important reason for setting an achievable goal is that when successfully achieved, it can boost your confidence and self-esteem. But this does not mean that you need to set the easiest goals for yourself. This implies that you need to make sure that your goal is realistic in every possible sense so that you can achieve it effectively.

For example, you say that you want to become a head nurse as a fresher within the next two months. Although this goal is possible in some ideal circumstances, this goal majorly reflects unrealistic expectations which can lower your morale when not successfully accomplished. Besides, you might need to experience and learn a lot more skills than it takes to be a head nurse.

4. Identify the relevance

As a nurse, setting a goal is crucial, but setting a relevant goal is even more crucial because the relevancy of your nursing goal is directly related to your growth in the nursing profession.

Hence, relevancy is the fourth and crucial phase while setting a SMART nursing goal. The reason is in this section, you need to find a correlation between how your set SMART nursing goal compliments your bigger vision and objectives in the nursing field. To successfully find the relevance of your goal, you need to effectively reflect on your goal using different reflection models to ensure that the relevancy of your SMART Goals significantly aligns with your future vision.

Identifying the key relevance of your SMART nursing goals is really essential because this section will ensure whether all your invested efforts will be worthwhile in any way possible in your professional life or not. Besides, you can also check the relevancy of your nursing SMART Goals based on the registered nursing standards of your country.

5. Make your goals time-bound

Time is a really crucial aspect of the healthcare industry. If as a nurse, you are able to do things on time, then only you will be able to succeed in saving the lives of people.

Hence, the last yet critical stage of setting your SMART nursing goal is designating a time frame. It is really essential to make your goal time-bound. It is essential to make your goal time-bound because it helps you keep going and motivated to achieve the goal in the set time frame. Hence, it is really essential to set a time frame for every task to set a realistic time frame to achieve your goal.

Now that we have understood in detail what SMART Goals are, what the key nursing goals are, and how to set SMART Goals, let us now look at some effective examples of nursing SMART Goals taking various scenarios into consideration.

SMART Goals nursing examples

SMART nursing goal example 1.

SMART Goals example for nursing

SMART nursing goal example 2.

Unique SMART Goals example for nursing

SMART nursing goal example 3.

Exceptional SMART Goals example for nursing

SMART nursing goal example 4.

Outstanding SMART nursing goals example

SMART nursing goal example 5.

Great SMART nursing goals example

To conclude, nursing is a field that requires the highest degree of professionalism and involves a plethora of critical responsibilities. Hence, in order to excel in your career, you need to set some efficient SMART Goals that will assist you in successfully attaining your career ambitions. Having said that, in this enormously competitive world, setting SMART Goals is the smartest approach to thrive.


How can nursing SMART goals help with professional development?

Nursing SMART goals facilitate professional development by guiding nurses to identify areas of improvement, create actionable plans, and track progress. They enable nurses to enhance their skills, knowledge, and competencies, leading to career advancement and improved patient care.

How do nursing SMART goals contribute to patient care and outcomes?

Nursing SMART goals directly impact patient care and outcomes by promoting continuous improvement in nursing practice. When nurses set specific and measurable goals related to patient care, safety, and satisfaction, they can implement targeted interventions that lead to better patient outcomes.