Spring Forward: 5 Steps to Reaching Professional Goals

NP blog. March postNurses and nursing students alike often share an important attribute. They tend to be life-long learners.

With the desire to stay up-to-date on professional skills and the drive to engage in a profession influenced by evidence-based practice, many of us set professional goals for further education. We look to develop both personally and professionally to stay ahead of the healthcare curve. And with this nature of curiosity and continued learning, comes goal setting.

For how can a nurse or nursing student get where they want to go in their nursing career without a plan?

In order to reach professional goals in nursing- you have got to be organized. So today, we share five steps you can take to set and reach your nursing career goals with success.

  1. Get Clear on What You Want. To figure out what you do want out of your nursing career, you must start with what you don’t want. The reason for this? Most people, when asked what they want out of life, start to feel panicked and overwhelmed by the very idea of the things they could be doing, being, or having in life. When we are unsure of what we want, we procrastinate and fail to move forward. So a great exercise to get crystal clear on your nursing goals is to ask yourself, ‘What is it I don’t want to be, do, have, or experience as a nurse?‘ Make a list of all of these and then reverse it. To get to the ‘what you do want’, you take your don’t want list and say: ‘If I don’t want X (something on your list), then what I do want is Y (the exact opposite, the first thing that pops into your mind).‘ Trust me, this will save you time, effort, and energy. I have sat in a room full of nurses, asking them what they wanted their ideal workplace conditions to be like… and it was silent. They just couldn’t do it! Then when I flipped the question and asked what they didn’t want to have in the workplace- the flood gates opened! Answered poured in. So, start with what you don’t want to figure out what you do want.
  2. Create a Vision (Both Sort and Long-Term). Now that you have the list of your ‘wants’, you can use it to create your vision. Some people like to create vision boards, where they literally put images, words, and pictures up on something they can look at each day. Others like to write it out. If you opt to writing down your vision for your career goals, write it in the present tense- as if it’s happening right now. Use colorful language that invokes feeling and emotion. Once you have your vision (whether visual or written out), visit it from time-t0-time. Sit in front of your vision board, imagining what it will feel like when you have all of the things that are on it. Or read aloud your vision statement, in front of the mirror, looking yourself in the eye. Bring your goals to reality by focusing on them often.
  3. Take Action Steps. This is a step you need to be careful of. Many nurses and nursing students want to do it all at once. They jump in full force, taking on too much at a time. Here I caution you to do one thing at a time. Sure, you may have several goals happening simultaneously, but do your best to focus in. Each day make sure you do at least (and at most) one thing to get yourself closer to your goal. In step two, we talked about being present to the vision. That step is more about being still and allowing. This step is about taking action and moving yourself closer to your professional goals. Just be careful not to take on too much at one time!
  4. Assess Progress Along the Way. You want to check back in with your don’t want / do want list and vision from time-to-time. Things change and our desires shift. Make sure that you are still focused on career or educational goals that you actually want. Reassess along the way so that you can stay on top of any changes that need to be made. If you find yourself working on a professional goal that you no longer want, it’s OK to let it go. Even necessary! Because if you don’t you will find that it’s impossible to reach anything you set out to do. Be sure that the career goals you are going for are yours- and that you want them.
  5. Re-Evaluate and Repeat. When you find something works for you, it’s perfectly normal to want to repeat it. This makes things easier and takes less time. So as you process through step four above, if you find the goals are still on target and you realized that certain action steps really work for you- go ahead and repeat what is already working. Finally, as you progress through your nursing career go back through this process again and again as you set new professional goals.

Do you currently have a process for setting professional goals? What steps do you take to move forward in your nursing career? Be sure to tweet me @ElizabethScala on Twitter to tell me how you set and reach goals in nursing.

Elizabeth Scala

Keynote speaker and bestselling author, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Nurse’s Week ‘Art of Nursing’ program, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.