How Do You Set Goals as a Nurse Practitioner?

One of the positives and negatives of life as a nurse practitioner is that the job description pretty much stays the same if you let it. Most of us will spend our days diagnosing and treating patients for the next 20 years or so. A few of us will move on to administration or the business world. Or, we may switch specialties mixing up the type of patient care we provide. But, overall, the basics of delivering hands-on healthcare are pretty similar across the board.

It can be tempting to coast once you establish yourself as an experienced nurse practitioner. You may work at the same practice for years, retaining many of the same patients. And, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is probably the best model of primary care. But, even if your job description or employer won’t be changing anytime soon, it’s important to continue to challenge yourself personally, professionally, and clinically over the course of your career. I’m talking more than an every-other-year New Year’s resolution.

I frequently set goals and make promises to myself. These are most often forgotten even before they are broken. Setting goals is a skill, and one that if done properly can help you continue to grow as an NP even though your job may not be changing in the near future. Continual growth and improvement will help you sharpen your skills and increase your job satisfaction. Here are a few guidelines that solid goals must follow:

  1. Measurable-Your goal must have concrete criteria for evaluating your success in achieving the desired outcome. Asking questions like “How much?” or “How many?” will help you set metrics for measuring your success.
  2. Communicative-You must be able to clearly explain your goal to others. If the goal is something you can’t articulate, it likely isn’t something you can clearly achieve. Hone your goal until you can clearly communicate what you hope to achieve in a simple statement that would make sense to others should you choose to share it.
  3. Specific-Nebulous goals are rarely followed through. Set specific goals. Stating that you will “spend 90 minutes per week reading academic medical journals” rather than “stay up to date with new medical research” gives you direction in seeing your goal through to completion.
  4. Challenging-The purpose of goal setting is improvement. Drafting goals that are easily achievable just so you can check them off your list isn’t serving this purpose. Make your goals appropriately challenging so they stretch you personally and/or professionally.
  5. Realistic-If your goals are not realistic, they are not achievable. While your goals should be challenging, don’t set your sights so high that you are unlikely to reach your desired outcome.

When it comes to setting goals, the 30-60-90 plan is a good one to follow. Write down your goals based on what you hope to accomplish in the next 30 days, the next 60 days, and the next 90 days. This allows for periodic follow up on both long and short term goals. You may set the same goal each 90 day period to help you maintain a certain habit over the course of a year. Or, your goals may change from period to period. Review your 30-60-90 plan each month noting your progress.

You may very well grow clinically and professionally as you become a more experienced nurse practitioner, but being proactive regarding your growth will lead to greater and more steady improvements.

What goals do you hope to accomplish in the next 30, 60, and 90 days?


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