Harnessing Excellence: The Power of SMART Goals in Nursing 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Do you find yourself making little recognizable progress toward your goals? The problem may not lie in lack of effort or commitment but in your method of setting and achieving goals. 

Not having a well-defined method does not bode well for success in your personal or occupational ventures. But with some careful consideration and rearrangement of priorities, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing testifies to the effectiveness of the SMART approach to nursing objectives. Read on to learn how you can transform the way you plan and strive toward your goals to become the best nurse you can be.


Table of Contents



What Are SMART Goals in Nursing?

SMART is an acronym that guides the establishment of nursing goals to make them more clearly visualized and more easily accomplished. Each letter stands for a characteristic of a well-formed and feasible goal.

Setting and reaching goals according to this framework helps bring about better results for nurses in their workplace, among their patients, and in their careers in general.

If one of your goals is to find a travel nursing job, use our Pronto job search tool to find a specific position in the area of your choice.


smart goals for nursing



Your goal should be clearly defined and precise. It is not easy to feel motivated day-to-day to accomplish a vague goal. Consider how to state your goal so that, as time passes, you recall exactly what you had in mind when the goal was set — whom or what you meant to impact, the extent of your hoped-for sphere of influence, and how you can accomplish the goal given circumstantial constraints.



You should be able to measure your progress toward the goal. This means there should be some quantifiable aspect to it. Even if it is a qualitative goal, measurements (for instance, of time commitments or productivity) can help you determine if you are moving closer to or farther from your goal.



Be realistic about whether your goal can be attained given your skills, resources, time constraints, and other circumstances. You want to be sure that the goal is feasible and that obstacles are surmountable with effort and commitment.


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Your goal should be meaningful and in line with your overall objectives as a nurse. Otherwise, you will probably encounter conflicts of interest within your own aspirations and experience difficulty staying motivated. Be sure you understand why this particular goal is important to you and how it serves your main goals of growing your skill set, deepening your effectiveness as a nurse, or improving the experience of patients under your care.



A specified time frame lends a sense of urgency to your work toward the goal. Periodic “due dates” help you pace yourself to ensure you progress in a sustainable and effective manner.


Purpose of SMART Goals in Nursing

Deepening our effectiveness within the nursing profession requires continual commitment in many areas, such as: 

  • Mastering nursing skills in different settings and patient circumstances
  • Expanding our knowledge with the advent of new technology, research, and medical practices
  • Improving communication with patients and other medical professionals to ensure better patient outcomes

In order to improve in these (and other) ways, our goals must be SMART. The more experienced we are in setting and working toward specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely goals, the better we can assist our patients in their work of achieving positive outcomes related to their health and well-being.

Working toward improved health after a major health event is likely something your patients have not had experience with. For this reason, they need empathetic guidance about how to move gradually toward health goals. Educating them about the SMART approach to goal-setting can encourage them when they feel they aren’t making progress and empower them to take more control of their mental and physical well-being.


smart goals in nursing


3 Nursing SMART Goals Examples

The SMART framework is an effective approach for accomplishing goals of many kinds, whether you aim to provide more patient-focused care, improve the delivery of care, or advance your career. Below are some examples of goals within each category.


#1: Patient-Focused Care

Perhaps you have assessed your work habits and found that patient-focused care is an area in which you need to grow. As a means of centering your care around the patient (rather than, for instance, the diagnosis) you might wish to improve patient communication and satisfaction. 

To make this goal SMART, think of practical, trackable steps you can take that will help you deliver care in a way that respects the patient’s dignity, emotional as well as physical state, and right to make decisions about their plan of care.

  • S — Attend workshops on communication skills and practice empathetic communication during interactions with patients.
  • M — Within the next six months, earn a 15% increase in patient satisfaction scores.
  • A — Consider feedback from patients and colleagues and participate in role-playing exercises to practice better patient communication techniques. 
  • R — Improve the relationship between patient and provider via better communication to contribute to an environment of patient-centered care.
  • T — Monitor patient satisfaction scores each month, aiming for a 15% increase within six months.


#2: Quality Improvement

Quality improvement is an entire field of study and practice that aims to improve the safety and quality of care delivered to patients by analyzing patient data and determining what practices result in better patient outcomes.

Perhaps you wish to enhance your overall approach to patient care by ensuring you adhere to evidence-based practice. To that end, make a SMART goal that helps you increase your knowledge of this delivery of care:

  • S — Complete an evidence-based practice course and apply the principles you learn to patient care.
  • M — Apply evidence-based principles in at least two patient scenarios within the next three months.
  • A — Keep yourself informed of current research, seek guidance from mentors knowledgeable in evidence-based practice, and participate in group discussions of scenarios incorporating evidence-based practice.
  • R — Integrate the latest evidence into patient care to improve its quality and thus patient outcomes.
  • T — Complete the course and apply learned principles in two scenarios within the next three months.

Perhaps you are less than confident in your performance of certain nursing tasks. For example, you may want to improve your competency in wound care to ensure patient safety. 

  • S — Complete a wound care certification course and apply the skills learned to wound care.
  • M — In the next three months, successfully perform wound care and document healing progress in at least three patients.
  • A — Attend conferences on wound care, seek guidance from wound care specialists, and use evidence-based wound care practices.
  • R — Use effective assessment and management of wounds to help improve patient outcomes.
  • T — Complete the certification course and successfully manage three patients’ wounds in the next three months.


#3: Career Advancement

Individual ambition to advance within the nursing profession makes for the availability of expertise patients need to manage complex health issues. It can also contribute to a nurse’s sense of occupational fulfillment. 

If your goal is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing in order to enter an advanced practice nursing role, such as that of a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist, a SMART goal could look something like this:

  • S — Work toward an MSN degree.
  • M —Complete the degree in two years.
  • A — Enroll in a part-time MSN program online that can accommodate your work schedule.
  • R — Earn an MSN to open up opportunities for advanced practice nursing roles.
  • T — Graduate from the MSN program in two years.


How To Set SMART Goals for Nursing


#1: Self-Assess and Define Your Goals

Evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, work habits, and competence. Determine in what areas you want to improve. Then devise a goal that will help you improve in these areas.


#2: Create an Action Plan

Pace yourself by dividing the work toward your goal into smaller steps. This will make progress more manageable and allow you to hold yourself accountable consistently. 

Your action plan should be a detailed outline, including:

  • Deadlines for each task
  • Potential challenges and how you plan to deal with them
  • All the tasks that must be done and resources that will needed as well as deadlines for each task


nursing smart goals examples


#3: Invite Feedback and Support

Seek out guidance from coworkers, supervisors, and mentors concerning your goal. You may find that your goal or action plan needs to be revised. Ask how they might approach any obstacles you are facing or what you could do to improve. Constructive criticism is welcome.


#4: Evaluate Progress and Celebrate Success

Periodically evaluate your progress toward your goals by noting measurements of relevant factors. You may need to adjust your action plan in order to keep the pace you set initially or to accommodate unforeseen challenges that inevitably slow progress.

Celebrate each step closer to your goal. Small rewards along the way can help you stay motivated to keep plugging along toward a goal whose final fulfillment is rather distant.


Trusted Nurse Staffing Is Committed To Helping You Reach Your Nursing Career Goals

Trusted Nurse Staffing is a travel nurse agency that works to help you achieve your professional goals as a nurse. Travel nurses have the opportunity to expand their range of experience in patient care and collaboration with colleagues by working in different environments throughout the country.

As you identify the ways in which you would like to develop your nursing competency and set goals for improvement, Trusted Nurse Staffing would love to help by pointing you to job placements that accord with your aspirations. Our representatives assist with every step of the process of becoming a travel nurse, including locating possible placements, understanding the requirements for hiring, navigating between job placements, and more.

Among the many benefits of travel nursing with Trusted Nurse Staffing are:

  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Housing, meal, and travel stipends
  • Flexible contract options
  • Student loan assistance for active nurses who have been collaborating for at least a month with us

Use Pronto to see what positions are available where you hope to live and work. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you meet your SMART goals. 


smart goals for nursing