When you’re a nurse caring for several critical patients simultaneously or searching for ways to keep your department within budget, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of the job. However, your professional growth and job performance depend on setting personal goals that contribute to your career development and satisfaction and enhance your skills as a caregiver.
Start by considering your strengths, weaknesses and interests. Only by understanding your motivations, needs and aptitudes can you develop goals that play to your natural abilities and fit in with your long-term career ambitions. Ask yourself what you most like and dislike about nursing, why you chose the profession, what aspects of the job come most easily to you, and what type of environment you enjoy working in.
Research Your Options
Before you can know which direction you want to take, you need to know what opportunities are available to you. If you work in a hospital, you might only be thinking in terms of what you can do as a staff nurse, not considering other healthcare fields such as telemedicine or nursing informatics. Go online or talk to other nurses to learn more about other nursing specialties. Observe the career paths followed by your peers. By studying what makes other nurses successful and fulfilled, you can gain inspiration for your own goals.
Break It Down
Once you have a goal in mind, outline the steps you’ll need to take to get there. This will determine your overall strategy so you can develop the short-term goals required to help you achieve your long-term plans. In addition, by breaking it down into smaller chunks you can more easily stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed by even the most ambitious goals. For example, if you want to eventually advance to a director of nursing position, seek opportunities to display your leadership skills in your current role. Take classes or workshops to help you learn management skills, or return to school for a degree in healthcare administration or a related field.
You’ll likely encounter a roadblock or two, but you can often work around these barriers by anticipating them and formulating a contingency plan. For example, you might want to work with low-income or underserved patient populations but don’t have time or can’t afford the paycut you’d take by going to work at a smaller facility. If time is the issue, hire someone to take over housework so you can devote your free time to seeing patients at the local free clinic. If money is the problem, consider volunteering on your day off or using your vacation time to help people in medical need.