When you obtain your RN qualification, and you start working in your nursing career, you might not immediately start to think about your long-term goals. After all, you’re only just at the beginning of your working life, and you need to get settled into it, determining for one thing whether you like the career you’ve chosen or not.
Assuming you do like it and that you want to stay in nursing for your entire working life, you might then start to consider what your long-term nursing goals are. It could be that you decide being an RN is perfect for you, and you like the workload and responsibilities included in that position, so you stay at that level. Or perhaps you decide that you want to specialize in another area of nursing. Maybe you want to lead your own team. Perhaps working in a hospital isn’t something you see yourself doing in five or ten years’ time, but you still want to be a nurse in a different healthcare setting. There are many different options, which is one of the reasons why getting into nursing is such a good idea for so many people. Yet unless you have a solid plan in place, achieving your long-term goals may not be as easy as you hope.
With that in mind, here are some ideas about how you can achieve your long-term nursing career goals. Read on to find out more and start putting your plans into action.
Don’t Make Wishes
There is a big difference between setting a goal and making a wish. Wishes are fun, and daydreaming about winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from an unknown relative can be an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes, but they aren’t to be taken seriously. As soon as you start doing that, your real goals will fall apart, and you’ll even start to feel down, perhaps depressed, about your life, all because of your wishes – which are going to be far-fetched and perhaps impossible due to the nature of wishes – haven’t yet come true.
Goals are much better. As opposed to wishes, goals are things you can actively work towards. They are possible to achieve, even if you can’t do so right at this moment. In other words, a goal is not something you can achieve through sheer luck; you’ll need to follow a plan and actively make that goal happen.
As a nurse, you might know that one day you want to become a family nurse practitioner, for example. You can wish for this to happen, but it’s highly unlikely someone is going to just offer you such a position out of nowhere. However, if you go back to school and take an FNP online program and then apply for the position you want, then you stand much more chance of getting that job. Making it a goal means you put in the work and make it happen, and that’s a big difference to understand. Every goal you make needs a proper path leading to it, not just a hope and a dream.
When you are setting your long-term nursing goals, you must be specific about what you want to achieve. Look into every aspect of what you feel you want to do and ensure you are aware of everything that it entails and what you need to do to make it happen. In that way, the ideal becomes much more solid, and you have real milestones to work towards.
If you’re having a hard time doing this, it might help to think back to when you were a small child. If you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, you would have answered in specific terms. You might have said you wanted to be a nurse, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, the president, or anything else. It’s highly unlikely you would have said you wanted to work in an office but not talk about what you wanted to do each day, for example. Try to be as specific as you were back then because vague goals and plans can easily be ignored, misunderstood, or put off to another day, all of which means your ultimate achievements take longer if you manage them at all.
Rather than saying that in five years you want to be promoted, think about what level of nursing you want to be at, what department you want to be working in, what kind of team you want to lead, and so on. It makes a big difference to your motivation, your plans, and decision-making in the lead up to obtaining your goal.
Write Down Your Goals
The problem with goals is that even if you have a concrete idea of what you want to do unless you write them down and continue to read them – perhaps every morning when you get up or just before you go to sleep, they can easily be forgotten. Even if you are excited by the idea of working towards this promotion or that working environment, life can often get in the way, and the present takes over, meaning that thinking about the future gets put on hold. This is especially true for nurses who have extremely busy working days and who will often be so focused on what they are doing that everything else is forgotten, at least temporarily.
If you write the goals down and, even better, if you can write down the steps to reaching those goals, and if you make sure you read them regularly, it will be much harder to forget what you need to do, even if you are an extremely busy nurse. In addition, writing any goal down means that it becomes less of a dream and much more real, and the odds of you achieving what you set out to do will grow.
Break Long-Term Goals Into Smaller Goals
One of the big problems with long-term goals is that they are big because you expect them to take a while to achieve. They are, perhaps, the ultimate thing that you want to achieve in life. Yet, although having these big goals is good, they can also be overwhelming. For example, just saying that you’re going to be the head of the nursing department of the entire hospital in which you work might sound like a great goal to have, but when you really start to think about it (as you will need to do), it can seem like too much. Unfortunately, that can mean that you never really get started, as you don’t know how to take the first step, or perhaps you don’t truly believe you can achieve the goal in the first place.
One way to get over this issue and move forward in achieving even the biggest long-term nursing goal is to break those large ideas down into smaller ones. Break each goal down into its component parts and list them out. If you want to run the entire hospital, what needs to happen to ensure you can achieve that big goal? Either work forwards from where you are now or backwards from the goal and list everything that you need to achieve.
Once you have this list, even if there are dozens of smaller goals on it, you’ll know where to start, and you can keep crossing these smaller goals off your life. This makes achieving your ultimate long-term goal much more doable and much less scary. You’ll see the progress you’re making, and this will keep you motivated too.
Re-Evaluate And Adjust
Something that you must remember when it comes to your long-term nursing goals is that they are not set in stone and never should be. Things change all the time, and whether you decide that nursing isn’t for you, your life changes in a way that means your priorities change too, or anything else, if you need to adjust your goals or change them entirely, you should do so. In fact, checking your goals and the progress made towards them periodically and then re-evaluating them is crucial. There is no point in working towards something that you no longer want or that won’t get you where you want to go.
Checking that you’re still on track is important too. It’s easy to get distracted or to think you’re going in the right direction only to find that you’re not making decisions that will help you achieve your goal. So when you are re-evaluating those long-term goals, check that you are still doing the right things to achieve them, assuming they are still what you want. The more often you check in on this, the less likely it is you’ll make a mistake that will take a long time to recover from.
Don’t Give Up
No matter what your long-term nursing goal might be, whether it’s highly ambitious or much less so, there is one vital component to remember, no matter what else happens, if you truly want to achieve that goal, you must never give up.
There will be obstacles between you and what you want to achieve, but understanding this, knowing how to deal with these obstacles, and getting past them, is all part of how you can keep going. If you come across an obstacle and let it persuade you that your goals are not worth pursuing, then you won’t get anywhere. Keep pushing through – assuming you still want to achieve that goal – and as long as you have plans in place and are fully aware of what it is you need to do, you will get past it and move on to the next challenge. Just keep going, and you’ll get where you want to go.