Examples of Goals for Nursing Evaluations: 5 Objectives to Wow Your Manager

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

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Setting clear, achievable goals is essential for nurses undergoing yearly evaluations. In this blog post, we’ll explore examples of goals for nursing evaluations to help you navigate your professional growth and enhance patient care. We’ll also break down the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound—to ensure your objectives are clear, focused, and within reach. Relieve the stress about your performance review and impress your manager with a clear direction for your nursing professional development!

Goals for Nursing Evaluations

Why Nurse Managers Want You to Have Goals

You may notice that every year during your performance evaluation, your nurse manager wants to know your professional goals. You may feel like you’re barely surviving each shift, suffering from burnout, or are not in the mindset to create clear goals. This is understandable, but let’s get into the mindset of your boss.

Leadership wants nurses to provide quality patient care. However, once you get deep into the groove of nursing, your shifts can become predictable and monotonous. Humans naturally want to be challenged. When people are challenged, they’re more engaged and ultimately more satisfied. Having easy days here and there are necessary to balance out the intensity of being nurse, but if they are all that way, people tend to checkout mentally.

Clear goals challenge people to improve and grow. And with a profession like nurse, which evolves at a rapid pace along with medical advancements, complacency has the potential to negatively impact patient harm. We want clinicians who are engaged, care about becoming better, and learning about new and better ways to do things.

There is also an aspect of accountability. When employees set their own goals, they take ownership of their performance and outcomes. This sense of accountability drives them to take initiative and be more engaged with their work.

Employees with clear goals have direction and, therefore, better job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. This can be really helpful in nursing when you deal with patients or other healthcare team members who do not appreciate your hard work and dedication. It enables you to have agency and autonomy over your achievements because the reaction of someone else does not determine their value. They are for you.

Goals also help your manager identify very specific ways to help you. If they know what you want to do, they can help facilitate that. For example, if one of your goals for nursing evaluations is to get a specialty certification, they may know of helpful review programs or reimbursement through the hospital.

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Why SMART Goals Are the Smartest 😜 Way To Do This

The easiest way to do this is to write them in the SMART goal format. This will prevent your manager from asking you to re-write anything or make it clearer, and it will honestly impress them.

SMART goals are a framework for setting clear, achievable objectives. This method ensures that goals are:

  • Specific 🎯 Goals should be clear and specific.
    • Not great ➡️ Improve patient outcomes.
    • Much better ➡️ Decrease our CAUTI rate by 50% over the next nine months.
  • Measurable 📏 Goals must have criteria for measuring progress and success. This makes it so you can clearly state if the goal was achieved. Let’s say you’re precepting a new nurse.
    • Not great ➡️ Get better at giving meds on time
    • Much better ➡️ Administer all meds within 60 minutes before ➡️or after the due time for three shifts unless extenuating circumstances occur.
    • Tip: If you’re unsure if something is measurable, ask yourself how you’d know it was done. It is measurable if you can look in a patient’s chart and find the answer! A feeling doesn’t count. We can’t measure feelings as they are subjective. We need objective information to measure.
  • Achievable 🏅 While goals should be challenging, they must also be attainable given the available resources, knowledge, and time. It must be reasonable and doable but not so small that it takes little effort. Reasonable goals increase motivation.
    • Not great ➡️ Obtain my CCRN, CMC, CSC, and finish MSN in the next two years.
    • Much better ➡️ I will take a CCRN review course in the next two months and take the CCRN exam in 6-8 months.
  • Relevant 💡 Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your nursing career to take. They should align with your current role and aspiration.
    • Not great ➡️ (Let’s say you work in a PACU) I will take a course to learn more about labor and delivery nursing and postpartum support because I’ve always wanted to work on that unit, OR I will go back to school to get my Master’s in Professional Counseling.
    • Much better ➡️ I will train 2-3 new graduate nurses in the PACU over the next year, with the goal that they will be successful in their role and stay in the unit for at least two years.
    • Tip: You may have career aspirations that extend beyond your current role. That’s great! However, remember the context of this conversation. This isn’t about overall life goals; this is about goals related to this specific nursing job that you have right now. Keep those more broad and personal goals for your private pursuits.
  • Time-bound ⏰ Every goal needs a target date so that there is a deadline to focus on and something to work toward.
    • Not great ➡️ I will move up on the clinical ladder.
    • Much better ➡️ I will submit my application to move up on the clinical ladder by July 31st of this year.

Your goals for nursing evaluations don’t need to be 10/10 perfect, so don’t stress on flawless wording. What matters is that it’s something that you can work towards, check progress, maintain motivation, and know whether or not you achieved it.

Let’s say we’ve got two new nurses on a unit, and we want them to be successful. We give them each a set of goals and reassess after three weeks.

Nurse #1’s goals are to:

  • Get better at giving meds
  • Feel confident working with doctors
  • Delegate well
  • Have good documentation

Nurse #2’s goals are to:

  • Give all 0900 meds by 1000 daily and all time-sensitive meds within 30 minutes of due time unless an urgent situation occurs.
  • Notify the medical team within 15 minutes when necessary; document communication correctly.
  • Identify which tasks during morning med pass/assessments can be delegated to CNAs and promptly do so, checking with the preceptor if unsure. Note if able to complete morning tasks earlier when appropriate delegation occurred.
  • Document full head-to-toe assessments of entire patient assignments without needing correction from the preceptor for all three shifts during a week.

Which nurse do you think will maintain motivation and know how they are doing (which decreases anxiety)?

Examples of Nursing Goals For Yearly Evaluations

Let’s go through examples that would be appropriate for different levels of development for nurses during a yearly evaluation with leadership.

Examples of Goals For Nursing Evaluations – Novice New Grad Nurse

Some of these goals are appropriate for week-to-week goal setting with a preceptor, while others might work more for a yearly evaluation with a nurse manager.

  • I will obtain my ACLS certification within the next six months.
  • I will increase my competency with IV insertion skills by increasing my first-attempt success rate from 50% to 80% by taking an online course and spending time in the one-day surgery center to have more attempts for four hours within the next 60 days.
  • I will research schools to complete my BSN and submit 2-3 applications by March 15th.
  • I will successfully manage my time at the beginning of each shift to attend 1000 interdisciplinary rounds on time for the next two weeks.
  • I will successfully document care plans and patient education by 1500 for the next three shifts.

Examples of Goals For Nursing Evaluations – Advanced Beginner Nurse

  • I will take the hospital precepting certification course and precept a new nurse within the next six months.
  • I will perform a literature review of current best practices for central line management and present my findings at the staff meeting next month.
  • I will attend an online or virtual nursing conference and prepare a presentation to share at a staff meeting within the next nine months.
  • I will cross-train to float to our sister unit within the next six months.
  • I will improve my efficiency with documentation by performing chart audits to identify what is necessary and unnecessary to chart and shadow two highly efficient RNs to identify areas of improvement. My goal is to no longer stay late to document and be able to clock out on time each shift unless extenuating circumstances occur.

Examples of Goals For Nursing Evaluations – Proficient Nurse

  • I will take the CRRT training course next month and successfully care for CRRT patients on a regular basis in three months.
  • I will become the unit representative of shared governance and attend monthly facility meetings to share updates at monthly staff meetings. I will attend my first meeting this month and plan to serve on the committee for one year.
  • I will train to be a charge nurse in the next six weeks and begin being the charge nurse for one shift per week.
  • I will sign up for the hospital mentoring program this week and meet with a new nurse every 1-2 weeks during their orientation.
  • I will sign up for a CCRN review course and establish a study plan within the next two weeks, and take the CCRN exam.
  • I will submit my application to level up on the clinical ladder in six months.

Examples of Goals For Nursing Evaluations – Expert Nurse

  • I will finalize which MSN program I would like to complete and submit my application within the next four weeks.
  • I will submit my application to level up on the clinical ladder in the next six months.
  • I will train to be a back-up charge nurse on our sister unit by the of Q2.
  • I will complete a research project with the assistance of the facility nurse research scientist based on a specific need of the unit after I complete a survey to identify this need. The project will be complete within the next nine months and after, I will present my findings at a staff meeting and submit it to be considered for a national conference.
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My Video on Goals for Nursing Evaluations

FAQs on Goals for Nursing Evaluations

What are good nursing evaluation comments?

Clinical Skills and Patient Care: “Demonstrates a high level of clinical competence and consistently provides compassionate patient care. Effectively uses clinical judgment to ensure positive patient outcomes.”

Professional Development: “Actively seeks opportunities for professional growth and development. Has completed [specific number] of continuing education hours this year, enhancing their nursing practice and patient care skills.”

Teamwork and Collaboration: “Exemplifies outstanding teamwork, always willing to assist colleagues and contribute to a positive working environment. Collaborates effectively with interdisciplinary team members to ensure comprehensive patient care.”

Communication Skills: “Maintains clear and effective communication with patients, families, and healthcare team members. Exceptionally skilled at educating patients and their families about complex health conditions in an understandable manner.”

Initiative and Leadership: “Regularly demonstrates initiative by identifying areas for improvement and leading efforts to enhance care delivery. Has successfully led a quality improvement project that resulted in [specific outcome], showcasing leadership capabilities.”

Adaptability and Problem-Solving: “Shows remarkable adaptability in the face of changing circumstances and challenges. Utilizes critical thinking skills to solve problems creatively and effectively, ensuring patient safety and quality care.”

Reliability and Professionalism: “Consistently reliable in completing assigned tasks and responsibilities. Upholds professional standards and ethics in all interactions, serving as a role model for peers.”

What are concerning things to hear in a nursing evaluation?

Not all evaluations will be positive. As a professional, when you go into an evaluation, know that it’s not a time to get a high-five or pat on the back. You should expect some feedback on how you can get better. Please don’t take ways you can improve as personal attacks. While there are people in leadership positions that take advantage of that power dynamic, it’s not everyone. Here are some things you could possibly hear in a professional evaluation so that you can improve – plus the translation of the way they are often said with more corporate messaging.

Now, keep in mind that these are areas where you can improve and wouldn’t necessarily be concerning. If you are in danger of losing your job, you likely would be put on a performance improvement plan with clear goals first. So just because you may hear some of these things doesn’t mean you’re necessarily at risk of losing your job.

“Needs improvement in time management”
Translation ➡️ You’re struggling to complete your tasks efficiently within your shift. You might take too long on certain tasks, which could delay care for other patients or make it so you’re consistently clocking out late.

“Could benefit from further development in clinical skills”
Translation ➡️ Your practical nursing skills aren’t as strong as they should be. This might mean you need more practice or training in specific areas like wound care, IV insertions, or medication administration. This will help you become safer and more efficient.

“Encouraged to enhance communication with team members”
Translation ➡️ You’re not communicating well enough with other nurses, doctors, or healthcare staff. This could be about not sharing important patient information, not asking for help when needed, or not contributing to team discussions. They need to know what you’re doing and thinking, so reflect on how you speak to others and the disconnect between what you mean and what they hear. Lack of follow-up is a common communication issue.

“Advised to focus on detail and accuracy in documentation”
Translation ➡️There are mistakes or omissions in your patient charts and reports. Accurate documentation is crucial in nursing for patient safety and legal reasons.

“Recommended to engage more with continuous education and training opportunities”
Translation ➡️ You’re not keeping up with new nursing practices, knowledge, or skills that could improve your work. Engaging in learning and training is essential for growth and maintaining high standards of care. Consider precepting, which enables you to revisit policies and protocols that have been updated since you were last aware.

“Suggested to work on adapting to change and stressful situations”
Translation ➡️ You may struggle to handle unexpected changes in the work environment or get easily stressed by challenging situations. This can impact your ability to provide care. Your manager may suggest talking with EAP to develop coping strageies.

“Observation of professional boundaries could be improved”
Translation ➡️ You might be getting too personally involved with patients or colleagues, which can affect objectivity and professional relationships. This can enhance feelings of overwhelm and burnout.

These comments are typically meant to highlight areas for development constructively. They aim to encourage the nurse to reflect on their practice, seek guidance, and take specific actions to enhance their skills and professional conduct.

Final Thoughts on SMART Career Goals for Nurses

Diving into the heart of our chat about goals for nursing evaluations, it’s crystal clear: SMART goals are the secret sauce for nurses looking to level up their game and deliver top-notch care. The examples of nursing goals for yearly evaluations we’ve unpacked are more than just checkpoints; they’re stepping stones to bigger things in both our personal growth and the grand scheme of healthcare.

Did you come up with a goal you’re super proud of? Drop it in the comments below 👇

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    Hi, I’m Kati.

    Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

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