Leadership | Nursing Practices

The Use of SMART Goals in Nursing

  • SMART goals are a tool used in goal setting. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. 
  • Goals are more likely to be achieved when they are organized and specific in such a manner. This type of organization breaks the overall goal into multiple steps, making it easier to attain and visualize. 
  • SMART goals in nursing are not only for a nurse’s own personal and professional goals, but also a way to help patients create and reach their own goals related to their care.

Amy White

RN, MSN, Chief Nursing Officer

June 21, 2022
Simmons University

The acronym SMART refers to the guidelines that nurses should use when setting goals in the work environment, academically, or even with personal goals.

The following represents each letterS – Specific; M – Measurable; A – Attainable; R – Relevant; T – Timely. 

By using the SMART goals, nurses have a greater chance of becoming successful due to a stronger sense of direction and organizational methods being in place initially.   

SMART goals also allow nurses to collaborate with their patients to create goals that can be achieved. 

Importance of SMART Goals in Nursing

It is important to have desire, determination, and drive to evolve as a nurse and to continuously improve. Nurses should ask themselves – do I want to improve in certain areas or stay stagnant in my career?

Most would answer that it is imperative that we seek new ways to learn, grow, and advance our knowledge to maintain currency with trends, technology, and medical interventions.

SMART goals are a great way to ensure that nursing skills are improved, advancement in a can occur, and consistency is maintained to set and achieve goals.

As important as it is for nurses to set and achieve goals, it is also equally important to assist patients with setting short-term goals related to their care to achieve positive outcomes.

Often patients are unsure and unaware of how to create specific goals that can actually be measured and attained. The use of SMART goals is a fundamental way to help them achieve.


Set Smart Goals for Nursing

Components of SMART Goals in Nursing

The SMART goals can be best described as follows:   


What is the goal that is trying to be obtained?   

For example, a nurse wants to decrease the time it takes to document by two hours in order to offer more direct patient care.  The nurse can implement an improved work routine schedule that focuses on how to document efficiently.  


How will I measure my progress?   

The time the nurse spends on documentation will be monitored and tracked during each shift and the time it takes to complete documentation should decrease once the goals are put in place.   


Do I have the skills needed to complete the goals?   

The nurse will need to access resources that focus on efficient documentation skills while still providing optimal care.  


Why is this goal important to me?   

Spending too much time documenting can lead to decreased and less than optimum patient care.  If a nurse focuses on efficient documentation and decreasing the amount it takes to document by two hours per shift, the nurse will free up more time to assess his/her patients in a precise manner, work with families/caregivers, and strive to focus on more direct patient-centered care.   


When will I achieve the goal I have set?   

The nurse should be specific as far as setting a calculated time in which the goal needs to be achieved.  For example, the nurse wants to decrease the amount he/she spends documenting each shift by two hours if possible, as long as no emergency situation is taking place.  The goal will have a set date to be reached by the 15th of the next month.   



SMART Goals in nursing for patients

Examples of Goals in Nursing

In such a fast-paced and busy workforce for nurses, the stress can become overwhelming due to heavy workloads and numerous changes.  SMART goals are helpful in nursing as it helps to define a developmental framework that allows nurses to progress towards their goals.  Some examples to focus on are the following: 


Utilizing current policies of an organization to construct a checklist of updated patient safety and potential hazards.

Patient Care

Ensuring that all assessment notes, patient details, and instructions are handed over to the next nurse in a timely manner and are completed before the shift ends.


Information about the patient will be documented as soon as assessments are complete while the information and details are fresh on the nurse’s mind and accuracy will be maintained before moving on to another task.


Additional tasks will be documented so that efficient balance of time and duties can be noted and reviewed. 

Professional Development

Nurses should continue to strive to evolve and grow. By doing so, the nurses can plan to complete two to three CE courses each year that will help in their specialty.

The Impact of SMART Goals in Nursing

SMART goals have proven to be beneficial among both nurses and patients by allowing them to set specific goals that are measurable and attainable.

This in turn allows increased knowledge among nurses and a sense of achievement among both patients and nurses.

The overall results can be crucial in assisting both nurses and patients who may want to improve in areas such as the following:

  • Provides direction
  • Develops a clear focus on what is important
  • Provides clarity in decision making
  • Offers a sense of personal satisfaction and purpose in life
  • Gives one control of his/her future
  • Provides motivation


The Bottom Line

All the above areas are important in that goals can be set, worked upon, reviewed, and revised. This ultimately leads to a sense of self-mastery and achievement.  The use of SMART goals can help one to develop strategies to improve in various levels of one’s career, health, and personal life.

The methods used with SMART goals assist with defining specific outcomes and being able to recognize and accomplish the goals. Overall, leading to improvements among both nurses and patients.

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