How To Use Smart Goals in Nursing Care Plans

Learners at Nightingale have one common goal—to graduate from nursing school and become a licensed nurse, which is a big accomplishment. Before jumping to the final goal and possibly underestimating what it takes to complete such an ambitious endeavor, establishing milestones and a set time frame for each milestone have shown to help improve the likelihood of achieving your goal. Breaking your main goal into smaller steps will help you stay on track and more importantly, understand the elements that make up the end goal you have set for yourself.

Making a goal to finish your schoolwork on a specific day, sticking to a specific study schedule, getting a certain score on a test or in a course, practicing something at clinicals, and similar day-to-day activities are milestones that you can set to help progress in the right direction. These day-to-day activities are not only milestones of the grander goal of becoming a licensed nurse, but can be individual goals with milestones of their own.

Make a timeline that starts with today, then a goal for next week, next month, 6 months from now, 1 year, or however long you believe is needed to master a specific milestone. The time frame is unique to each person, so take the time to create one that is exclusive to you, your milestones and goals. One of the greatest ways to set a goal is to remember to be S.M.A.R.T. about it, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Each goal and milestone you set should fit the five categories of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.

Be Specific. Goals that are too broad are hard to define and even harder to accomplish because the goal is not specific enough to be reached. Be as detailed as possible. What do you want to achieve? The more details you have, the easier it is to plan and the easier it is to know what you are working towards.

Keep it Measurable. How do you determine success that you have successfully met your goal? Without measurement of some kind, you may doubt whether you have achieved your goal or milestone. Make sure your goals are measurable. The vaguer you set the goals and milestones, the less you will be able to envision them.

Keep it Attainable. Working towards a goal that is not attainable is not a smart route. Take a moment to determine all the elements associated with the goal and whether you have the resources available to complete it. When resources are scarce, visualize another direction to get to the goal or reframe the way you’ve set the goal. A few quick tweaks here and there may do the trick to make your goal and milestones attainable. Remember to not overwhelm yourself, but do try and challenge yourself with your milestones and goals. Challenge brings growth. You want to be able to succeed, so make sure it is a challenge that is attainable.

Be Realistic. Set your goal on what you believe you can do. Much like keeping your goal and milestones attainable, if the goal you have set is not realistic then determine whether it is worth the time and effort that is needed to accomplish it. Several factors that make a goal less realistic are not difficult to determine. Such factors can be current situations in your personal or family life, finances, time, available resources, and so forth. Be realistic with your current situation and honest with yourself. Setting goals that are not realistic will have you looking for ways to jump off the train before even getting started and will deter your determination to achieve the milestones and goal. Focus on what has worked for you in the past and what you are willing to work on and for in the future.

Keep it Timely. A set goal and milestones are rarely accomplished when you do not hold yourself to a specific time schedule. Establishing and keeping the deadlines for your milestones and goals continuously help you stay committed to fulfilling the tasks and goal. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete a milestone or goal. Even the smallest milestones should be celebrated if you were able to complete it on time. Set a date for your goal and each milestone to be achieved. Make sure you give yourself enough time to complete your goal, but not too much time which can lead to procrastination.

The sweet taste of success and accomplishment accompanies hard work, diligence, and dedication. The strategy of goal setting can be helpful in all aspects of life, not just in nursing school. Discovering what you want to accomplish and creating S.M.A.R.T. milestones to reach the goal will help you continuously improve and grow. Nurses are constantly required to adapt to new changes, and learn new concepts and skills. Determine what goals (and milestones) you want to set for yourself while in nursing school, but don’t forget to look ahead and decide what goals you have for your nursing career. Whatever comes your way, start by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and milestones—the stepping stones that will help guide you to achieving the goal with less stress and make it a rewarding journey.

SMART is an acronym for the guidelines nurses should use when setting their goals:
  • Be specific. Setting broad nursing goals allows them to be open for interpretation. …
  • Keep it measurable. For goals to be effective, there must be some way to measure your progress. …
  • Keep it attainable. …
  • Be realistic. …
  • Keep it timely.

An introduction to SMART goals for nurses.

Why are SMART goals important for nursing care plans?

SMART goals are an important part of the desired outcomes section in a nursing care plan. A nursing care plan is a strategy or tool nurses can use to track and measure a patients progress. Your healthcare organization may use a specific nursing care plan format, so consider checking with your nursing manager to ensure you follow the correct protocols for your company. The nursing care plan often contains a written document that details the following information:

Using SMART goals in this process may have the following benefits:

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are a type of objective you can set to help you succeed. SMART is an acronym that stands for:


Specific means youve created a detailed and clear objective. Setting specific goals can help you plan steps to achieve the desired outcome. For example, in your nursing care plan, you may set a goal for a patient to have vital signs at a healthy level before their discharge. You can make this more specific by setting specific goals for various vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate. This can make it easier to measure and track the patients progress.


Measurable refers to the ability to track and measure the goal. By measuring the goal, you can set milestones to evaluate your current progress. This can help you determine if youre meeting your goal or whether you should adjust your strategies and interventions. For example, in your nursing care plan, you might set a goal for the patient to report their pain level at less than a six out of 10. By setting a specific number for the pain level, you may measure and track the goal more easily.


An achievable goal, sometimes called attainable, means the goal is realistic. Setting achievable goals can help increase the chances of success. When setting long-term goals, you can make them more achievable by dividing them into smaller objectives or goals. In your nursing care plan, its important to set realistic goals to help your patients succeed. Whats attainable can depend upon the patient, their health and diagnosis. You can share goals with your patients to help increase their motivation. When they feel the goal is attainable, it may boost their morale and encourage them to continue working on their health.


A relevant goal relates to your overall values, ambitions and long-term desired outcomes. When people feel like a goal applies to their lives, it may encourage them to continue working to achieve the goal. In your nursing care plan, you can ensure the goal is relevant for the patients long-term health and diagnosis. You can also review the goal with the patient to ensure its relevant for them. This can help increase their cooperation and inspire them to work toward their health progress.


Setting time-based goals involves creating deadlines for specific milestones. Creating a time frame can help increase the chances that you or a patient achieves the goal. In your nursing care plan, you can set deadlines for a patients progress or treatment. For example, you might have a goal to have a patient regain movement in their arm in one month. Setting a deadline can help you measure and track progress, and it can motivate your patient to continue their treatment plan.

How to use SMART goals to create a nursing care plan

When creating a nursing care plan, consider following these steps to implement SMART goals:

1. Review diagnosis and data

When creating a nursing care plan, its important to review the diagnosis and health data before creating SMART goals. Consider collaborating with your healthcare team and collecting additional data, such as vital signs, to ensure you create a thorough plan. Also, consider reviewing your healthcares policies, as they may have a standard practice for gathering and organizing data. For example, many organizations use a standard table or chart to record this part of the nursing care plan.

2. Set priorities and objectives

You can use the patients data to create a list of objectives. You can also prioritize these items by considering which is most important to the patients health. For example, urgent health concerns, such as stabilizing a patient, can be a high-priority goal that you want to work toward first, before focusing on long-term healthcare objectives.

3. Focus on the clients goals

After creating your initial list of desired outcomes, consider reviewing the list with the patient if applicable. The patient may have their own goals or objectives you can add to the nursing care plan. Also, consider reviewing your initial list to ensure each goal is attainable for that specific patient. For example, if you have a goal that depends upon daily physical therapy and the patient tells you they can only attend physical therapy three times a week, you may adjust this goal to make it more attainable.

4. Establish criteria and deadlines

Using your refined list of objectives, make each goal more specific, measurable and time-based by establishing criteria and deadlines. Criteria are the things you will evaluate and track over time. For example, this could include the patients pain level or vital signs. The deadline might be a certain date or by the time the hospital discharges the patient.

5. Write each goal

After you set your criteria and deadlines, you can begin writing each goal on the nursing care plan. Typically, each goal is about one sentence long. Include the deadline and criteria in the goal. For example, you might write that the patient will show blood pressure and heart rate in the acceptable limit before being discharged. You can make this more specific by including the ideal blood pressure and heart rate for the patient, as this number may vary depending on their age and health history.

6. Create interventions

Using your SMART goals, you can create an intervention list. These are the steps you, your healthcare team and the patient can take to reach the goals. This may include medications, therapy or exercises.

7. Review and revise

As your patient progresses, you can observe and track the data in the nursing care plan. Consider setting time to review the goals to determine if the patient has met them. You can refine the goals and interventions to help adjust the treatment plan.


What is a SMART goal in nursing care plan?


Measurable: You need to set certain metrics to measure the patient’s progress toward these goals. Achievable: Their goal should be possible to achieve. Realistic: Their goals must be within reach and relevant to the overall care plan.

What are some examples of nursing goals?

This is the only way an action plan can work. “SMART” stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.” Here’s what each segment means in practice. Being specific is crucial for achieving both short- and long-term goals.

How do you write a nursing care plan for goals?

5 SMART Goals in Nursing Examples
  • Safety.
  • Patient Care.
  • Efficiency.
  • Accuracy.
  • Professional Development.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.