When we begin our nursing journey and accept our first position as a professional nurse, we're filled with excitement. With each new patient encounter, our clinical skill set expands, our critical-thinking skills refine, our senses of targeted inquiry heighten, and our logistical reasoning skills magnify. As we apply current research and organizationally accepted evidence-based practice guidelines to our patient encounters, we'll note correlational trends of improved clinical outcomes. The patient encounter provides a repetitive exposure to specific conditions and occupational events. It gives us the medium that allows each of our professional careers to flourish.
We then start to develop professional aspirations that guide our practice. Our initial specialty may be the one that we remain in for our career. It can also simply be the first brick that lines or illuminates our professional nursing pathway. As we walk this path, each one of us will gravitate toward a nursing specialty, such as medical-surgical, critical care, long-term care, oncology, pediatrics, clinical research, education, or administrative nursing. The opportunities in nursing are endless.
To help organize your professional goals, develop a written plan to act as a navigational beacon for your career choices. This plan should include clear short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals are tasks that can be accomplished in 1 month to 1 year. Long-term goals typically require 1 to 5 years to complete. Your written plan should also list the tasks, experiences, or educational requirements that are needed to accomplish each goal. As you examine this list, place each item under either short term or long term.
These personalized short- and long-term goals are essential as you take each step in your individualized nursing journey. A short-term goal may be refining a skill, enhancing your knowledge base, joining a local nursing organization, or shadowing a formal or informal nursing leader. A long-term goal may include acquiring the experience required for a desired job role, obtaining a specialty certification, earning a baccalaureate degree or completing an advanced practice nursing program, or collaborating with peers on a shared governance project. Remember that accomplishing your long-term goals begins by being brave enough to take the first step, such as completing your application for admission to a nursing program.
Within each of us lies the power to shape our profession. So, I challenge you to ask yourself one question: “What's my vision for my professional future?” Be courageous and take that first step to influence tomorrow's nursing practice.