12 SMART Goals Examples for Nursing Students

As a nursing student, juggling coursework, clinicals, and personal commitments can often be challenging. But creating SMART goals will allow you to be organized and motivated throughout your educational journey.

Taking advantage of the SMART framework can give you the skills to succeed in school and your future career. In today’s post, we will discuss 12 examples of SMART goals for nursing students.

They are designed to cover areas such as clinical experience, academic performance, and personal growth. Through these examples, you’ll learn how to structure SMART goals and reach success during your studies and beyond.

What is a SMART Goal?

The SMART method will enable nursing students to create practical goals for themselves. SMART is an acronym standing for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Want more clarity? Let’s dive deeper into each SMART component:


The more specific your goals as a nursing student are, the better your chance of reaching them. Having too broad a goal can make it seem like an impossible feat. For example, setting a goal to “become the best nurse” is not specific enough to work towards effectively.

Breaking down this goal into more manageable ones, such as “complete my degree with high grades” or “enhance communication skills,” will help create an easy-to-follow roadmap of how to reach that ultimate ambition.


Nursing students should set a goal with an outcome that can be quantified. For instance, if you want to “increase patient satisfaction ratings to 80%,” you can assess progress since you have an exact percentage. You’ll be able to accurately assess whether the goal was met.


When establishing your goals, try to be as realistic as possible. Setting big, lofty goals can be motivating, but don’t make them so impossible that you won’t have the resources or motivation to accomplish them. Keep in mind that the more realistic your goal is, the greater your chance of achieving it.


Make sure you create meaningful goals that align with your values; you’ll be able to inspire yourself to reach long-term success. When times get tough, you can stand firm since your core values will guide you on the right course.


Ensure you have a completion date to make steady strides toward your goals. With a solid deadline in place, you will always keep sight of your goals and be motivated throughout the journey.

After all, success cannot be reached overnight—it’s a process of hard work and commitment that must be nurtured over time.

12 SMART Goals Examples for Nursing Students

Below you’ll find 12 examples of SMART goals for nursing students:

1. Improve Critical Thinking Skills

SMART Goal: I plan to hone my critical thinking skills by the end of 6 months. To do so, I’ll read at least one book monthly on the topic and attend seminars or conferences focusing on critical thinking. I will also use online resources to test my skills and measure my progress.

  • Specific: This goal is specific because the person plans to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Measurable: Evaluate your progress in this goal by checking off the boxes after completing each step in the plan.
  • Attainable: The person has identified a realistic timeline to develop their critical thinking skills.
  • Relevant: Critical thinking is essential for many professionals, making this a reasonable goal.
  • Time-based: Achievement of this particular goal is expected after 6 months.

2. Increase Knowledge of Medical Terminology

SMART Goal: For the next year, I will increase my knowledge of medical terminology by studying two hours a week to build proficiency. I hope to maintain a strong understanding of medical terminology and apply it in my work.

  • Specific: The SMART goal is well-defined, detailing precisely the objective and how to reach it.
  • Measurable: By studying two hours per week, the nursing student can track their progress and see how much knowledge they have gained.
  • Attainable: This goal is achievable by dedicating two hours a week to studying medical terminology.
  • Relevant: A strong knowledge of medical terminology will help the student in their work as a nurse.
  • Time-based: You have set a timeline of one year to accomplish the goal.

3. Strengthen Clinical Judgment

SMART Goal: I will increase my knowledge of clinical practice guidelines and develop better strategies for understanding the complexities of patient care by completing two online courses within 6 months. I want to better assess and diagnose illnesses, prevent medical errors, and improve patient outcomes.

  • Specific: You know what you need to do (take two online courses) and how long you must complete it (within 6 months).
  • Measurable: You can track the progress of your online courses and measure how much you’ve learned.
  • Attainable: This goal is achievable by consistently committing to and working through the courses.
  • Relevant: Strengthening your clinical judgment will lead to better patient care.
  • Time-based: You need to finish the goal statement within 6 months.

4. Enhance Communication Abilities

SMART Goal: My goal is to better communicate with patients from different cultures by the end of 7 months. To achieve this, I will attend workshops on intercultural communication and take classes to learn a foreign language.

  • Specific: The SMART goal is explicit because it describes improving communication with patients from different cultures.
  • Measurable: The person can measure their proficiency in intercultural communication and a foreign language after 7 months.
  • Attainable: Enhancing communication abilities is a reasonable goal that can be achieved.
  • Relevant: This goal is relevant to enhancing communication abilities with patients from different cultures.
  • Time-based: Goal attainment is anticipated within 7 months.

5. Increase Cultural Competency

SMART Goal: I want to better understand and serve patients from diverse backgrounds. To do this, I will take an online course about cultural competency within the following two months and attend two seminars related to cultural competency by the end of the year.

  • Specific: The goal is clear. The individual wants to better understand and serve patients from diverse backgrounds by taking an online course and attending two seminars.
  • Measurable: Make sure you take an online course and attend two seminars related to cultural competency.
  • Attainable: This is absolutely doable if given the necessary resources and time.
  • Relevant: The goal is appropriate for the individual’s desire to increase cultural competency.
  • Time-based: Goal completion will be met within two months for the online course and one year for attending two seminars.

6. Expand Leadership Qualities

SMART Goal: I’ll develop my leadership skills by taking a course on effective team management, meeting with mentors in the field, and reading relevant leadership-related texts. I will use what I learn to become an effective leader within the nursing team in 8 months.

  • Specific: You have precise actions available—take a course, meet with mentors, and read relevant texts.
  • Measurable: You should monitor your progress using tests, quizzes, and other assessments throughout the course.
  • Attainable: This goal is achievable given enough dedication to the task.
  • Relevant: The goal relates to your desire to be an effective leader.
  • Time-based: Eight months is needed to help improve leadership qualities.

7. Become More Self-Confident

boost your self confidence

SMART Goal: I want to become more confident as a nurse and take on new challenges without hesitation. I will do this by attending at least one nursing conference within the next 5 months that offers sessions on increasing self-confidence.

  • Specific: This goal is straightforward because the person plans to attend a nursing conference.
  • Measurable: Determine your progress by measuring your confidence before and after attending the conference.
  • Attainable: This is achievable if the person commits to finding a nursing conference with sessions on increasing self-confidence.
  • Relevant: Increasing self-confidence is a pertinent goal for any nurse, as it can help them feel more empowered in their work.
  • Time-based: Success is anticipated within 5 whole months.

8. Promote Teamwork and Collaboration

SMART Goal: I will work to promote a collaborative workplace where individuals work together and share ideas by creating more opportunities for team projects and workshops on collaboration for the 8 months ahead.

  • Specific: This statement is about actively creating opportunities for team members to collaborate and share ideas.
  • Measurable: You can count the number of team projects and workshops created.
  • Attainable: Creating these opportunities is feasible as long as enough resources are available.
  • Relevant: Collaboration and teamwork are essential in any workplace, so this goal is highly relevant.
  • Time-based: There is an end date of 8 months for goal achievement.

9. Pursue Further Education

SMART Goal: I will work towards obtaining a higher nursing license by the end of this year. I’ll actively pursue continuing education opportunities, research, and apply for applicable licensing exams.

  • Specific: This goal is clear and includes the person attempting to obtain a higher nursing license.
  • Measurable: People should check their progress through continuing education, research, and exams.
  • Attainable: The timeline is realistic and allows the person to learn before taking a licensing exam.
  • Relevant: Pursuing further education is essential for becoming a nurse practitioner and continuing in the nursing field.
  • Time-based: You have a one-year deadline for success.

10. Create a Study Plan

SMART Goal: I will create a structured study plan to ensure I am adequately prepared for my nursing exams by the end of the semester. I’ll include specific goals for studying each day, weekly reviews of the material covered, and any practice exams available.

  • Specific: You will aim to create a structured study plan for nursing exams.
  • Measurable: Include specific goals for studying each day and weekly reviews of the material covered.
  • Attainable: The statement is reachable because the person actively creates a plan to ensure adequate exam preparation.
  • Relevant: The goal is appropriate because it focuses on the individual’s academic success.
  • Time-based: The goal is time-bound because it has a timeline of one semester.

11. Improve Time Management

SMART Goal: Within four months, I will learn better time management strategies and apply them to my practice. That includes creating a realistic schedule that allows me to complete tasks on time while also allowing me to take breaks.

  • Specific: This SMART goal states what will be done and how to achieve it.
  • Measurable: You could determine how well the individual sticks to their schedule.
  • Attainable: This can be met with a combination of discipline and planning.
  • Relevant: Improving time management could help improve job performance.
  • Time-based: The goal should be completed within four months.

12. Develop Network Connections

SMART Goal: I want to expand my network of nursing professionals over the course of one year. I plan to attend two professional conferences, request informational interviews with 5 alumni, and connect with 5 new colleagues via LinkedIn.

  • Specific: This is explicit because you have outlined an action plan to reach lasting success.
  • Measurable: You can monitor your progress by tracking the number of conferences attended and the number of informational interviews conducted.
  • Attainable: This goal is feasible with a reasonable timeline for growth and development.
  • Relevant: Developing a network of nursing professionals is vital for any nurse’s career.
  • Time-based: One year is required to accomplish this statement.

Final Thoughts

Establishing SMART goals is a beneficial exercise for nursing students. Not only does it help to ensure that each goal is achievable, but it also keeps students focused and on track for success.

With the examples listed above, nursing students can use these as a guide to form their own personalized SMART goals. And remember to review and adjust goals as life changes or obstacles arise. You will gain valuable experience toward meeting your overall objectives.

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