Goal Setting Strategies for Healthcare Professionals

Taking time to set career goals is an important step in assessing your career trajectory and identifying what areas of healthcare you want to experience growth.

Taking the time to set career goals might seem like just another task crammed onto an already hectic schedule for many healthcare professionals. Particularly for younger healthcare workers just starting their careers, sometimes the only goal that seems worth considering is finishing this shift and getting enough rest to get through the next one.

But every healthcare professional needs to set aside some time to consider what they want from their career. Perhaps author Bill Copeland expresses it best with this sports analogy: “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

Goal setting is an excellent way to break down a seemingly insurmountable ambition into a series of achievable steps that ultimately lead to completion of a goal that once seemed out of reach.

Healthcare professionals should begin by clearly defining their objectives for setting goals. The website Career Trend suggests three steps that will help clarify exactly what the goal-setter wants to achieve:

  1. Think About Your Current Expertise: Healthcare is a field of specialties. Even graduates just entering the job market likely have studied or trained in a specific area of their general field. What are your strengths in your area of expertise and what is it about that area that interests and excites you? Narrowing your focus will help you pinpoint the sort of position that will bring you a greater level of personal fulfillment.
  2. Think About the Job Setting You Prefer: Think about the environment you want to work in – a hospital, a clinic specializing in your field, or a small practice? Consider who your patients will be as well as the nature of the issues that will bring them to you. For example, some physical therapists work with seniors while some work exclusively with children or accident victims. In which area are you the strongest? These decisions will further narrow your goal-setting focus.
  3. Consider What You Want to Learn: Healthcare is a field that constantly evolves and changes. Being a healthcare professional means making a commitment to lifelong learning. What areas intrigue you enough to make that commitment? What do you want to know that you don’t know now? What skills do you want to improve? This will help narrow your goal-setting parameters and allow you to chart a course for your career.

With this in mind, you can prepare a list of focused and achievable goals that will go a long way toward helping you achieve both short and long-term career objectives.

When you’re ready to set those goals, the website Mindtools suggests you follow these steps to further increase your chances of success.

  • Set SMART goals: Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Goals that meet these five criteria are focused on an end result and keep the goal-setter apprised of where he or she is in the process.
  • Set goals in writing: Putting a goal in writing makes it tangible. Seeing the language you use in your mind on the page might further strengthen your commitment. For example, seeing phrases such as “I’m going to try to” or “I hope to” would, ideally, spur you to let go of lingering doubts so that “I’ll try” becomes “I will.”
  • Make an action plan: This is in line with the SMART goal concept. What steps will you take to achieve our goal? How will you know that you’ve accomplished them (measurable)? How long do you have to complete a step (time-bound)? Keep steps simple enough to be doable and yet purposeful enough to keep you moving forward.
  • Follow up: Keep track of your progress, not just if you’ve met your preliminary goals but if you’ve done so in the time frame you set for yourself. If not, the goal or the time frame might need adjustment. Just as working out at the gym with a partner can keep you on track, having a goal partner, preferably one with a set of goals he or she is striving to attain as well, can be a great way to add accountability to your process.
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