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Tips to Help Nurses Pick New Year’s Goals

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated September 19, 2023
    The new year is an opportunity to establish and achieve your goals. Check out these tips from nurses to help colleagues pick personal and professional goals.
    • Developing nurses’ New Year’s goals increases the likelihood you experience a positive change in your life.
    • Most New Year’s resolutions fail by the start of February each year; you can improve your odds of success using SMART goals, doing a personal audit, and creating a support system.
    • Creating goals may be challenging. Consider starting with those that affect your physical and mental health, such as eliminating junk food from your diet.

    The New Year has traditionally been a time for people to make a fresh start in their personal and professional lives. Yet, choosing the right nurse New Year’s goals can influence the changes you experience in the months to come.

    We interviewed several nurses in varying stages of their careers to find out how they identified New Year’s goals, what they found helpful, and the suggestions or advice they would give nurses.

    “The problem with many New Year’s goals is that they usually don’t have a thoughtful plan behind them,” says Terri Ann Parnell, DNP, certified nutrition and wellness coach, and founder of TAP Wellness Coaching.

    How to Pick Goals for the New Year

    Did you know that 80% of New Year resolutions fail, often by the start of February? New Year resolutions are typically structured poorly. For example, many people begin the new year by saying they’re going to exercise or eat better.

    But these resolutions are not specific. What does it mean to eat better, and what constitutes exercise? Does walking 3-5 miles on a 12-hour shift mean you got enough exercise?

    The New Year is an opportunity to establish new routines that can help you to grow physically, socially, emotionally, and professionally. Millions make New Year’s resolutions each year, but these differ from specific and measurable goals.

    Our nurses offer tips to help our readers set realistic and achievable New Year’s goals so that they can experience the results.

    check-circle Do a Personal Audit

    Lisa Dunlap is a palliative and hospice nurse practitioner who runs a holistic nurse burnout coaching business. She recommends you do a personal audit before setting your New Year’s goals. In other words, check in with yourself to see how you feel and where you’re at.

    Are you feeling stressed or burned out? Do you want to see your life change, and in what areas? Do you want to see changes in your personal life, career, or financial situation? These are the areas to consider as you set your New Year’s goals.

    check-circle Visualize Who You Are at the End of the Year

    Spend some quiet time focusing on your future and reflecting on how you want to see yourself at the end of the year. Nurses live busy lives. You must stop the noise and choose a quiet place to sit down and think about what you want to achieve next year.

    This practice differs from visualization techniques that some use to manifest their outcomes. Instead, it allows you to visualize where you want your life to be at the end of 12 months.

    check-circle Start With Your Body’s Needs

    If you need help with a long-term or impactful goal, start small. Think about your physical and mental health as a nurse and what you could do to move forward in the coming year. For example:

    • Does your health, diet, exercise, hydration, or sleep need attention?
    • Do you want to address alcohol consumption, substance use, or smoking?
    • Do you practice ways to decrease stress?
    • Is there a relationship that needs attention?
    • Do you want to learn how to practice gratitude?
    • Should you sit less and move more when you aren’t at work?
    • Do you want to learn and use positive self-talk?

    check-circle Create a Support System

    Everyone needs a quality support system to achieve their goals. Angela Genzale, a registered nurse and certified life coach, recommends that nurses seek a support system. Engaging with a support system helps create accountability with another individual and offers ongoing encouragement throughout the year.

    Parnell offers the example of a water challenge with your nursing colleagues if hydration is one of your goals. Using fun stickers on your water bottle can help indicate that you’ve met your daily hydration goals and encourages accountability along the way.

    20 Nurse New Year’s Goals

    New Year’s goals can guide your everyday decisions. However, it’s crucial to remember you cannot accomplish your goals overnight. By taking steps each day and each week, you can see them come to fruition. Our contributors ask that you consider the following nursing trends and goals for the coming year:

    • Transfer to another unit to gain different skills and greater experience.
    • Master an important clinical skill specific to your unit, and get certified.
    • Get involved in your healthcare facility by participating in a committee or a project.
    • Get to know your coworkers in a social setting.
    • Maintain or improve your mental health.
    • Find a nursing role or team that you love.
    • Set better boundaries.
    • Prioritize your physical and mental health.
    • Explore your options to advance your education and career.
    • Develop nursing leadership skills.
    • Improve your technology-based skill set.
    • Enhance your soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, or conflict resolution.
    • Create and follow a plan to prevent nurse burnout.
    • Find and work with a professional mentor.
    • Limit consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages.
    • Reconnect with family members or friends.
    • Volunteer in your community, hospital setting, or as a missionary nurse.
    • Smile and laugh more often.
    • Practice gratitude.
    • Repair a broken relationship.

    Be SMART About Your Goal Setting

    Krista Elkins is a nurse and paramedic who believes that setting nursing SMART goals can help improve your success at achieving your New Year’s goals as a nurse.

    SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed. Following this strategy can help you accomplish your goals.

    “The SMART technique is useful not only for planning treatment goals for our patients, but also for structuring personal and team goals,” she says.

    Genzale recommends that you set a broad goal and break that into smaller, more manageable, and realistic tasks. Keep track of your progress by writing your goals and achievements in a journal.

    Celebrate even the smallest wins. Little wins build confidence and improve your motivation to keep working toward your big goal. Genzale says she stays motivated to achieve her goals by writing a letter.

    “Visualize yourself one year from today as the person you wish to be. Write a letter to this future self and date it December 31,” she adds. “Congratulate yourself on all you have accomplished, and then read it daily.”

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Terri Ann Parnell, DNP, MA, RN, FAAN

    Terri Ann Parnell, DNP, MA, RN, FAAN

    Terri Ann Parnell is a nurse and a certified nutrition and wellness coach. She is the founder of TAP Wellness Coaching, designed specifically for nurses and all healthcare professionals.

    Portrait of Lisa Dunlap, AGPCNP

    Lisa Dunlap, AGPCNP

    Lisa Dunlap is a burnout coach, healer, adventurer, and holistic nurse practitioner. She helps high-achieving women in healthcare restore and revive themselves so they can reignite their spark, have more fun, and love what they do again.

    Portrait of Angela Genzale, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

    Angela Genzale, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

    Angela Genzale, certified life coach and consultant, is passionate about helping nurses overcome stress and anxiety at work and beyond so they can find personal success without sacrificing their soul. As a registered nurse with 30 years of experience, Genzale understands the unique challenges of working in healthcare. As a certified life coach, she has the skills to effectively help them identify and overcome these challenges.

    Portrait of Krista Elkins, RN

    Krista Elkins, RN

    Krista Elkins has 20 years of experience in healthcare as both a paramedic and a registered nurse. She has worked on both ground and helicopter ambulances, emergency rooms, intensive care units, primary care, speciality care, psychiatric, and wilderness medicine. She also practices and has a devoted lifelong interest in preventative medicine. In addition, she writes content marketing for the healthcare industry.