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22 Clinical Goals for Nursing Students to be Successful in 2023
Written By: Brittney Bertagna, BSN, RN
Maybe you are starting to apply to nursing schools or you’re halfway through your program and just starting your clinical rotations. What are some good clinical goals for nursing students is a good question to ask regardless of where you are at in your nursing school journey. Having goals for yourself will help you stay focused on improving your skills and being the best student you can be. Below are 22 clinical goals for nursing students to be successful in 2023.
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What Exactly Are Nursing Clinical Goals?
One thing that separates the good from the great nursing students is their clinical goals and making the effort to get the most experience out of your time in clinicals as possible. Many clinical
goals are standardized by nursing institutions and programs. While some are requirements for graduation, others may be goals that can help nursing students get the most out of their time in clinicals. Clinical goals for nursing students vary from program to program or from student to student but act as a checklist for students to complete throughout the semester. They also serve as a great way to stay focused, keep students on track and be able to monitor your progress. You will learn and grow the most as a student if you aim for goals that are outside of your comfort zone.
7 Reasons Why Setting Clinical Goals Is Important For Nursing Students
1. They keep you on track.
2. Progress is monitored and tracked.
3. Pushes you out of your comfort zone.
4. It will keep you on track for what is required.
5. Ensure you get the most out of the experience.
6. You will gain a better understanding of your work preferences.
7. Setting goals and achieving them builds confidence in many areas of your life.
WHAT ARE SOME GOOD CLINICAL GOALS FOR NURSING STUDENTS?
(The following are 22 clinical goals for nursing students to be successful in 2023.)
1. Practice your IV starts
Your goal should be to get comfortable with starting IVs on real people by yourself. Becoming comfortable may look different for each student. This is one of those skills that can save you a lot of time and frustration for yourself throughout your career if you master it as soon as possible.
2. Practice placing foley catheters
There is no better time than right now to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the clinical setting. Practicing a skill like foley catheters can be a little tricky because it is a sterile procedure. Having an extra pair of hands and eyes can be very helpful when you are just starting. So don’t be afraid to be eager and proactive when it comes to practicing this skill during clinical.
When you are a student, you have the luxury of having someone who is experienced right by your side walking you through what you need to do. When it comes to building confidence and enhancing your ability to do these alone, having someone to support you can make all the difference. By going out of your way to practice this skill, you will demonstrate your commitment to the profession and overall understanding of your role as an RN.
3. Practice medication calculations
Medications come in many different formulas and concentrations. Exposing yourself to as many medications in the real world will help expose you to many different medication calculations. Even if you are not the nurse who is administering the drug, it is a good idea to begin to familiarize yourself with calculation drug dosages in real-time. Do the calculations along with your nurse who is administering the medications and make sure you ask about any discrepancies you get.
4. See a patient from intake to discharge
A start to finish approach as a nursing student can set you up for understanding the entirety of patient care. This can be easier said than done, with most inpatient admissions staying much longer than one nursing student's clinical rotations. But, at the very least, begin to pay attention to where each patient is along their hospital journey. Did they just get admitted or have they been here for 3 months and are about to go home? Understanding where a patient is at can help you as the nurse identify any learning deficits or concerns that should be addressed before discharge.
5. Practice clear communication
Another one of the important clinical goals for nursing students is to practice communicating with those around them and pay attention to how the staff clarifies things they need. Nurses are responsible for making sure they communicate with not only the patient and their family members but also the entire interdisciplinary team. By using clear communication throughout nursing school, you will set yourself up for a smooth transition when you go from nursing student to nurse.
6. Administering different medications
During your didactic courses, you learned that medicine comes in many different forms or routes. Know and practice your landmarks for IV vs PO vs IM vs SQ and ensure you understand when one is more appropriate than the others. This nursing clinical goal is an important safety one, because not all medications have the same dose, depending on the route many times will determine the appropriate dosage. Nurses do not need to know every piece of every medication ever created, but they need to know where to find the information from trusted sources.
7. Say yes to every opportunity
Make this a priority! The only way you are going to gain experience and insight is if you expose yourself to new environments and situations. Every nurse is different, but some like teaching new nurses more than others, if a senior nurse on the floor asks if you want to help with a particular skill, its probably because they genuinely want to help you learn. They will also know a little bit more of what is unique to their department so take every opportunity to learn, observe and try for yourself while someone is there with you. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think of this as your swim lesson before you’re pushed into the deep end, you want to be as prepared as possible and learn every tip and trick someone is willing to offer.
8. Do compressions if given the chance
As a nursing student, now is the perfect time to do compressions for the first time, while many other trained professionals are in the same room as you. Make sure you are always available and ready to jump in as needed. From day one, this is a skill you will be expected to perform on your own. If you have never done CPR, some of the best clinical goals for nursing students are goals like these that might make you uncomfortable but have limited opportunities to practice before you are expected to take the lead on your own.
9. Use your resources
Within any department, there are always additional resources to assist in the care for your patients. Know what resources are available to you and use these resources from day one to ensure the best quality care you can. There are specialty teams
that are trained, like pharmacy or your education team, that have even more resources available to them to assist you. Don’t be afraid to utilize the team around you. Need help moving a patient that is on a vent? Ask your assigned Respiratory Therapist to help you. They might even teach you something about the vent you didn’t know about.
10. Learn and follow the chain of command.
This might look a little bit different for each unit but for the most part it follows the same job title of command. Even as a student it is beneficial to know who the next person up the chain of command is so that you are prepared if a problem arises. The Chief Executive Officer of the Hospital isn’t the one directly responsible for making sure the equipment is working on the floor, but if you notice a problem, the charge nurse of that unit would be the best person to mention it to. Take care of what you can at the lowest chain of command first and if needed continue up until the problem is resolved.
11. Practice giving and receiving report
Listen carefully to how other nurses are doing this and note what you like and don’t like. The standardized way to give report is by following an SBAR format. Explain the situation, the clinical background, the findings of your assessment that pertain to the situation and background, and then your recommendations for the oncoming shift. There is no exact science to it, it takes practice and still and is one of the important clinical goals for nursing students in any program. Remember other nurses can also see the same chart you are so you do not need to go over every single element. Be concise, clear, and as helpful as you can for the oncoming shift. Ask questions when you have them because report is the best time to clarify any discrepancies or unfamiliarities.
12. Learn and practice ergonomic lifting
Learning how to lift and turn patients the correct way as a nursing student will set you up for success later down the line. Practice makes perfect and the consequences of not using ergonomic lifting techniques can be detrimental to your career. You could end up hurting yourself and you could be out of work until your body has completely recovered. It might feel awkward at first, but practice until it is no longer something you have to actively remember to do.
13. Don’t take everything personally
All nursing clinical goals should focus on your ability to take everything as a learning opportunity. You will make mistakes, you will not know what you are doing the entire time and you will have to ask questions. Some nurses are just friendlier than others and if ask a question and don’t get the response you were looking for. Brush it off and reach out for help from someone else. Don’t take it personally and keep doing what you’re doing.
14. Observe how and when delegation is appropriate
As a nursing student, take advantage of any hands-on tasks you have the opportunity of performing. But also observe what does and can be delegated, and pay special attention to who the nurse delegates to. Knowing the right person to go to can save you time. Knowing when and how to delegate is a huge skill to alleviate some of the pressure and time constraint during any given shift.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
You are learning and this is your chance to be engaged and ask all the questions you may have. Most staff are open to any and all questions you have and can teach themselves or can find the next best person who can help you. While you are precepting on the floor, do not be afraid to use the experience of the other staff around you. There is no such thing as a stupid question when someone’s life is dependent on it.
16. Learn where to find answers
Piggybacking off the previous goal, make a point to try to find answers on your own. If you have a question, ask it, but also learn where you would be able to find a similar answer on your own. For example, you aren’t sure where an item in the stockroom is. You ask someone to show you, but instead of just making a note of just that one item, ask if there is a system in place for you to look up where a different item is for you to find on your own rather than asking where each individual item is every time you find yourself needing something.
17. See what specialty you want to work in
Clinical goals for nursing students do not just have to be about the here and now. Making a goal for this to be your gateway into each specialty can open your eyes to new opportunities. At no other time in your nursing career can you jump around specialties like you can in nursing school. It might feel like a whirlwind, but the takeaway from being bounced all around is that you are exposed to a variety of specialties and can better understand what you like and don’t like about each before committing to work there.
18. Stay humble
Being a nursing student is not the time to exploit all of your confidence to the point of cockiness. Healthcare finds a way of humbling you. Being too confident can be just as damaging to your career as lacking confidence completely. Stay humble and remember that in the world of healthcare, nursing school is only able to show you a teeny tiny little sliver of it. There is always something left for you to learn when you are a nurse. You will never stop learning.
19. Understand acuity level
As previously mentioned you will find things you may like or dislike in any given clinical setting. Maybe you already knew some of this going in, or maybe the didactic curriculum helped sort this out a bit more. Something to consider when understanding where you might want to work after completing your nursing program is to think of the acuity of patients you would like to work with and start there. You may love critical care, but the ICU might not be a perfect fit. If that’s the care, maybe consider the ED where you are expected and prepared for critical patients, but it is not always critical patients all the time. Or you might love babies, but not the NICU, think about the maternity unit or maybe a pediatric wing.
20. Observe as many procedures as possible
Often these are not as common, so it is important to understand your role in any given situation. Moderate sedation, blood transfusion, or cardioversion can be something to listen out for within your department. These are specific nursing clinical goals to better improve your understanding and demonstrate your competence upon completion. By observing your role, you will have a better idea of what to expect when you are hired as an RN and can contribute more to the overall experience of the patient.
21. Practice sterile techniques
Practicing in the lab or classroom is one thing, but doing it with a team and patient watching you is another. Practice makes perfect and there is no other time where practice in the real-world setting can have such an impact. Practice this as much as possible. When a sterile procedure is happening, visualize what you would do in each situation as if you were preparing to jump in at any given moment.
22. Perform wound care
Many programs have similar clinical goals for nursing students with regards to wound care because, depending on your specialty, it could be a large portion of what you do daily. You will be expected to understand the principles behind wound care as well as how to perform wound care. As it can vary slightly depending on the person who is managing care. Note the differences between what kind of wound, what techniques work best, and what bandaging to use. If there is something you particularly liked or thought was helpful make sure you write it down to reference back later.
Useful Resources To Help You Set Some Good Nursing Clinical Goals
Here are a few YouTube channels that have could help you set your nursing clinical goals. Both channels provide great decision-making breakdowns and reliable information.
PodcastsStraight A Nursing
provides 12 specific podcasts dedicated to the nursing students in their clinical rotations. From tips in prioritizing tasks to handling odors as an RN, they have you covered.
Though directed to the new grad getting their first job, many of these podcasts will also apply to clinical nursing students. This will help you tackle the nerves of starting fresh and what to expect as a new professional in the field of nursing.
takes global issues and provides clinical education for a deeper understanding. Their education section has a wide range of topics that can serve clinical nursing students in the right direction.
BooksThink Again by Adam Grant “Think Again:
Think Again is a great book for nurses that focuses on the mindset instead of specific skills that nurses can focus on. It focuses on the importance of mindset and provides tools and guidance for individuals to continue to improve their abilities to cope with the ever-changing world of healthcare.
How to Survive & Maybe Even Love Nursing School:
A Guide for Nursing Students by Nursing Students by Kelli S. Dunham, RN, BSN. It is a complete guide for nursing students, from the perspective of nursing students, and is great for students who need help juggling everything that comes with nursing school.
My Final Thoughts
I hope I have answered what are some good clinical goals for nursing students? This is just a shortlist of what to consider as goals while you are in nursing school this year. But on top of the objectives and skills that you will need to officially be signed off from by your clinical instructors, this is a good list to make sure you are as prepared for the real world of nursing as you possible can be. These 22 clinical goals for nursing students to be successful in 2023 will set you apart from other students and make you a more desirable candidate in future positions.
Brittney Bertagna, BSN, RN
Brittney Bertagna is currently a nurse and writer in Las Vegas, NV. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration she completed nursing school and became a registered nurse. While working a night shift in the neonatal ICU she went back to school to get her second bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governors University. Now she enjoys working with children in the surgical setting as well as with her adult patients as an infusion nurse.