In the planning phase of the CPD cycle, various elements, including self-reflection, activity selection, and reviewing the context of practice, come into play. However, one crucial aspect that requires careful attention is goal setting. According to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia's (NMBA) 2016 Guidelines for continuing professional development:
‘You will get most benefit from your CPD activities by planning your learning goals and the activities to meet these goals, completing your CPD and then recording reflections on your learning' (NMBA 2016).’
All enrolled nurses, registered nurses and midwives are required to complete CPD, and the identification and consideration of learning goals is a key component of this. From a regulatory, personal or organisational point of view, learning goals are invaluable in identifying strengths and competencies, setting your direction and documenting key outcomes desired. Learners can then consider how well they have performed against these goals at the end of a defined period.
This article will guide nurses and midwives through the process of goal setting within the planning phase of the CPD cycle, including 10 helpful tips to improve how you write learning goals.
Reflecting on Your Learning Needs
To begin the goal-setting process, reflection is key.
Start by considering your current or emerging learning needs. Ask yourself questions such as: What do you need to learn? What are your learning goals for the CPD year? Are there any goals you didn’t meet from the previous year that still need attention?
Additionally, reflect on your career aspirations and areas of professional growth you are seeking. Consider any changes, high-risk areas, or new policies, standards, guidelines, patient populations, procedures, treatments, or practices that require your attention.
Identifying the why behind your learning needs will help articulate your goals better. Reviewing best practices and professional codes and standards of practice can provide valuable prompts for reflection.
Next, Determining the Why and How
Once you have identified your learning needs, it’s time to delve into the reasons behind them. Ask yourself why these learning needs have emerged. Is there something new that requires your attention? What triggered these specific learning needs? Understanding the underlying gaps in your knowledge, skills, competence, confidence, or practice will help you articulate your learning goals effectively. It is also crucial to consider how you will close or narrow these gaps.
Determine the strategies and activities that will best meet your learning needs. Assess if engaging in CPD is the appropriate approach or if other methods may be more effective. Explore different learning activities that align with your learning preferences and ensure that you choose reputable providers.
Writing Learning Goals
Goal setting is an area that many nurses and midwives find challenging. But there’s tools available to assist you in this phase, including Ausmed’s Portfolio Plus tools.
Using these tools, learners can write their learning goals and provide an outline of how they plan to address their identified learning goals with different action strategies.
Below is some tips on how to articulate clear, meaningful, and achievable learning goals that will drive your CPD activities to be as effective and meaningful as possible. By setting well-defined goals, you can enhance your professional growth, increase your confidence, and ultimately provide better care to your patients.
10 Tips for Writing Your Learning Goals
1. Be Realistic
Learners should be able to reach their goals. The possibility or probability of success will increase motivation and positivity, and encourage the learner to go the extra mile to achieve their goal.
Goals that are too ambitious can often work against the learner, reducing their confidence.
2. Be Objective
Avoid subjective goals that are vague, potentially opinion-based or not clear enough. For example: 'My main goal for the year is to be a better nurse.'
Goals that are objective are based in fact, specific, clear and far more likely to be measurable (see Tip 3 below). An objective approach to learning goals will identify and embrace strengths and areas of improvement.
3. Goals Should Be Measurable
This will enable learners to track and understand their progress and competence. Setting measurable goals is particularly important if the learning undertaken is long-term. This will enable the learner to maintain focus and ensure they stay on track.
4. Review Regularly
When setting goals, establish how often you will review your progress. To facilitate this, learners can set action items that relate to the goals and review them upon completion of action items.
5. Update as Necessary
Learning goals should not be static. They should dynamically shift, adjust and evolve as the learner and the skills landscape develop. For example, if a learner's job role or the skills required to complete a certain role change, the goals should be updated to reflect this. If needed, goals can also be added or removed.
6. Ensure Goals are Relevant
According to the NMBA, the CPD and learning that healthcare professionals complete must be relevant to their individual Context of Practice. Goals should reflect this.
7. Discuss with Colleagues
Managers, mentors and peers are invaluable sources of knowledge, motivation, inspiration and guidance. Learners should use all resources at their disposal to both identify their goals, as well as to develop action plans to enable them to achieve these.
8. Be Honest
Identifying learning goals is a great opportunity for learners to set their path for growth within their role and workplace. Honesty is key to ensuring that CPD and learning contribute to this. However, it is also important that the culture of the workplace is such that learners feel comfortable admitting their shortcomings and weaknesses.
9. Carefully Consider Where You Need to Improve
Where do you lack confidence? While you may be considered to be competent in a task, are you confident that you could complete it to the standard required all of the time? Learners should carefully consider what areas they need to focus their learning on.
10. Challenge Yourself
Think beyond the obvious.
In conclusion, goal setting plays a pivotal role in the planning phase of the CPD cycle. By reflecting on your learning needs, understanding the reasons behind them, and planning your activities accordingly, you can create a roadmap for your professional development. With clear goals in place, you can ensure that your learning this CPD is purposeful and effective.