How to Write Measurable Nursing Objectives

SMART written objectives help nurses stay focused.
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In nursing, having clearly defined objectives is essential to proper patient care and medical teamwork. In addition to discussing these practices, it is important to write down the objectives, as they then form a permanent record and can be used to evaluate how well a nurse is doing in her clinical practice. For measurable objectives, the SMART--Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely--format offers an effective formula. According to Karen Owens, an associate lecturer in nursing, "Writing measurable objectives ensures that nurses stay current, gain new skills and maintain proper attitudes towards patient care.”

Identify a specific skill objective that you want to learn. For example, if you want to improve your triage skills, you would write your objective as “I want to improve my ability to prioritize care so that the sickest person is seen the quickest.”

Determine how the skill objective will be measured. For example, you could record your objective as “I will study the history and the current practice of triage and write an essay on the topic to demonstrate my knowledge on the topic.”

Set an achievable goal. For example, “I will be able to demonstrate that I understand and can use the 1 to 5 colors of triage. One is red and requires resuscitation, 2 is orange and is an emergency, 3 is green and urgent, 4 is blue and semi-urgent and 5 is white and non-urgent.

Undertake a realistic assessment. For example, “I will be able to use my new triage skills within two weeks to the satisfaction of my supervisor in the emergency room.” Setting an assessment that is too demanding distracts from the objective, so stay focused.

Make it timely. For example, “To demonstrate that I am proficient at triage, I will be able to arrange the calls properly: red immediately, orange in 10 minutes, green in 30 minutes, blue in 60 minutes and white in 120 minutes.”

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.