1. Lal, M. Maureen DNP, MSN, RN


A successful nursing strategic plan establishes a roadmap for the future. It gives nurses a direction to follow and can refresh and reenergize an organization. A robust strategic plan is a critical component to ensure excellent patient care and the best possible outcomes. In this month's Magnet(R) Perspectives, we unpack the essential elements that make a strategic plan effective, how to create and implement a plan that will work for you, and how to engage nurses at all levels in the process. We explore how strategic planning is used to guide the work of Magnet-recognized organizations and support nurses with the tools and resources they need to contribute fully to the care team.


Article Content

In today's tumultuous healthcare environment, a strategic plan is imperative to help prepare for the future, ensure that nursing stays relevant and responsive to patient needs, and give your team a clear and consistent focus. It also helps you monitor progress and results in achieving your goals.1 Strategic planning determines where organizations want to be and how to get there. A strategic plan involves setting concrete goals and constructing a roadmap to meet them. The process not only produces a blueprint for moving forward but also helps you identify areas of opportunity so you can address gaps.2 A well-considered strategic plan benefits a nursing team by clearly showing how each member contributes to advancing critical organizational objectives, patient care excellence, and improved outcomes.

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Developing an Effective Strategic Plan

In his commentary "Does Strategic Planning Matter?," William Mallon, EdD, senior director of Strategy and Innovation Development at the Association of American Medical Colleges, says a good strategic plan targets your efforts so you can shape your culture and move your organization forward.3


If you do not have a strategic plan, creating one can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? Who should be involved? How do you measure success? The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recommends the model for improvement from the associates for process improvement as the template to guide your work.4


* Start by creating a strategic planning team.


To ensure the most effective planning process, include as many nurses from as many different levels as possible. Frontline nurses, nurse managers, and nursing administrators bring diverse perspectives and insights to the table.


* Conduct a gap analysis.


Take a hard look at what is going on in your organization. What is your current state? What is your vision? What will it take to get from here to there?


* Set your goals.


Goals should be high-level, time-specific, and measurable. As a framework, IHI suggests the 6 overarching aims for improvement in healthcare as set out by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine).5 These aims support care that is safe, effective, timely, patient centered, equitable, and efficient.


* Determine your objectives.


Once you have your goals identified, put together initiatives to help your team meet them. Focus on programs and projects that make a positive impact on quality, care, and outcomes. Keep things as simple as possible so your team understands what is expected.


* Follow-up and measure.


Ensure that your goals are integrated into everything you do. Communicate them clearly and frequently to set a strong directive and determine how and where to invest time and resources. Be sure your nurses have the tools they need to pursue objectives and meet goals. Monitor and evaluate your progress over time. Are changes leading to improvement? If not, consider tactical or logistical changes to approach the problem.



The Magnet(R) Imperative

A nursing strategic plan is a core component in Magnet-recognized organizations. To achieve the Magnet credential, organizations not only must have a robust strategic plan in place but also provide evidence of its integration within the enterprise and its impact on the clinical team. As noted in the 2019 Magnet Manual,6 organizations must demonstrate an improved patient outcome associated with a strategic plan goal (TL2EO), an example of the chief nurse officer's leadership that led to a strategic organizational change (TL4), and evidence of a clinical nurse and group of nurses recognized for their contributions to the organization's strategic priorities (SE12a and b).


A strategic plan can help a nursing team excel by focusing energy, resources, and time in a single direction. When organized through an interactive planning process blending staff nurse, leadership, and administrative voices, the most effective plans will drive an ambitious agenda to advance nursing excellence and quality patient care into the future.




1. Fry A, Baum N. A roadmap for strategic planning in the healthcare practice. J Med Pract Manage. 2016;32(2):146-149. [Context Link]


2. Drenkard K. Strategy as solution: developing a nursing strategic plan. J Nurs Adm. 2012;42(5):242-243. doi:. [Context Link]


3. Mallon WT. Does strategic planning matter? Acad Med. 2019;94:1408-1411. doi:. [Context Link]


4. Institute for Healthcare Improvement. How to improve. Accessed January 3, 2020. [Context Link]


5. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2001. [Context Link]


6. American Nurses Credentialing Center. 2019 Magnet Application Manual. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Credentialing Center; 2017. Accessed January 7, 2020. [Context Link]