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Goal-Setting in Child Life Practice

Laura Gould, CCLS, MS

Happy New Year! Entering the new year there is lots of talk about goal setting. Some hospitals utilize the calendar year, and others utilize a fiscal year (usually starting July 1) which makes the new year a good time for mid-year evaluation. Child life specialists are planners and goal-setters with patients and families. It's important to set professional goals, as well, to improve soft and hard skills, increase productivity, and explore opportunities for development. What makes a strong goal? SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable and attainable, measurable, and timely or time-bound (Weintraub et al., 2021).

Here are some tips when setting SMART goals:


It is important that goals will help specialists advance and aren't too vague, for example, “Improve public speaking skills.” A more specific goal may be to “limit the use of filler words during presentations.” Another more specific goal about presenting may be “improving learning objectives and providing tangible take-aways that each participant will be able to utilize in their work.”


Examples would be “Give 3 presentations this year and limit the use of filler words such as “um,” “uh,” and “like,” to less than 3 per 30 minutes” or “Improving learning objectives and providing at least tangible take-aways that each participant will be able to utilize in their work when giving at least 3 presentations this fiscal year.”

Goals should be broken down into manageable parts. Setting a goal of 5 takeaway may be too lofty for a 30 minute presentation.


The goal should also be relevant to specific involvement as a child life specialist. If the goal is to work on presentation skills, but an individual does not have any upcoming presentations, the goal may need to be re-examined to figure out what it is that someone is an expert in and would like to teach. This year’s goal may also be about forming connections with interdisciplinary colleagues and then presentations may come as a goal the following year.


The goal should have an attainable deadline and room to assess progress.

When wanting to present 3 times, it’s best not to leave each presentation for the end of the fiscal year. If giving the same presentation to child life students each student rotation, this easily folds into the fact that the presentation can be given 3 times a year and re-evaluated each time.


Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations SMART Goal Planning Shee

Weintraub, J., Cassell, D., & DePatie, T. P. (2021). Nudging flow through ‘smart’ goal setting to decrease stress, increase engagement, and increase performance at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 94(2), 230–258.

SMART Goal Criteria (2021). Walden University.

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