The Academic and Professional New Year Goals Every Healthcare Student Needs

The Academic and Professional New Year Goals Every Healthcare Student Needs

A new decade is upon us, and with every new year is an opportunity to reset and refocus. This is why I like to take the approach of setting New Year’s goals (as opposed to resolutions). Setting goals allows you to have a benchmark for success both short term and long term. Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) allows you to break them down into more manageable chunks that you can work towards as frequent as every day. 

Being a healthcare student means having to delicately balance all of your different obligations. Setting your academic and professional goals is a great way to kick off the new year with a clear vision for success. Check out our recommendations for inspiration. 


Get involved outside of class

School is expensive, so you want to make sure you’re getting a good return on your investment. Consider running for a student representative position or joining a club. These are great ways for you to meet new people, learn team-building and leadership skills, and impact student life. It doesn’t have to be something that relates to academics either. My school had a Run Club, for example, that met every week that even the Dean of the school joined! Seek out these opportunities as ways to expand your experiences in school and get involved, however way you want.

Go to office hours

Office hours aren’t meant just for when you have questions or concerns for your professor. This can be a great way to follow up on something you found interesting in class, seek out advice, and build a relationship with your professor. Of course, utilize office hours for clarifying questions and concepts but don’t limit your possibilities and stop in for a simple hello. Often these meetings evolve into great mentor-mentee relationships and having your professor as a point of reference throughout your program is always a plus!

Take a class outside of your comfort zone

One of the biggest things my professors emphasized during my time in school was the importance of intersectional work in healthcare. Our healthcare system is extremely complex and fragmented and it takes innovation and creativity to implement effective solutions. Consider taking a course outside of healthcare and see if you can find ways to apply it to the field. For example, taking a course in environmental architecture could shape your perspective on how the built environment affects people’s health. This is extremely relevant especially when we start considering social determinants of health and how that affects the way we provide patient care. Essentially, the more collaboration there is, the better.


Stay up to date with the industry

There’s always so much going on in healthcare and chances are professionals in the field (i.e. your professors and advisors) are likely talking about it. Look out for events going on around campus or within your department discussing new changes and trends in the field (because let’s be honest, there’s always something new going on in healthcare). Sign up for newsletters and the Healthcare section of major papers.

There are so many apps that exist that allow you to filter your news feed to exactly what you want to read and you can get it sent straight to your inbox or phone. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you’re reading and keeping up with all the changes going on. My favorite way of staying up to date is through Twitter. What I love about Twitter is that I can follow major news outlets, companies of interests, specific hashtags, and trending topics AND engage in conversation with other people about it. Learning and connecting all in one. 

Join a professional organization

Professional development doesn’t just start when you’re looking for a job the month before graduation. It’s a continual investment and building of knowledge and relationships with people in your field. One way to increase your professional development is to be part of a professional organization. Some of those organizations include the American Medical Association (AMA), American Public Health Association (APHA). American Nurses Association (ANA), and The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) to name a few. Depending on your specific career, there are a slew of professional organizations including ones that are specific to underrepresented groups (view a comprehensive list of organizations here). 


This is by far one of the most important things you can do for professional growth. Thankfully as a student, being in school is one of the best ways to do that. Make use of your alumni network by reaching out and asking to schedule informational interviews. This is a great way to get to know them more, learn about their career journey, and get some great advice from someone directly in the field. This is also a great way to seek out mentorship. You’d be surprised how open and helpful people are to help, especially when you’re a student, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Another way to network is by attending professional conferences. A lot of times universities will pay to send student representatives. Or you can ask if your department would be willing to cover registration fees for you. Networking hands down will provide you with the foundation you need to grow professionally in the new year, connect with people in the field, and hopefully land your dream job or internship one day!

I’m a firm believer in writing down goals and speaking things into existence. Getting into the habit of writing out your goals for the new year will help you think through the necessary steps needed to accomplish them and get you on track for a successful year. Breaking down your goals into categories, like we did here, will help make them into more manageable, bite-sized pieces. What are some of your new year’s goals? Share with us below!

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About the author

Hajar Ahmed

Hajar Ahmed is a healthcare professional with a background in public health policy and management. She’s passionate about reducing health disparities and helping to implement wellness practices in everyday life. When she’s not off on a new travel adventure or cooking up a storm, she’s reading, writing, and talking healthcare.

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