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Defining Your Mission and Vision

Mission and vision are core building blocks necessary for practice planning and development. Although they are often used interchangeably, mission and vision are two separate concepts.

A mission statement documents the essence of a practice. It is a focused, practical description of what your practice is attempting to accomplish. The mission statement is a starting point that drives planning and provides focus for your practice over time. The mission should be stated in one sentence.

The vision statement operationalizes your mission statement and describes what you would like your practice to achieve. A vision statement is more fluid than a mission statement and likely to change over time. A good vision describes the practice's future and paints a desirable picture for stakeholders. It should include clear, attainable goals to guide decision making, yet remain general enough to allow alternative responses to changing conditions. A good vision can be successfully explained within 5 minutes.

Your Mission Statement

When developing a mission statement, reflect on your personal mission. Why did you choose to become a nurse practitioner? Who do you want to be as a health care provider? What values are important and related to how you provide health care?

After you have put your personal mission into words, consider your patients. What population will your patients come from? What are their needs? What services will you provide for your patients? Do your homework. Pull out and update that community assessment you completed in graduate school. The data you collect will help you answer those questions.

Identify your supporters. Is there a common mission in your community to provide services to homeless people? Is there a project that is providing prenatal care for adolescents at a local high school? Is the Chamber of Commerce soliciting funds for a drug rehabilitation center? If you share a mission, include this in your mission statement. Write down answers to all of these questions.

Next, review sample mission statements to get an idea of what a practice's mission statement could look like. A simple mission statement might read like this: "The mission of Practice X is to provide free, nonjudgmental, quality health care to children in need." Here's another example: "The mission of Practice X is to provide effective, comprehensive and affordable primary health care to rural families in partnership with the community."

Using the information you've collected, write a short paragraph describing your mission. Edit and cross out extraneous words until you can organize your thoughts into one sentence. A mission statement clearly states who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Keep it simple and concise.

Your Vision Statement

After you have articulated your mission, consider how you will put it into operation. What would you like to achieve in your practice? Start thinking about your vision by completing the following sentences:

"This practice will make a difference in the community because..." Describe how your practice will make a difference in the community. Will you provide a service that is not offered now? Is the service available at other facilities but not to people without the resources to pay for it?

"This practice will embody the following values..." Describe what you, as a provider, value in a work environment or in patient care.

"Over time, this practice will..." Describe what patient needs your practice will meet. Do you plan to address only physical needs, or will your practice address other needs as well?

Review vision statements from organizations that have mission statements similar to yours. This will help organize your thoughts and articulate your vision. Here are some examples of vision statements: "Practice X is the place of choice for comprehensive health care for the community;" "Practice X provides health care to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of patients and families in the community;" and "Practice X is a desirable place of employment, reflecting staff members who achieve their potential and relationships that demonstrate fairness and kindness."

As with the mission statement, write a couple of sentences describing your vision and what you want your practice to look like. Keep rewriting and editing until you can down boil your vision to one concise statement.

Guide For the Future

After you define your mission and vision, use the statements to guide your practice. Your mission and vision will determine the types of services you provide, your practice location and the population you serve.

Compare all future strategic planning objectives to your mission and vision statements to ensure that you remain on track and true to your original intentions.

Julie Marfell is a nurse practitioner who is chairwoman of the Department of Family Nursing at the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing and executive director of Frontier Nursing Healthcare in Hyden, Ky. Susan Stone is a certified nurse midwife who is dean and president of the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. Information in their column was derived from Building a Practice in Your Home Community, a Web site sponsored by Partnerships for Training, a program of the Association of Academic Health Centers (


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