Overcoming Generational Divides In Nursing
Natasha Bethea, ANA’s Senior Membership Marketing Specialist, shares tips and strategies nurses can use to overcome generational issues in the workplace.
(Editor's note: Ms. Bethea is currently no longer with ANA.)
Most nurses join the profession for similar reasons, such as the desire to help others. Yet, age differences within a unit or team can prevent some team members from connecting.
Many nurses who just graduated nursing school and are entering the workforce are in their early 20s (although there are many people who enter the profession as a second career, too). And since people in many professions, including nursing, are retiring later in life, there’s a wide age range of nurses working together on any given unit.
“In the nursing profession, we have four different generations now. And as that older generation starts to age out, we have Generation Z coming, so there’s never been a time with as much age diversity in nursing,” says Natasha Bethea, ANA’s Senior Membership Marketing Specialist who works with ANA members of all ages.
These are generalizations and any nurse can have qualities from any other group, no matter their age, but here are Bethea’s takes on each of the four generations:
Generation X: (1963 – 1980) “These go-getters are all about advancing through their nursing career, looking for those higher-level opportunities – and they’re moving into leadership roles as a result. They know what they want and they're on the cusp of reaching that status in nursing.”
Millenials: (1980 – 2000) “They're willing to jump in and learn and they value mentorship. They want the nurses in the older generation to take them under their wings, but they're also very ambitious. Sometimes that ambition can make millennials impatient and unwilling to wait their turn.”
Boomers: (1946 – 1964) “Boomers and Millennials make up the largest generational groups in nursing today. Boomers entered nursing to make a difference, and because it was a stable career choice. They’re comfortable in who they are and confident in what they’re doing. They make great mentors for millennials.”
The Traditionalists: (1925 – 1945) “While these seasoned nurses are transitioning into retirement, they still have a lot to offer. They care about their profession and want to remain involved.”
Barriers to connection
With so many people from different generations working together, it’s no surprise that issues tend to arise. The biggest barriers facing this vast community of nurses include:
- Communication: Each group interacts differently. They each have different motivators and reasons for doing what they do.
- Technology: Nursing is becoming more digital. Patients can get consultations virtually and the health care industry is changing. “The challenge is making sure the older generation embraces those changes while the newer generation maintains the fundamentals of nursing,” says Bethea.
- Management style: Because each group has their own unique set of traits and attributes, it can be tough to know how to manage them all. Since they each have their own communication style and unique motivators, managing different generations at once and finding ways to engage members of each group can be challenging.
Bethea recommends that nurses use the B.R.I.D.G.E process to help relate to other nurses. The process was created by Dan Negroni of Launchbox, a corporate training program for people of multiple generations.
|B||“Bust the myth.” People may have stereotypes about each group, so when you come into a setting, forget any preconceived notions you may have.|
|R||“Real deal authenticity.” Be transparent with your team, offer constructive criticism, and feedback.|
|I||“Own your stuff.” Each person on the team needs to understand his or her role. Experienced nurses should empower and guide while newer nurses’ should learn and grow.|
|D||“Deliver value.” Remember why you’re doing your job and what your purpose is.|
|G||“Keep your goals in mind.” Nurses are working toward a common goal – caring for their patients. This creates a sense of collaboration and unity.|
|E||“Empower.” Encourage nurses of all generations be at their best so the whole team – and their patients – benefit.|
“Most important, take a step back and remember why you became a nurse. We might be from different generations, but we’re all here to do the same thing, so our core values should be the same,” says Bethea.
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Millennial Experts. Bridge the generational divide. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2017.
Kruse, K. (2017, May 11). How to harness the power of a millennial workforce. Retrieved September 29, 2017.