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Millennial Nurses VS. Seasoned Nurses; Nurses Support Their Young

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN - 12/12/18

A new campaign was recently started by Nurse.org and has been copied and partnered by many other nursing organizations to encourage nurses to stop the bullying and eating their young and instead supporting their young. 

The Millennial generation (born between 1982 and 2000) is probably the most misunderstood generation yet. As they begin to dominate the workplace, it’s time to figure them out and welcome them into the nursing profession. By 2019, they will account for 36% of the American workforce overall and by 2025 they will dominate 75% of the general workforce. The numbers for nurses will not be quite as high because the Baby Boomers (born 1944-1964) are still not ready to retire even at an age range of 54-74. But significant numbers of Millennials are filing into the nursing workforce. They are a welcome site for sore eyes in the ongoing shortage of nurses, but they’re not playing by all the rules; in fact, they’re going to demand changes that can affect all nurses - mostly in good ways.

Paying Dues and Loyalty

Some resentment will be exposed because the Baby Boomers appreciate loyalty to an employer and believe in a system that rewards those who pay their duesto move up in the ranks or reap special privileges. Boomer coined the term “workaholic” and don’t leave work until the job is done even if they have plans for an exotic adventure or a family event. Millennials on the other hand are moving up based on their technological savvy and in many cases more advanced education. The majority of Baby Boomers are not BSN prepared where as Millennials are. Neither is wrong, things are just changing.

Millennials are in debt. They are highly educated, and that education cost them more than it did other generations. But they aren’t going to choose a job based on salary alone. They want good life-work balance. They want to have their ideas heard and they want to be part of the decision-making process. To promote these goals along with needs for better benefits, they are pro-union. They watched their parents struggle especially through the Great Recession and they aren’t willing to do the same.

New Ways to Recruit and Retain Nurses

To attract and retain millennials expect to provide better benefits and far more career growth opportunities. For instance, compared to 12% of Baby Boomers interested in becoming a Nurse Practitioner, 49% of Millennials have expressed interest in becoming Advanced Practice RNs such as NPs, clinical nurse specialists or nurse anesthetists. College loan forgiveness is an attractive benefit along with tuition reimbursement for further advancing their educations.

Millennials who become nurses do so because they want to make a difference for their patients and will demand the best quality care for them. They are a generation that craves knowledge and will readily seek continuing education for nurses. They also want to be heard and know that they are valued by their employers. It’s the most diverse generation yet due to changes in immigration and attitudes towards interracial marriages.

Other desires include health insurance for themselves and their families and child care assistance. These will go a long way in attracting and retaining millennials. They also want more paid time off and flexibility in their schedules to spend time with their families or to attend school or important events. Straight 12-hour shifts are not going to cut it for long. If things don’t prove to work out, they are not afraid to seek out a job that better fits their needs and move on. Loyalty to an employer is not important to them. And employers are going to have to work harder and be much more creative to retain Millennial nurses. Remember the creativity that attracted nurses in the 90’s and 2000’s when nurses were paid huge sign-on bonuses and given any deal they asked for just to come to work? We’re going to have to go back to that drawing board and get even more creative!

The Economics Will Support Changes

The cost of hiring and training a nurse is about $90,000. That gets very expensive very quickly especially if nurses don’t stay more than a year! And hiring new nurses is going to increase rapidly over the next decade. Retaining them is going to be essential! Many Baby Boomers have already reached retirement age but have been forced to continue to work because of the Great Recession in the late 2000’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, almost 50% of the workforce was comprised of Baby Boomers. The median age of nurses was 44. As the Boomers do retire over the next 2 decades, the Generations X and Millennials will take over the nursing field. Offering better benefit packages and working to create more flexible scheduling as well as providing cutting-edge equipment to please this digital-age generation is going to become the norm in order to recruit and retain staff and curtail losses.

Millennials were all born in the digital age and naturally are high-tech, so they will be best attracted to facilities with the very best in cutting-edge equipment and technology. This can also be a huge benefit for the more seasoned nurses who continue to struggle with technology. Millennials want more mentoring and residency programs and could be encouraged to swap this out with mentoring technologically-challenged nurses in return. It can be an excellent way to bond and forge strong working relationships.

High-Tech High-Touch Generation

The Millennial generation needs to be kept informed and highly values transparency. They value education and encourage others to seek continuing education opportunities for nurses. They also need to be told often that they are respected and loved. This is the generation whose parents considered their children to be their most important assets and fought for things like participation trophies for everyone. Consequently, everyone is always a winner.

Millennial egos are tender and need stroking. They are often called lazy, spoiled, know-it-alls, and criticized for just wanting to have fun. But they are not the first generation to be called these names and stereotypes. Most every generation of nurses have been called them by the older nurses. What Millennials are proposing is that this has gone on long enough and they want to work together to improve the healthcare industry for everyone. New approaches are needed from both sides, but the effort to support their youngis changing the face of the nursing profession. And it’s for the better. Not without struggles, but it can improve the profession immensely.