The Future of Nursing Is in Their Hands: Managing Millennial Nurses
Posted: July 7, 2015 by Sarah Leavitt in Reference Desk
A lot has been said about the less-savory characteristics of millennial workers. They’re entitled. They need constant praise and promotion. They don’t have patience. With these attributes, it’s no wonder millennial nurses may seem like a tough group to manage. After all, who has time to provide constant praise in a hospital setting? And it goes without saying that there’s less room for error in nursing than in other professions and the stakes are higher.
Strengths of millennials
But consider those same traits with a different lens. Those high-maintenance attributes they’re known for may have big silver linings and may actually be the reason they’re high performing.
For example: They’re overly social and rely on peer-to-peer interaction and learning. But this, in turn, actually makes them exceptional collaborators. And their constant questioning? Because of it, they’re likely to improve processes and approach tasks in innovative ways.
Even short attention spans are a blessing in disguise — it means there’s lots of opportunity to challenge them with something new and difficult. So, when thinking about how to manage the millennial nurse, it’s best to let those complaints about them go, and focus on the powerful, game-changing contributions they bring to the table.
Recognizing their abilities, and learning how to both mentor and learn from millennials is a must for nurses who manage them.
Generational differences in nursing
Millennials now make up one-third of the workforce, and in nursing, cohesion on the floor or in a practice is crucial to success with patients. Recognizing their abilities, and learning how to both mentor and learn from millennials is a must for nurses who manage them.
That’s complex, as there are now three — and sometimes even four — generations of nurses working together, each with their own skills, style of communication and expectations of nursing and the workplace.
- Nurses from the baby-boom generation are the ones most typically in the highest leadership positions right now. They prefer communicating and teaching in mentor-style relationships, and like to speak with others face-to-face or over the phone.
- Millennials like quick communication, since they’ve grown up with email and text messaging. They’re likely to grow frustrated when they have to wait for a response. And they’re not really into reading lengthy communication documents, like long instructive emails or PDFs.
- Generation Xers are also used to technology — in particular, video — as a communication method, and while they’re not as reliant on text or instant messages as millennials, they also don’t want to wait for lengthy discussion before a decision can be made.
- Workers from the Veteran generation — folks who lived through the Great Depression, who are increasingly rare in the workplace — like face-to-face, inclusive communication.
These communication styles affect every aspect of nurse-to-nurse interaction, including teaching and mentoring, conflict resolution and patient approach. Friction among the nursing staff, including unresolved conflict, can lead to turnover and have serious implications for patient care. Mismanaged teaching opportunities may mean more errors later on.
Tips for managing millennials
And that’s the crux of it — millennial nurses are absolutely the future of the profession. So how do you successfully lead them?
- Make allowances for the different styles. That goes for the way they communicate — for example, consider using texting and micro-content, like short quizzes or videos — as part of your learning and development strategy.
- Create solid mentoring opportunities within your staff. Make sure the other generations in your workforce see their millennial peers as valued co-workers with a lot to add.
- Don’t forget that millennial nurses are just like the nurses who came before. They want the opportunity to learn and grow professionally.
In summary, the more managers provide opportunities for professional development for millennials, while emphasizing the techniques and protocols unique to nursing — the better off the profession will be years down the road.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Rose O. Sherman, Ed.D., RN, CNAA, "Leading a Multigenerational Nursing Workforce: Issues, Challenges and Strategies," The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
- Jennifer Larson, "Exploring the Generation Gap in the Nursing Workforce," American Mobile
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