Gut Check | Thursday, August 20, 2020
The Nurse Team: Different Generations, Same End Goals
With each generation of nurses bringing their own characteristics and experiences to the workplace, building a strong, cohesive team can be challenging. SGNA spoke with Laura Habighorst, BSN RN CGRN, on the characteristics of different generations of nurses, how nurse teams can build lasting work relationships and tips for those developing plans to accommodate generational differences in this Q&A.
What are some best practices for nurses seeking to work across multiple generations and build a stronger team?
Build on the strengths that each generation has. The veteran and baby boomer nurses have the experience that can be utilized to teach others about various aspects of patient care; yet the millennial nurse may have access to multiple resources that, in the past, the veteran nurse had to depend on anecdotal evidence to receive.
The research demonstrates that each individual must know their own self, specifically:
- Self-awareness: What generation am I a part of? Who am I?
- Self-management: An awareness of how one works
- Social awareness and skill: How am I perceived by others? How do I react to others?
It is within knowing one's self and where they fall within the spectrum of generations, that one can then understand and react to others.
In your opinion, what are some qualities, characteristics and expectations each generation of nurses has? Any characteristic that sets a specific generation apart from the rest?
Here is a high level breakdown of each generation, based on research I have done:
- Veteran Nurses: Born between 1925 and 1945; make up 3% of the nursing population; follow tradition, black and white way of thinking, rule followers; prefer 1:1 interactions; will be part of a team, but not the leader
- Baby Boomers: Born between 1943 and 1960; make up 32% of the nursing population; leaders; competitive; workaholics; self-worth is based on work success
- Gen Xers: Born between 1961 and 1979; make up 39% of the nursing population; latchkey kids; more independent, self-thinkers, self-motivated; work-life balance is important
- Millennials: Born between 1980 and 2000; make up 26% of the nursing population; seek input of others; "lost innocence" (Christensen, Wilson & Edelman, 2018); technologically astute; may move into leadership roles ahead of baby boomers due to the large numbers in the workforce; easy to hire, difficult to retain
- Gen Z: Born after 1995; the children of Gen Xers; continual internet accessibility; instant gratification as a result; short attention spans; learn through hands-on activities
When there are generational clashes, how can a team overcome this? How can they prevent future clashes?
Understanding the makeup of the generations is important. Christen et al. made the following suggestions:
- Baby boomers and millennials make a good work team as their work ethos complement each other.
- Gen Xers are excellent picks for working on policy procedures and guidelines, and can use technology for research easily.
- Millennials tend to work well with developing programs for retention.
- Millennials and Gen Z can work together to help others with technological issues.
What tips do you have for a unit developing a plan to accommodate generational differences among employees?
I think if you use all of the avenues of communications available, you can get input from the entire staff. I also believe that facing issues head-on will foster productive discussion and acknowledgement of each other’s differences.
What advice would you give someone just entering the field?
My advice for anyone entering the field of nursing today is know who you are. Have a life plan. Do you want to continue your education? Do you want to move toward the newer roles in nursing such as informatics, nurse practitioner (NP), legal, etc.? Be cognizant of who your team is, what their makeup is. Listen to others and try to understand where they come from. Realize we are still human and caring is the basis of all nursing.
Information in this Q&A was originally presented by Laura Habighorst as part of her session at the SGNA 45th Annual Conference, “Stronger Teams Among the Generations.”
Christensen, S., Wilson, B. and Edelman, L. (2018). Can I relate? A review and guide for nurse managers in leading generations. Journal of Nursing Management, 26: 689-695.
Habighorst, L. (2018). Stronger teams across the generations. SGNA National Conference 2018.