Healthcare settings are generally occupied with healthcare professionals that come from different generations. Due to different ways of upbringing and advancements in technology, every generation has a different set of skills.

When the skills and abilities of nurses from different generations, mainly Generation X and Generation Y, are present in a healthcare system, the nursing units are able to provide excellent levels of care. However, the differences may also cause conflict between nurses.

Characteristics of the different generations

• Veterans / Silent Generation vs. Baby Boomers

Due to their experience in living with harsh conditions and facing challenging politics, veteran nurses usually work very hard, are disciplined and have healthy respect for authority.

Veteran nurses are often not very technology savvy. However, through proper guidance, they are able to use medical innovations effectively. The majority of the Veterans have begun the transition to retirement, while some nurses in this generation still continue to work in all levels of nursing organisations.

The baby boomers make up the dominant group of nurses in the nursing workforce and currently occupy many nursing leadership positions. They are also known for their strong work ethic. Many of them started retiring in 2010 and under-staffing would be the main issue if nurse retention is not properly addressed.

• Generation X vs. Generation Y

Generation X is known for their self-reliance and place great importance on having work-life balance. Technology has become an important part of their lives since it began developing by their formative years.

However, due to misconceptions about nursing images that portrayed less potential career growth, many of them preferred to work in other areas. However, many generation X individuals have now entered nursing as a second career and are moving into managerial positions.

Generation Y individuals had been raised in a time of where violence, terrorism, and drugs became realities of life. Compared to generation X, they are very tech savvy as technology has become a big part of their lives. At present, this is the smallest group of nurses in the nursing workforce but the numbers of this generation entering the nursing profession is growing.

Understanding each generation

For many years to come, age diversity will continue to be a norm inside the nursing workforce, which is something that every nurse, particularly nurse leaders, needs to anticipate. The gaps of each generation undeniably pose challenges to nursing leadership, but when their contributions are cherished, the diversity can fill up the hallmarks and add richness, even develop a stronger nursing teamwork. Nursing leaders and organisations who effectively manage this gap will enjoy a competitive workforce, especially in today’s challenging healthcare industry.

In that sense, it is necessary to understand generational differences as this could help institutions when it comes to designing benefits. However, not every hospital or healthcare institution has a firm grasp on the ages and generations of its nursing staffs.

A good start is allowing the nursing administrators to collect information and use it to create a generational profile of each unit. By then, nurses can know each member’s strength and can then focus on parts that can be fixed. This will help them to study and pinpoint any existing problems.

Minimise conflicts and create better synergy

Once nurses understand each generation’s differences, nurse managers can rectify the conflicts by facilitating group discussions among their staffs, or create a team of nurses from a mixture of generations and ask them to study a problem and give each generation’s perspective.

To overcome the conflicts, managers and administrators can also exploit on their various nursing generations’ strengths. For example, generation Y individuals are mostly young, sharp thinkers who are well-versed with technology. With this strength, they can guide the older nurses on embracing medical innovations and evaluating new technologies.

When each generation is valued for the strengths they bring to the team, generational diversity will lead to a synergy that brings the team to a much higher level of performance. Indeed, understanding generational differences and learning to manage them effectively can lead to improved satisfaction among nurses, which will lead to better retention of nurses. MIMS

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Managing the generation gap between healthcare professionals
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Halfer, D. (2004). Developing a multigenerational workforce.
Karp, H., Fuller, C., & Sirias, D. (2002). Bridging the Boomer Xer Gap. Palo Alto: Davies-Black.