When you have multiple generations of professionals in the workplace, the relationship dynamics can be quite challenging. More so when the job is as stress-filled as nursing.

Today, four generations stand out in hospitals: the newbie 20s, the experienced and focused 30s and 40s and the knowledgeable and often in managerial positions 50s to 60s.

They may have differences that can lead to clashes and conflicts, but all nursing age groups agree that at the end of the day, they all share the same goal that is to provide the best care for patients.

Here are some of the takeaways – standout points in differences and similarities – observed among the four generations.

Easier to relate

Nurses in their 20s and 30s relate to each other better. It’s the proximity in age, suggest a MIMS interview with millennial hospital nurses Katherine Ledesma and Rachel Hanna Santiago, ages 25 and 26, respectively.

After all, the 20s nurses – who start professional work in their very early 20s – and the early 30s are part of the same generational age spectrum called millennialism.

Millennials are those born in the 1980s and reached young adulthood by the 2000s. This age range ended in 2004. Today, they are those aged below 35.

The millennials have drawn flak for their supposed indolence, impatience and need for constant feedback – or supervision or even praise. Conversely, they’ve earned praise for being street-smart, effective networkers, multitaskers, and for having a high affinity for education.

Katherine described the communication dynamic with her fellow 20s millennials to be “open, no doubt. We can joke in a way that is not offensive [to each other] and relatable. Communication is literally rapid as well.”

Compared with older generations, the same ease of communication is carried over to their fellow but slightly older millennial peers, the 30s - who, perhaps, they regard as a reliable presence.

This proximity in age and higher relatability could make for greater teamwork and provide room for a lot of learnings/sharing. Millennials already have a high affinity with knowledge-seeking behaviours and do enjoy the company of other like-minded millennials.

When it comes to communicating with older generations, however, Hanna admitted that, “seniority comes into play.”

She thinks those more senior are more focused and heavily detailed in their work. But Hanna says she’d always welcome their constructive criticism, “I don’t mind, really, it’s how I learn,” she told MIMS.

Katherine acknowledged that seniors have certain differing views. They may be, at times, idealists compared to the more practical-minded millennials. Still, the foremost approach is respect, she said.

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Generation gap not a big deal

Generation gap refers to cultural differences between age generations which may be due to fast changing societal norms in communication, interest and language styles. However, it seems not to matter much - at least, according to these nurses.

Nurse Rachel Santiago, 26, recognizes the generation gap but said, “I don’t really feel it, they [older generation] catch up to us, and we to them.” It’s a two-way communication where each one tries to understand the perspective of one another, she explained.

Dialysis nurse Kian Santos Noche, 30, said he is “everyone’s friend” and is someone approachable and equally considerate of his colleagues regardless of their age.

Nurse Raymond Mabanta, 33, a Filipino nurse taking up his masters on a scholarship while simultaneously working in Germany, observed, “No, there is not much generation gap based on my experience. The difference is probably more on how these nurses approach their patients.”

Operating room nurse Yna Villegas, 40, has no qualms about age differences. She said she finds it easy to adjust to anyone – regardless of age.

Oncology Nurse Dory Mayagan, in her 60s, said even at her age she tries to catch up with her younger colleagues by making time to spend with them, such as going to the movies or eating some place after work.

Emphasis on conflict resolution

Nurse Dory has a strong position when colleagues clash: she never lets a conflict go unresolved. It must be talked over within the day to avoid escalations and micro aggressions from piling up, she said.

As a nurse with a wealth of experience, she knows that emphasis on patience, perseverance, and humility in going about her day of nursing work will ensure smooth working relations.

On the other hand, Katherine has observed that there is not much conflict between millennials her age and those in their 30s and 40s, though there sometimes are petty disagreements.

Meanwhile, nurses in their 50s or even older could sometimes get quite intimidating. She puts emphasis on conflict de-escalation and would approach a mediator to intervene if necessary to prevent any further negative development. MIMS

Read more:

MIMS Profile: The Millennial Nurse Part 1
MIMS Profile: The Millennial Nurse Part 2