Any workforce consists of three broad groups including the exiting group, group in the middle and the entrant group. This is defined by the number of years in the workforce. Nursing is no different and you can identify where you belong. Inter-generational dynamics has been an issue with both positive and negative effects. Depending on how you look at it, it affects team work, job satisfaction and overall levels of care provided. We have the four generations in the workforce; veterans/traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, generation Y/millennial and generation Z stands poised ready to join the team.
In an ideal situation you would expect these generations to work in harmony and learn from each other. Your guess is as good as mine that is further from what happens. This is because the different generations view things differently and have a ‘cold war’ amongst them. The older generations see the newer ones as taking up their positions while the newer ones look at the older ones as denying them the chance to pick up new roles. This disparity happens because of lack of clear professional succession plans within the nursing profession.
The older generation feel that they know more, and have better information based on experience. They view the new entrants as green horns who know little or ‘nothing’ about the profession. They feel that their positions are threatened by the new young and energetic group. Some of them see their younger selves who could multitask better, have more than on job then but are not able to. Some treat them like their children and train them well into the profession. Not all relationship is negative. Some learn a lot from the young about new approaches to nursing and use of technology in nursing. Others gel well and form very high performance teams.
The younger generations on their part feel they have the latest and better information on nursing than the older generation. They view the older generation as ‘old school’ who do not know the new ways of doing things. They feel should exit fast so that they pick up their positions. They perceive the older generation as slow and not able to cope as fast with growing technology.
The truth is that to get a formidable workforce, you need to merge both the older and new generation. You cannot underestimate the importance of experience and new knowledge. This means that all the generations are important and there is none that is better than the other. The gap has been in the integration of the two generations. The disparities are so grave that in some set-ups it is a fully fledged ‘war’. You find that there are instances when these disparities affect levels of care and staff relationships. So what should be done?
Each group should be aware of their role in the workforce. This a great step in the journey to break the inter-generational work relationship dynamics. A workable inter-generational relationship is great for such cases. A structured program that enables orientation of new entrants by the older generation should be put up. Structured and unstructured collaborations where information is passed from both generations should be put up enable a great collaboration. None of the generations is better than the other, they are all important and equal parts of the whole.