I read this article recently in My copy of Nurse Week ..September/October 2008 and I found it to be so true.
Would you wear a thong to work under your nursing uniform? I don’t even own a thong, and my cellulite doesn’t want to be anywhere near one. But apparently some members of Generations X and Y slip on thongs as unassumingly as I don my Hanes or Jockey briefs.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only baby boomer who was surprised to learn at the spring meeting of the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses (MARN) that more than one nurse manager have had to tell their Generations X and Y staff members that thongs are not appropriate in the work setting.
The discussion about thongs and other, more significant differences between the generations arose after Barbara B. Stabile, RN, MS, the nurse manager of labor and delivery at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston, gave a session on leading a multigenerational team of nurses.
When I was a young nurse in the late 1970s, most of my fellow staff members also were in their 20s. Head nurses and supervisors might have been women our mothers’ ages, but were often younger. And women who were old enough to be grandmothers just didn’t work back then, or at least not in a hospital setting.
Now for the first time in the profession’s history, four generations of nurses ranging in age from the early 20s to 70s and beyond are working side by side.
Stabile told the nurses attending the MARN conference that today’s generations of RNs break down into four categories:
• Mature nurses, or nurses who are 63 or older, who also are referred to as veterans, traditionals, or Schwarzkopf, and comprise 9% of employed RNs
• Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, who represent 47% of employed RNs and 46% of RNs working in hospitals
• Generation X, called Gen Xers who were born between 1963 and 1980 and represent 42% of the RN workforce
• Generation Y, known as Gen Y, Millennials, or Nexters, were born between 1980 and 2000 and represent only 2% of the RN workforce
Not surprisingly, rifts can occur between nurses if they do not acknowledge they view the world and the work setting differently. Each generation of nurses has been imprinted by the history of the era in which they were born and raised. As a result, they think and work differently and have different abilities. For example, matures value authority, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Boomers were defined by their individualism, self-improvement, and high expectations. Gen Xers want a balance between their work and personal lives, are entrepreneurial, and expect leaders to earn their respect. Gen Yers embrace multiculturalism, optimism, and technology, and they want to contribute to society.
Some of the differences Stabile has seen in her own staff include the fact that Generation Xers don’t like the tendency of baby boomers to hold meetings. Boomers want to talk about strategies before taking action. But Gen Xers would rather just do and have less discussion. And Generations X and Y, of course, grew up with technology and are not hesitant to use it.
Of course the people who benefit the most from our differences and our strengths are our patients. How fortunate for them to have nurses caring for them who have 20 or 30 years experience under their belts, who are able to use the latest technology to prevent errors, and who are willing to challenge authority and act as patient advocates.
That’s what really counts, not what type of underwear we are wearing under our uniforms.
Janet Boivin, RN, is Editorial Director of the New England edition of Nursing Spectrum.