By 2030 literally, all the baby boomers will be over 65. Are we going to run out of nurses considering this generation accounts for more than one million registered nurses (RNs), which is nearly two thirds of the RN workforce? Think again. Some nurses continue working into their 70s and even 80s because they love their work and feel they are at the height of their professional capability. In California, as of March 2022, 0.35% of the active nursing workforce was over 80!
As a nursing leader, you've got to be a generational Jedi, understand and communicate well with each generation, and draw on diversity. This is especially important now as the baby boomers are moving out of the industry and mentors are needed for new nurses. May the force be with you!
Read More About Becoming a Nurse Leader or Mentor for New Nurses
Estimations based on data published by NursingProcess in 2023 show that the active RN nursing workforce in the US is made up of about 22% Baby Boomers, 35% Gen Xers, 38% Millennials, and 5% Gen Zs, each of these age groups has their own characteristics, communication preferences, and struggles.
Generational Traits and How Nursing Leaders Can Leverage the Differences
As of 2023, Baby Boomers are 59 to 77 years old, Gen Xers are 43 to 58, Millennials are 27 to 42, and Gen Zs are 11 to 26. Then comes the Alpha generation, who are now under 11. The Alphas are still not part of the nursing workforce.
Although specifying highlights and challenges for each generation is a broad stroke not applicable to all individuals, identifying and understanding some generational differences and common characteristics can sharpen managerial capability.
- Baby Boomers: Experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable with a strong work ethic and face-to-face communication that is often crucial to positive patient outcomes. However, they may resist technological advancements and are part of an aging workforce.
- Leadership tip: Create mentorship programs that allow them to pass on their knowledge and experience to younger nurses. In addition, provide training and support for new technologies and encourage the older nurses to embrace them.
- Gen Xers: Independent and tech-savvy with strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but may need help with work-life balance, burnout, and job-hopping, contributing to staffing instability. They prefer to communicate via phone, email, or text and are comfortable using various communication channels.
- Leadership tip: Encourage them to take on nursing leadership roles that require strong critical thinking skills. Provide support for work-life balance and offer opportunities for career advancement.
- Millennials: Technologically proficient, sometimes providing innovative solutions, and collaborative with strong multitasking skills, but may prioritize personal life over work and need more experience compared to older generations. This generation tends toward more informal, digital communication, emphasizing text, instant messaging, and email.
- Leadership tip: Leverage their technological proficiency to improve workflow and patient care and provide mentorship, intellectual stimulation, and support for career advancement and professional development.
- Gen Zs: Value diversity and inclusion, tech-native with entrepreneurial and independent qualities, but most likely need more experience and require frequent feedback. Surprisingly, Gen Zs (Zoomers) match the Baby Boomers' preference for face-to-face communication. However, they also do very well with texts, group chats, and other technological communication channels but prefer to avoid phone calls.
- Leadership tip: Draw on their inclusivity to create a more welcoming and culturally competent work environment. Encourage their independence and initiative to become part of a self-sufficient and motivated workforce.
A nursing leader will know how to communicate with all generations, understand and appreciate the diversity of strengths, and combine them to benefit both staff and patients. The expectations and needs of the team also vary by generation.
Becker's Hospital Review identifies several things that Gen Z and Millennial nurses look for beyond the paycheck.
- On-the-job training and support to supplement nursing education that, for the Gen Zs, was largely virtual
- A boss who is also a coach
- Mental health support
- Long-term workforce solutions
- Patience and putting an end to bullying
- More flexible working hours with multiple options to choose from.
Nursing Leadership Styles
To respond to the diverse needs of all generations and backgrounds of nurses and build supportive teams that merge talents and strengths, many nurse managers practice transformational leadership combined with some transactional and democratic leadership capacities.
- Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their team towards a shared vision or goal, focus on creating a positive work environment, and empower their team members to achieve their full potential.
- Transactional leadership centers on day-to-day operations, are more directive and is effective for strict adherence to procedures.
- Democratic leadership involves team members in decision-making, encourages open communication and collaboration, and engages staff nurses in problem-solving.
Howbeit, learning to provide quality leadership begins with training, experience, and often mentoring, well before you are positioned for leadership in an official managerial role. Respected nursing organizations offer training resources. For example, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) offers two leadership certification programs to become a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader or Certified in Executive Nursing Practice.
How to Become a Nurse Manager
It's quite a journey that you take in stages. First, you will need a registered nursing license, a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), solid clinical work experience, certification, and often a master's degree in nursing administration. Nursa explains the requisites, characteristics, average salary, and factors to increase the pay rate, as well as the responsibilities of a nurse manager in the article below:
Should I Pursue a Career as a Nurse Manager?
Nurse Managers play an integral role in the daily operations of healthcare facilities. They are responsible for overseeing staff, developing policies and procedures, managing budgets, and ensuring the highest quality of care for patients. This list outlines the typical roles and responsibilities of Nurse Managers, including but not limited to:
1. Supervising and evaluating nursing staff: Nurse Managers are responsible for assigning duties, monitoring performance, providing feedback, and conducting annual performance reviews.
2. Managing budgets: Nurse Managers are responsible for controlling and monitoring the financial resources of the unit, including payroll, supplies, and equipment.
3. Developing and implementing policies and procedures: Nurse Managers are responsible for creating policies and procedures to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, as well as providing guidance to staff on how to follow those policies and procedures.
4. Ensuring quality of care: Nurse Managers are responsible for ensuring that patients receive the highest quality of care, including monitoring patient outcomes and providing feedback to staff.
5. Collaborating with other departments: Nurse Managers are responsible for collaborating with other departments, such as Human Resources and Information Technology, to ensure that the unit is running efficiently and effectively.
6. Maintaining patient records: Nurse Managers are responsible for maintaining accurate and up-to-date patient records, including medical histories, test results, and treatment plans.
7. Communicating with patients: Nurse Managers are responsible for communicating with patients and their families to ensure that they understand their treatment plans and to address any concerns or questions they may have.
8. Educating staff: Nurse Managers are responsible for providing ongoing education and training to staff to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest practices and techniques.
9. Participating in committees: Nurse Managers are often asked to participate in committees and task forces to provide input and feedback on various initiatives.
10. Representing the unit: Nurse Managers are often asked to represent the unit at meetings and conferences, as well as serve as a spokesperson for the unit in the community.
Should I Become a Nurse Manager?
If you enjoy bedside care, do not become a manager. The work of a manager or executive relies on in-depth knowledge and experience in staff nursing, yet it is very different. Suppose you are well-organized, a good communicator, and like the challenge of uniting a team of diverse generations, ethnicities, and backgrounds. In that case, you may measure up for a managerial role.
Are you ready for the journey? May your communication skills be sharp, your empathy be profound, and your coffee be strong!