Not everyone can be categorized by the traits of their generation, but growing up during a specific time frame usually results in shared opinions about certain social issues, preferred methods of communication and expectations of employment. These generation-specific characteristics play an important role for nurse leaders and those they lead.

The delayed retirement of many nurses coinciding with millennials entering the workforce has resulted in four generations working together. Prior generations may think that millennials are too young for leadership roles, or they may be concerned that members of this generation are often quick to leave an organization if it doesn’t meet their needs.

What Do Generations Want in the Work Environment?

Millennials surpassing the baby boomers as the largest generation could be good news for the nursing shortage. Millennials have embraced the nursing profession and may have interest in the leadership positions that open up as baby boomers retire.

The conflicting generational workplace expectations may challenge how millennials will be received as nurse leaders.

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942): Most are retired, but a few nurses from this generation might remain in the workforce. They prefer structure, rules, and procedures.

Baby Boomer (born 1943-1960): This generation takes pride in working extra hours. They prefer credit and compensation for hard work.

Generation X (born 1961-1981): Accustomed to becoming independent early in life, this generation usually prefers a suitable work-life balance more than salary. These nurses prefer not to be micromanaged.

Millennial (born 1982-2000): The millennials grew up in a time of economic uncertainty. This led them to prefer meaningful, secure employment with stable earnings and a flexible schedule.

The Millennial as a Nurse Leader

We need more nurse leaders, but some millennials don’t have the desire to take these jobs. A lack of trust between nurses and their leaders has forged a disconnect, triggering poor morale and staff retention. The AMN 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses shares viewpoints on leadership, shortages, and the nursing profession as a whole. This study indicates that only 36 percent of millennial RNs are interested in leadership roles.

The AMN study reveals that most of the nurses interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree are millennial and Gen X RNs. Millennial RNs have the opportunity to excel as leaders by gaining expertise in an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program like the one at Nevada State College.

Preparing Millennial Nurses for Leadership Roles

Each generation comes with valuable traits, so a reverse mentorship can prove beneficial to help the entire nursing profession succeed. Seasoned nurses can gain skills on new technology while providing structure and guidance on appropriate interpersonal skills to nurses accustomed to text messaging.

Sharing knowledge gained from years of experience is critical to an organization’s success. Experienced nurses can educate millennials by considering the following:

Ability to multitask: The millennial RN often seeks projects and opportunities to acquire new skills. Provide motivation with training and development opportunities that enhance leadership proficiencies.

Communication style: This generation prefers frequent and authentic feedback and usually prefers email or other electronic means for communication. BE AVAILABLE for advice and recognize their desire to provide input and collaborate on projects.

Preferred work environment – The millennial RN often wants a sense of purpose in his or her work. Provide opportunities to promote the mission of the organization. Ask this tech-savvy generation to assess your website and social media image to ensure it reflects the image you want, and assist in recruiting more millennial nurses.

The Future of Nursing Leadership

A closer look at the millennial generation reveals characteristics that enable its members to BE EFFECTIVE LEADERS. Positive mentorship and education for millennial nurses today can help promote a future of loyal care providers who are ready to embrace tomorrow’s leadership roles.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


Chicago Tribune: Millennials Embrace Nursing Profession — Just in Time to Replace Baby Boomers

AADNS: The Millennial Generation & Leadership

AMN Healthcare: 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses

ANA: Nursing Shortage