Millennial RNs Bring High Ambition and a Few Surprises to Healthcare Work Environment

As younger workers, it’s not surprising that Millennial nurses (ages 20-37) are more likely to seek upward career mobility through education and job changes than their older peers. After all, older nurses have more experience and are often already well-established in their careers.

But what is unique about these younger nurses is their higher expectations of the work environment than other generations of nurses. Also noteworthy are their sheer numbers, which are influencing workplace practices in varied industries around the country.

Millennials are now the largest generation in the US labor force, making up 35% of American workers. As of 2017, 56 million Millennials were working or looking for work. These numbers are of particular significance for the healthcare industry staffing, where unprecedented workforce shortages have created recruitment challenges, particularly for qualified nurses.

In a new report by AMN Healthcare, Survey of Millennial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession, Millennial nurses shed light on what they think constitutes a good working environment and how that affects patient care. Among their expectations are professional development opportunities, transparent quality measures, a positive culture, and supportive leadership.

While other nurses may also see these measures as positive, Millennials felt more strongly about their importance than their peers.

The report is based on data gathered in the 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, completed by 3,347 RNs and conducted by AMN Healthcare, the largest healthcare staffing firm in the US, according to SIA researchThe responses of Millennial nurses were extracted and compared to those from Generation X or Gen X (ages 38-53) and Baby Boomer nurses (ages 54-72).

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Healthcare Staffing Recruitment Strategies

The following are some survey highlights:

Millennial Nurses Expect More from Their Leadership

Millennial RNs placed a higher value on leadership quality than other generations of nurses. In responding to the statement, “The quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by effective leadership,” 77% of Millennial nurses responded affirmatively, compared to 72% of Gen Xers and 66% of Baby Boomers. This represents an 11-point difference between Baby Boomer and Millennial RNs.

Millennials also tended to be more optimistic toward leadership than other nurses. This was evident across several categories, including how much they trust their leaders, and whether leaders care about them and their career development.

Along with wanting excellent leaders, Millennial nurses are also more attracted to leadership opportunities themselves. More than one third of Millennial nurses — 36% — said they were considering a move into leadership positions compared to about one-fourth of Gen Xers and only 10% of Baby Boomers. However, Baby Boomer nurses had a much higher percentage of RNs already in leadership positions compared to their younger counterparts.

Millennials Value Workplace Quality Measures More Highly 

Professional development has proven to be important to recruiting and retaining Millennials in all professions but may be especially important among nurses.  In the survey, the majority of Millennial RNs (63%) responded affirmatively when asked to respond to the statement, “The quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by professional development opportunities.”

Older nurses also valued professional development opportunities but not as strongly as Millennials, with 61% of Gen Xers and 53% of Baby Boomer RNs viewing such measures as important.

The divide between younger and older nurses grew sharper with regard to questions about culture, transparency of quality measures, and the importance of nursing skill mix in the unit.

Among Millennials, 68% responded affirmatively to a question on whether quality measure transparency positively influenced patient care. This compared to 62% of Gen Xers and 54% of Baby Boomers, who responded this way.

A similar pattern emerged in responses to culture and nursing skill mix.  For instance, 68% of Millennial RNs responded affirmatively when asked if culture was an important factor that could positively affect patient care quality. This compared to 62% of Gen Xers and 57% of Baby Boomers, who responded positively. Millennials also felt more strongly than older nurses that the skill mix of nurses on the unit positively influenced the quality of care that they provide. Among Millennials, 78% felt this way versus 67% of Baby Boomers. Gen Xers had like sentiments to Millennials.

One in Four Millennials Want to Become Nurse Practitioners

The report shows Millennial nurses are not only interested in further educational attainment but are also actively pursuing higher degrees and professional certification. Nearly 40% of Millennial RNs said they plan to pursue a master’s degree in the next three years, while another 11% said they would seek a Ph.D. These responses were significantly higher than those of other generations.

Regarding advanced licensing, more than one fourth of Millennial RNs (28%) said they want to pursue a nurse practitioner license in the next three years. This compared to 19% of GenXers and 4% of Baby Boomers.

Another 14% of Millennials said they would pursue education to become Clinical Nurse Specialists and 7% said they would become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. That adds up to nearly half of Millennial RNs planning to become advanced practice nurses. While this strong interest in advanced practice nursing is laudable and understandable among younger nurses, it could have the unintended consequence of reducing the number of nurses available as bedside RNs, who are in ever-increasing demand.

MORE: Getting millennial nurses to commit to your organization

Marcia Faller

Marcia Faller
Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, is the chief clinical officer for AMN Healthcare. Throughout her tenure with AMN, Faller has championed the development of consistent quality standards for credentialing and competency evaluation of healthcare professionals.

Marcia Faller

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