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Intergenerational nursing is a group of individuals from different age groups that work together as a professional body. A generation is a group of people that are born in the same period and have been affected by the same events. These generational differences can contribute to developing an unsupportive, non-caring environment for nurses. From the writer’s perspective, intergenerational nursing is an obstacle to positive practice environments and generational differences can cause conflict when it comes to working cohesively together. The purpose of this paper is to identify why there is intergenerational conflict and how intergenerational differences affect nurses from a historical, social and cultural perspective. It will discuss barriers to current strategies, and a key strategy that can resolve intergenerational conflicts that occur in nursing.
There were 13, 304 Registered Nurses practicing in Manitoba in 2017. Which included 513 new Registered Nurses coming into practice and 12, 791 renewed members with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba [CRNM]. The average age of Registered Nurses renewing their membership with the CRNM in 2017 was 46 years old. These statistics show that the larger concentration of Registered Nurses are older employees. There are four generations that work in the nursing profession, they are known as Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials. From a historical standpoint, every generation of nursing has different values, personalities, and work ethics. In the workforce, all individuals from the same generation can be stigmatized as having the same characteristic traits and pull weaknesses from their intergenerational co-workers. With the Baby Boomers becoming increasingly older, it is more common to have intergenerational work environments. Nurses that work in intergenerational environments have stated that they feel unsatisfied with their job because they experience burnout, exhaustion, and stress.
Inexperienced nurses have expressed that through a cultural standpoint they are unsatisfied because of the normalized culture of “nurses eat their young”. This phrase has encouraged intergenerational bullying between new younger nurses and older nurses. Some older generational nurses treat new nurses this way because novice nurses are new to practice, unfamiliar with procedures and policies and lack confidence. Younger nurses feel they are not getting respect and are not accepted by their more experienced co-workers. From a social standpoint, communication is an essential component of developing inter-professional practice and building a trusting, respectful relationship between team members. Generations vary on their communication styles, whether they prefer face-to-face communication or text messaging, this can influence how they view other generations. Millennial Nurses have been educated to voice opinions and contribute to the team, if older generations are not open to opinions this can create the younger generation nurses to feel stressed, uncomfortable and create high staff turnover rates. A barrier that conflicts with intergenerational nursing is overcoming tension and withholding judgements about other generations. According to St-Denis (2016), nurses that don’t treat each other well and avoid intergenerational conversations can create an unfriendly and uncomfortable environment. Receiving consistent negative feedback will only identify weaknesses and create stress, exhaustion, and burnout. This barrier can be overcome by working on communication skills and showing respect for all nurses, novice or senior. One key strategy that was identified for resolving intergenerational conflict and improved communication skills was mentorship between novice nurses and more experienced nurses.
According to Phillips (2016), younger generation nurses fear failure, especially when starting out as a practicing Registered Nurse. Mentoring new nurses can help to relive stress, exhaustion, and burnout. Mentoring is constructed for experienced nurses to pass on their knowledge and advice. This can be a valuable experience for both members of the relationship, showing how important older generation nurses are in the workforce. They can help novice nurses develop coping skills for a demanding work environment, promote retention and resiliency skills. Mentorship helps build trustworthy, respectful relationships.
Intergenerational Nursing can be an obstacle to positive practice environments and cause conflict when working cohesively together. The cause for intergenerational conflicts occurs because of different values, personalities and work ethics related to age differences. The strategy to overcoming barriers within intergenerational nursing is mentorship between novice and senior nurses. Mentorship has been shown to decrease intergenerational conflicts and enhance communication skills in the workplace creating a positive practice environment.
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