Manage the Generational Shift in Nursing by Creating a Millennial-Friendly Workplace

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is a hallmark of successful people and organizations. Today, industries are grappling with a workforce shift as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials begin to step into their shoes. In the healthcare sector, the challenges brought about by this shift are likely to be exacerbated due to an increase in demand for services as a consequence of the aging Baby Boomers. Healthcare will experience a brain drain as its most experienced nurses are replaced with those with less experience.

The numbers are staggering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Projections 2012-2022, nurses make up the largest profession within the healthcare sector. Growth in the RN workforce alone is estimated to result in a need for more than 525,000 additional nurses by 2022. When hiring due to replacement needs is considered, the BLS estimates the total number of job openings for registered nurses will exceed one million by 2022. 

Growing Health Issues and Retiring Nurses Create Challenges in Healthcare 

The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has been a major influence on United States demographics for decades. As they grow older, this cohort will continue to alter our national makeup and workforce needs, especially in the field of healthcare. The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates that by as early as 2020, Baby Boomers will make up 40 percent of physician office visits as they address significant projected health concerns:

  • 37 million (six out of ten) will be managing more than one chronic condition 
  • 14 million (four out of ten) will be living with diabetes 
  • nearly half will live with arthritis 
  • 21 million (more than one in three) will be considered obese.

The health concerns of Baby Boomers will likely drive up the need for professionals with the right skills to help them live longer, healthier lives. This increased demand is one reason why there may likely be over a million unfilled RN positions by 2022. 

Millennials Poised to Bridge the Gap in Nursing 

According to Pew Research, the Millennials are now the largest living U.S. generation. Yet what drives them and how they view success is very different than previous generations. Gallup research has defined the “Big Six” to help employers better understand what differentiates this generation from older ones.

According to Gallup, Millennials:

  • Don't just work for a paycheck; they want a purpose. 
  • Are not pursuing job satisfaction; they are pursuing development. 
  • Prefer coaches over bosses. 
  • Don't want annual reviews; they want ongoing conversations. 
  • Would rather focus on developing their strengths than fixing their weaknesses. 
  • Don’t want employment that is just a job; it should be a life as well. 

Attract New Nurses With a Millennial-Friendly Workplace 

Given the impact that Millennials are having on U.S. demographics, coupled with the significant number of positions available in healthcare professions, the fact is that Millennials will have an immense impact on healthcare delivery and patient care for the long term. Using the Big Six as defined by Gallup to help Millennials find satisfaction and purpose, healthcare organizations are well positioned to create an employee value proposition that is meaningful to this generation. At that same time, attracting Millennials can give organizations a powerful means to address their own workforce challenges like improving nursing retention and filling a growing number of new positions. 

In particular, the nursing profession can be a great match for a generation of people who seek out meaning and purpose in their work, are technologically-savvy, and appreciate opportunities for growth and development. In researching this topic, Capella University engaged their Advisory Board for the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, to understand the challenges and opportunities found in this area.

One Advisory Board member notes that Millennials possess the motivation to do interesting work, willingness to work long hours, and strong desire to contribute. He shares a few tips for creating a workplace in which Millennials can thrive:

  • Engage Millennials in process improvement to boost overall efficiencies. 
  • Minimize repetitive work. 
  • Make use of Millennials’ work ethic, but don’t take advantage of them. 
  • Encourage Millennials to speak up and contribute ideas, and appreciate their input. 

The Future of Training in Healthcare 

Healthcare organizations now have an opportunity to implement solutions that support the professional growth and retention of staff and offer Millennials meaning and purpose in a job that meets their Big Six needs—all while addressing projected nursing workforce shortages. Meeting the needs of Millennials will require organizations to employ a multitude of strategies to engage, train, and retain this generation.

As a leader in competency-based and direct assessment education, Capella University is poised to help employers offer the ongoing development sought out by Millennials, while simultaneously working towards a reduction in nurse turnover. Capella’s programs are built on a strong foundation of adult learning science and their development includes close collaboration with leaders in the industries they serve. For the nursing programs, faculty engages with colleagues from high-performing clinical partner institutions who work with them to ensure that learner competencies are those that will drive quality patient, system, and population outcomes. Capella also offers customized programs to address organizational needs by aligning with tuition assistance programs to keep out-of-pocket costs minimized for the organization itself and its employees.

Academic degree programs from Capella University can help healthcare organizations create a Millennial-friendly environment, particularly in the field of nursing. These programs can provide affordable nursing education opportunities, inter-professional experiences, and the means to develop crucial skill sets to meet the dynamic needs of patient care.

Learn more about how Capella’s Nursing Track 80/20 can help ensure your organization has the nursing staff it needs to manage the unique challenges found in the healthcare sector today.

About the Author
Jennifer Hoff joined Capella in 2011 as the market lead for the School of Public Service Leadership. In 2014 she became the vice president and general manager of Capella's School of Nursing and Health Sciences. In her current role, Jennifer leads the dean and associated academic teams, along with the market director and enrollment and advising teams, to deliver high-quality and professionally aligned degree programs within the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. She is a member of the Bloom Early Learning Board of Directors and was recently selected as one of 30 women executives in the healthcare sector to coach and develop high potential women leaders in the Twin Cities healthcare community. Jennifer has a BA from the University of St. Thomas and is a graduate of Capella's MS Leadership program.
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