Celebrate the Next Generation of Nurses

When Baby Boomers think about the new nursing graduates coming into their workplaces, they tend to envision a group of young, fresh-faced people who are eagerly awaiting the chance to work hard to provide the best in patient care. While that may have been true in years past, today’s new graduates often present a different profile – what does that mean to you?


Certainly many new nurses in Ireland are young, but we are fortunate to also have other faces in the crowd. Those faces may be older, have mustaches and beards, speak with a foreign-sounding voice, or have different work expectations than we might have anticipated. Looking at what current statistics tell us, the Millennial generation (Gen Y – born 1980-1995) typically is interested in the “why” of what to do, expect instant feedback, are technologically savvy, and want mentoring with constant feedback.  The next generation of nurses (Gen Z – born 1996-2015) is also characterized by being technologically savvy and even technologically dependent, learn by demonstration and practice, are visual communicators and learners, and are teamwork- and outcomes-oriented.


What does all this mean, the more experienced nurses in the workplace who need to work with and support the next generation of nurses? Here are some ideas and approaches to consider:


  • Listen – This is probably one of the most important actions to take to support our newer nurses. Let them know they are heard.
  • Inclusion – Actively take steps to incorporate new nurses into your teams.
  • Introductions – As a preceptor, take opportunities to introduce your orientee to physicians, APNs, allied health practitioners and management. Your orientee will be quickly recognized as a new employee by others, but these are all new and unknown people and roles to new employees in the organization.    
  • Feedback – This is an overall need and want that newer nurses require in order to thrive. Be sure to give invaluable feedback on performance to newer team members; praise loudly when praise is due.  When feedback is needed for performance improvement, give it soon and clearly. Too much sugar-coating may dilute the importance of the message, but stick to the facts of the situation so as to not demoralize the recipient. Even when things go badly and a corrective message must be delivered, do it in private and be sure to end with a message of support.  
  • Offer help – Check in with new staff members and offer help.  It may be difficult for new nurses to ask for help thinking they “ought” to be able to do it all by themselves. You can be instrumental in retaining a new hire by extending an offer of help.
  • Debriefing – After a difficult event, take the time to debrief your orientee by examining the cause, actions, process and result of the event. Doing so helps to bring perspective to the situation for greater understanding. It can help the nurse better cope with the event and possibly avoid a similar event in the future.
  • Resist stereotyping – Every new hire is an individual with unique interests, talents, needs and wants. Grouping nurses by their generation may provide a starting point, but as individuals we all have our own needs, wants, learning styles, strengths and areas of concern. Take the time to get to know the new nurses you work with so you can help support them appropriately.
  • Calling physicians/providers – Remember your first call to a doctor? How stressful was that?  Make sure all the data needed is at hand and provide phrasing to help the call go succinctly and successfully. Helping script what to say and standing by during the call will assist your new nurse to provide a clear message with more confidence than he/she may actually feel. 
  • Socialization – Include new nurses in unit activities and plans. Not every new nurse will be interested in socializing outside the workplace, but extend the invitations so they know they are welcome if desired. 

The experienced and successful nurses, interact with new nurses of any generation will have a big impact on new hires into our organizations. Nurses who feel they are being listened to, supported in their clinical work, included in workplace social activities, and frequently provided with appropriate feedback will benefit from all of the above. Most importantly, nurses treated with respect for what they know and assisted when challenged with new experiences are more likely to be happy and remain with your organization for a long time. 


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