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Challenges in Multi-Generational Staff in the Nursing Profession

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A pestilent menace plagues the nursing profession. Generational mistrust has ruined the social civility in the workplace, with dire consequences. Generational antagonism in value systems has led to toxic work environments where nursing staff are making the drastic decisions to quit the profession for good. Research is pointing to fact that nurse have a different work environment from other medical persons that needs to be improved inclusively (Wilson, Squires, Widger, and Cranley & Tourangeau, 2008); On the contrarily, critics are quick to point out the observable difference in viewpoints that nurses have on their unit climate whereby blame has been  heaped on the blatant incivility among nurses of different generations towards each other to encourage teamwork (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). Broad reforms are necessary in the nursing work environment to ensure that the profession mitigates loss in confidence due to wanting integrity.  Stakeholders have been called upon to help organize nurses to curb forecasted future shortages of nurses due to poor working environment and culture. The purpose of this report is to highlight the problems that exist in the workplaces in which nurses are continually exposed to, the price the stakeholders might have to pay in future for the destructive trend, some feasible solutions available for consideration and a brief conclusion of the report.


Generational differences have caused mayhem in the social relationships among nursing staff (Kupperschmidt, 2006). Intergenerational conflicts are an issue of concern for the stakeholders in the sector, and one in need of immediate redress. Each generation has various strengths and vulnerabilities inherent in its value systems. Opposing generations of nurses are operating the same profession without proper guidance to help bridge the generational gap observable in culture, professionalism ethics and information. Different age groups of nurses occupy different ranks within the management ladder and thus conflict and discord are bound to happen due to generational discrepancy. Young nurses find themselves dealing with stressful work environment stereotypically created by the older generation as a result of working consistently in poor working environment. Sharp opposition to old value such as hard-work have lost value in the system following a change in economic perspective whereby nurse are concern to know if their effort is appreciated through motivational reward schemes.

Leadership Problems in Nursing

Generational differences subsist in the workplaces among the nurses. According to Leiter, Price, & Spence, (2010), there is a lot of tension between the generation X nurses and the Baby Boomer nurses in their social interactions. The generation X workers experienced more disharmonies from their coworkers mainly from the Baby Boomer generation. The supervisors were also more impolite to the generation of nurses.

Cynicism and disillusioned attitude was quite clear observable in younger nurses than older nurses general because of financial motivation differences whereby older nurses earn more and feel secure in their jobs having climbed the professional ladder. On the contrary, younger nurses appear to suffer more psychological trauma in comparison to their older counterparts, despite the expected health and emotional resilience attached to the youth (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). Researchers attribute this burnout phenomenon to the fact that the younger nurses are newer to the hostile workplace environments. Before they join the workplaces, young nurses’ spirits and imaginations were expecting a supportive and encourage work place that could encourage growth in both career and social environment; nevertheless, overworking and insignificant rest patterns have infuriated the generation X nurses. The socially unwelcoming environment therefore causes them distress and disappointment. Habitual work dissatisfaction easily causes uncivil behavior in work environments leading to poor productivity (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). The older generation of nurses is more familiar to the hostile environment after adapting to the workplace activities and eventually learning to survive the inhospitable workplace.

Many young nurses are quitting the nursing profession due to consistent misunderstanding because of difference in social culture and tactics of solving workplace conflict whereby young nurses feel intimidated by their older peers (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). The hostility from older coworkers forces younger nurses to withdraw from the workplaces and eventually abandon the profession altogether. Therefore, literary there exists a brain drain in the nursing work profession following high movement of young nurses of the workforce into other professions. Quitting is a major concern for the career, and requires immediate and urgent attention before the profession suffers from serious shortage of nurses. Shortage of nurses could jeopardize the entire health care system with devastating impacts whereby health consumers are likely to face health hazards since nurses administer drugs as directed by physicians. The government and healthcare stakeholders are challenged to change the nursing culture in order to attract more young people into the nursing profession.

Supervisor social conflict has greater negative impact than coworker incivility on the job dissatisfaction to the nursing profession (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). Young nurses like to be free and unsupervised since they believe to be qualified to handle nursing profession before graduating and therefore any attempt to monitor and supervise creates a psychological strain that forces female nurses to withdraw from the profession. The decision to change profession is mainly caused by social incoherence that are traceable between superiors and young nurses who hold a different view about decision making and career actualization.  

Lack of regular motivation is the main cause of social chaos in many healthcare facilities since nurses feel ill-paid and unappreciated for their effort through school and late in work. Job satisfaction is low among the younger nurses because of low pay compared to the economic needs (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). Research has shown that younger generations of nurses need closer attention than the older generations for them to derive greater satisfaction from their professions. Recurrent psychological reinforcement of the younger nurses shows that they do their work better, and makes them better off and more effective in the work environments. In short, work relationships, psychological well-being, and work performance have a very high correlation to the wellbeing of younger nurses than older nurses.

Nursing Leadership Concepts

Managing Change

Managing change calls for visionary leadership team that can see beyond the traditional leadership roles (Wilson et al., 2008). A team that can deliver this kind of performance has to be multigenerational, so that all perspectives are included in deciphering the opinion of the future. A multigenerational leadership is also all encompassing of all generation and creates a sense of amicable and reassuring coexistence in the nursing community.

Leadership vs. Management

Leadership and management are two different things. Leadership is the process of inspiring the workforce to achieve certain goals while management is about making the workforce achieve the same goal through a finite strategy. Leadership therefore, calls for greater commitment and involvement as a team to develop the strategy and tactics that can deliver result for the healthcare goal. That is why Wilson and et al. proposes two leadership styles that if applied can help deal with staff retention and provide a mechanism for easier health care service delivery. The first proposition is transformational leadership and the second is transactional leadership. One factor unifies the two; the goal remains similar. In transformational leadership, the top management inspires the staff, as the ultimate human resource that makes important decisions. Recognition is equally an important aspect of motivating nurses to work. In transactional leadership, the workers do not necessarily share in the organization’s goal; therefore, management has to come up with other methods of making nurse work by using incentives such as bonuses or rewards to motivate the workers to achieve the targets and other measures that can inspire nurses to work and provide efficient services. Overall, leadership is more inclusive while management is more impersonal to the needs of the workers in question.

Ethics & Nursing

Wilson et al. (2008) observes that discrimination is quite popular when preparing the work schedule that usually favors older generation of nurses over the younger generation of nurses who are mostly assigned to inhospitable night shifts and early morning work. Younger generation of nurses are less concern about scheduling if motivational payment is included unlike the Baby Boomer nurses hold schedules with high cultural regard. Older generations are out of favor with the immediately preceding generation. Although this does not suggest that scheduling be strictly in favor of the Boomer generation of nurses, special consideration are necessary so that all groups feel comfortable as they work.


Delegation of duties among nurses is a highly debated topic. A career prospect is one of the issues facing the strain in the nursing profession. Delegation could be one of the most efficient ways to achieve this goal. By delegating, a nurse’s commitment and loyalty to the profession is increases, and the possibilities of quitting in search of greener pasture reduce. Notwithstanding the widely divergent views on delegation among various leaders, the practice should be help to retain nurses, especially generation X nurses who give more want assurance about personal career growth.


Leiter, Price & Spence, (2010), have found out that the dominant generation generally feels more comfortable working in the present environment than younger nurses because of the fact that older nurse have adapted to working conditions and the peer teamwork. The major reason for this is the commonality in the values concerning most issues and therefore the sense of belonging is fostered through the abundant support and sharing among the nurses in the institution among the generation members. Therefore, to close in the generational gap, a change in work environment is necessary to give more attention to the younger generation of nurses who need to get experience to teach the future nurses the practical hospital experience.

Possible Solutions

There is urgent need to create and cultivate more supportive and fruitful relationships between the conflicting generation of nurses to ensure that work is effective and the workers coexist in a better working environment. Workplace relationships are of key importance to the effectiveness and the job satisfaction the nurses derive from their jobs (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010).

There are many victims born of the uncivil relationship between nurses of the different generations (Leiter et al., 2010). Not only do the nurses themselves lack psychological support and motivation in the workplace but also the eventual service delivery to the patients suffers in quality as the battered moods translate to the patients.

Leiter, Price & Spence, (2010), recommend the implementation of initiatives to cultivate more empathetic work environments. The management of the hospitals is at the prime and paramount position to make sure that this aim is achievable. The better work relationships that will result from such initiatives will develop the nursing culture that creates a greater sense of belonging in the community of nurses in a certain health care facility, and the work performance will increase, as well as job satisfaction the nurses will derive from their work.

Dialogue should be nurtured among the various nurses in civil forums where each group can raise their concerns and come up with a solution that works for everybody (Leiter, Price & Spence, 2010). Organizational development techniques such as CREW (Civility, Respect, and Engagement in the Workplace) are steps in the right direction, and could achieve results beyond imagination in the creating of more amicable work conditions for nurses of all generations.

Programs should exist to ensure that work relationship among different generations take off on the right footing. The relationship between nurses from the beneficial perspective right from the very beginning of the work relationship is necessary. Some of the ideas floated by the researchers include the introduction of graduate mentorship programs. Such initiatives will project the importance each generation has to play in the work environment and grow the relevance and importance each of the generation sees in the other in the work environment. A sense of belonging and community is possible in an environment where the individual roles of each person are recognized and respected, and the position of each individual accepted and given the regard and understanding, it deserves, especially in the case of the younger nurses who are freshly joining the profession.

Each generation of nurses holds different perspectives on leadership (Geisen, 2010). Conflict with the management is the single most influential factor to the deterioration in workplace relationships and perspectives in the profession to many young nurses. The senior management needs to realize the diversity in opinion each of the individuals in the workforce brings to the table and consider them in their management styles. The draining of nurses from the profession is reducible using this tactic.

According to Wilson et al. (2008), lack of job satisfaction is the one of the major factors forcing nurses to quit the profession anticipating better pay and working conditions in other professionals like the financial sector. Factors that influence job satisfaction include praise and recognition, pay and benefits, satisfaction with scheduling, control, and responsibility. As such, it is of the essence that strategies are in place to ensure nurses and especially the younger nurses who form majority of those abandoning the profession, are working and happy.

Information has improved the efficiency of the health care system (Geisen, 2010). Younger nurses are more receptive and proficient in the use of information technology, which some of the older generation of nurses may have considerable skepticism for. This may cause further conflict among the generations. Embracing the ways of thinking of different generations could go a long way in mending the relationship between generations and help in the retention of nurses in the profession.


One thing is clear from this discussion; the relationship between generations X and baby boomers nurses can only be empowered to greater good of the profession if each generational case is taken into consideration to satisfy every social need. The various needs of all generations of nurses which make them want to quit the profession are easily seen from the extensive research that has been done this far. The ball is now in the policy maker’s court to go ahead and implement the strategies to ensure crises do not occur in future because of nurses abandoning the profession.

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