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'Acknowledge each person for the individual that they are'

Faith Vargas
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Rushing down the ward and I catch a conversation to my side, its two senior nurses talking about a newly qualified nurse.

“These millennials don’t know how to graft” – or something along those lines. I take a moment to inwardly roll my eyes, then tell myself not to get involved.

So often I have heard the phrase ‘millennials’ branded about within the nursing realm, always as if it is a negative word. It got me thinking, what on earth is a millennial and am I one?

A millennial is a word used to describe a certain generation, born roughly between the years 1981 and 1996. So yes, in simple terms I am one, considering I was born in 1992. Yet the word appears to mean so much more than just the year you were born. It suggests an entire foundation for your personality or characteristics.

I have so often witnessed conversations and attitudes towards this young generation of nurses that suggests being a millennial is nothing to be proud of. These attitudes would argue that we are in fact an entitled, selfish and over all less a resilient generation of nurses.

Every downfall, every choice, every mistake made is often blamed on our generational failures and I don’t know about you, but I find this so frustrating.

Young nurses who qualify on a busy ward and struggle to keep up with the fast paced dynamics of the NHS, are referred to as lazy or bone idol. Yet equally, those who manage to thrive and fly up the ranks, are called disloyal and entitled.

The attitude in many nursing environments, particularly those in acute care, seems to be ‘sink or swim’. Yet if you sink it’s because you were born in a generation generally considered less robust and if you swim, you have most probably clawed your way through the ranks by cutting corners.

Not only are these judgements unhelpful and unfair, they are also in most cases untrue. In my opinion, most newly qualifieds neither sink nor swim, but float through the first year of being a nurse, holding onto a life raft and paddling like their life depends on it.

I don’t mean to be biased and if you’re reading this from the point of view of a generation that came prior to millennials, then you’re probably thinking I am. After all not everybody has these preconceptions about young newly registered nurses – and the millennial generation themselves make many judgements of their own.

Often I have heard my peers make comments about senior staff nurses, referring to them as being inflexible, unwilling to change or stuck in the past. 

”Let’s not make it any harder for ourselves by isolating an entire generation”

On reflection, I have to ask myself, why are we all so quick to judge and belittle each other? Would it not be better to acknowledge the skills of those from a generation different to our own? Would it not create a happier and healthier work environment for all of us, if we were to celebrate our differences?

Yes we are facing hard times for the NHS and there are pressures and challenges in the workplace that mean nurses on the ground are pushed to breaking point. Let’s not make it any harder for ourselves by isolating an entire generation.

Those who are members of generation X or baby boomers: why not admit that millennials bring with them new skills and ideas with all the energy and passion of youth. Millennials: why not acknowledge and learn from the abundance of skills and experiences of those who were there before you?

But perhaps most importantly of all, let’s acknowledge each person for the individual that they are, not the generation they were born into.

Faith Vargas is staff nurse in neuro-intensive care

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