After qualifying as a nurse at the age of 22 I worked as a band 5 nurse in A&E for one year. That was enough for me.
I was unengaged, felt underappreciated and unlike my older, newly-qualified colleagues I was spoken to as if I was an incompetent child. I couldn’t continue in a difficult, disconnected staff culture. I needed to feel motivated and soon left to work for a nursing agency as a manager.
Despite my inexperience in business, the directors recognised my talent. With my help, the agency grew by 80% after my first six months. I finally felt valued, empowered and that I was making an impact in nursing - which is all a part of being generation Y and finding that intuitive purpose in work that we look for.
After 18 successful months at the agency I decided to move on. I wanted to make a difference back in the NHS. I couldn’t get a job though, my interviewers, mainly older nurses, had been blown away by my highly accomplished application yet I was being told I just hadn’t got enough experience for the role. I began to wonder if it was because of my age.
I have observed this obvious age gap throughout my NHS career. At work yesterday there were seven qualified practitioners; I was the only under the age of 35. I observe this on a daily basis in nursing, but in corporate services it was different. I was getting jobs. I was moving along. So why is it that nursing is so different?
You probably think that a fresh-faced nurse does not deserve a band 6 as recrutiment is based on experience rather than competence. However, I think nursing managers would be foolish to ignore the potential that young talents with originality, such as me, have.
If you want prize innovation, cost-effective services and the best patient care then you simply can’t afford to eliminate the value that generation Y has to offer the nursing profession. It’s no accident that private and creative companies are adopting flatter organisational models that encourage engagement, collaboration and creativity. I’m not suggesting that senior managers don’t see the benefit of engagement with floor staff, but a flatter style of management, going to the gemba and investment and engagement with my generation would be highly valuable to the NHS.
Many NHS organisations cut posts, train staff and give them tools, thinking it’s going to radically improve services. Yet, most workplaces I go to just simply aren’t thinking lean enough on a service level. Whilst we celebrate 10 years of productive models, I look around to still see boxes packed high, wasteful paperwork and duplication. If managers stop and think about each process and implement real change then time-to-care would be up, waste would be down and less staff would be needed.
However, management led by the older, more ‘experienced’ individuals simply hasn’t equated to making the real changes that NHS organisations need. Me and other like-minded people from my generation aren’t the first to recognise this, but we are so much more exasperated about it and are ready to make the true interventions that are needed to make real cost-effective, efficient and happier services. So why aren’t we given those chances?
If there’s one generational difference that makes Gen Y extremely valuable to healthcare services it’s our comfort with and confidence in technology. We’re the best equipped to adapt to technological change. This is a huge asset to the NHS at a time when we are going through constant software and technological shifts.
Managing change requires optimism, confidence, and practicality - all qualities that generation Y has - to keep pace with a rapidly evolving NHS. If you want cost-effective services that put patients and staff at the heart of everything then you must invest and employ more young nurses like me that want to change our services for the better.
Alice Olivia Green is a qualified nurse