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Different generations of nurses require different approaches to retain their services


Employers must recognise the alternative career needs of different generations of nurses and midwives to improve workplace retention rates, according to a report.

The sociological make-up of many cohorts of newly-qualified registrants means they are not as loyal to organisations as previous generations were, meaning there is more risk they will leave if their needs are not met, it warned.

Those born from 1980 onwards – referred to as “generation Y” – must be assured of the social purpose of their roles as nurses and midwives, be provided with a clear career framework to progress within and given regular feedback, said the report.

“Employers need to consider how they can make their social purpose tangible from day to day”

Mind the Gap report

Flexible working patterns are also needed to balance with their social life, and a stronger emphasis on team working and involvement in decision-making is also more important to this group.

These needs contrast with those of their supervisors, who are from a generation typically more used to lone problem-solving.

The report – called Mind the Gap: Exploring the needs of early career nurses and midwives in the workplace – was published earlier this summer, but has only recently been widely distributed.

It reveals the findings of a project set up by Birmingham and Solihull’s local education and training council (LETC).

The project was sparked by growing concerns from employers about the recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives, in particular the high turnover rate for band 5 registrants in places.

Workshops and research events with local “early career” registrants – defined as those in the transition period from third year of university to the end of preceptorship – confirmed the prevalence of “generation Y” character traits among them.

“For the first time in history four different generations will be working together in the same employment environment”

Mind the Gap report

It found the “strong sense of purpose” among the current cohort of early career nurses to “make a difference” offered employers the greatest opportunity in relation to attracting and retaining these nurses and midwives.

“Employers need to consider how they can make their social purpose tangible from day to day, especially at times when demand, capacity and financial challenges take operational priority.

“Whilst it could be said that all operational activity is implicitly linked to the wider purpose of the NHS, is this clear and explicit enough for our early career professionals?” said the report.

The report also referred to the recent major investigation into nurse education and training, Lord Willis’ Shape of Caring Review, which was commissioned by Health Education England.

It said the review’s recommendations to ensure sustainable access to on-going learning and development for registered nurses were “essential” to supporting and retaining “generation Y” registrants.

“Understanding differing motivational needs across generations offers employers and education providers a real opportunity to… improve recruitment and retention”

Mind the Gap report

However, it was also warned that a new wave of “generation Z” employees with slightly different career expectations was also set to enter the workforce in the future.

This was in addition to two other older aged groups – the “baby boomer” and “generation X” – forming large parts of the existing workforce.

“For the first time in history, four different generations will be working together in the same employment environment,” said the report.

It added: “There are generational differences in values, expectations, perceptions and motivations in the current workforce and these are highly relevant in terms of staff education and engagement.

“Understanding differing motivational needs across these generations offers employers and education providers a real opportunity to better align support to meet individual needs and to improve recruitment and retention.”


Readers' comments (23)

  • I'll read the full report later, but a crucial thing is the appalling way NHS employers treat staff: my trust for several years recently did NOT offer full time, permanent contracts to newly qualified nurses (from the local university who had done their placements within the trust), only bank work or 6 month contracts. Then wondered why people left the area, if not the profession.

    This was also true for OTs and psychologists: we ended up with qualified OTs in instructor posts and qualified clinical psychologists in psychology assistant posts.

    The area lost many of the clinical staff trained there.

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  • From the report:

    "Early career nurses and midwives told us that they have range of needs and expectations in the workplace,
    these include:
    • Clear, structured career development and progression pathways
    • Care and support (personally and professionally) from leaders and teams
    • Team spiritedness – to be accepted, valued and appreciated
    • Feedback, guidance and developmental support
    • Flexibility to achieve work-life balance
    • To be supported and enabled to meet the expectations of the patients and
    public (to have the resources to deliver quality)
    • To be engaged in meaningful work – to make a difference"

    None of that is remotely new: it reflects what I and others wanted when we qualified in the late 1980s and what I have been hearing from students ever since. The difference is that no-one ever asked us about any of this, we were left to get on with it.

    Do I hear the sound of a wheel being re-invented?

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  • The only thing new about this report is that it bolts things like the above quote on to the dubious model of supposed generational differences (I would love to see some decent quality research which supplies proper evidence that this sort of construct has any validity).

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  • I believe a "new approach" is needed to retain any nurses whatsoever, whichever generation they belong to.

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  • I'm worried these findings will be used as a lazy excuse for why nurses of my generation leave the profession, instead of looking to the horrific working conditions and how poorly we are treated

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  • In my experience the young/newly qualified dont last long before they become disillusioned poor pay ,long hours ,endless verbal/physical abuse and continual nit picking by everyone media ,cqc, infection control etc takes its toll really quite quickly. Us oldies are now in a profession we barely recognise we are no longer valued members of society at least thats how it feels, the job I once loved has long since gone and I don't ever see those days returning. I think we all want out and with agency nurses outnumbering regular staff on a daily basis I think it's fairly obvious where the problem lies

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  • I agree with the above comment being another oldie who does not recognise the job any longer and is fed up banging my head against a brick wall every day. No real caring or individuality exists any more hardly any one cares (esp management) about the patients never mind the staff

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  • As another oldie I totally agree..Roll on retirement

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  • Indeed, roll on retirement.

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  • The NHS has recruited from less wealthy countries for generations, although now seem to recruit them fully trained from overseas rather than paying for their training. The NHS/Gov. may seek to do to keep hold of their staff, but ought to think about how other countries similarly feel - what if they were to actively seek to do the same? Conditions, pay, and issues surrounding training (low money, long travel, noisy accommodation, etc) need to be addressed. Don't address them and you lose native-trained nurses and rely on overseas nurses, potentially resulting in difficulties for their home country. If there is a backlash from other countries, you are back where you started - you try to keep your nurses, and they do the same. Then what?

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