The mix of ages within the nursing workforce can increase high stress levels and harm patient care in the process, German researchers claim.
They have called on nursing directors to ensure conflict between age groups is kept to a minimum and that nurses appreciate the values of each other’s age groups.
The researchers, from the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, based their conclusions on a survey of 138 hospital nurses.
German nurses are required to pass an official state exam in nursing to qualify, following a three year course, which may or may not be to degree level.
The researchers said their findings suggested a more diverse age group could lead to a “clash of values” due to different styles of training received, technology competency and varying communication patterns.
This could in turn lead to increased stress, work-life imbalance and a withdrawal from commitment.
“While age diversity can lead to increased creativity and a greater richness of values and skills, it can also lead to value clashes, disrespect of each other’s viewpoints, and increased conflict,” they stated in the journal Nursing and Health Sciences.
Study author Zhike Lei said: “In the nursing profession there exists the highest stress levels of almost any profession and there is also considerable task ambiguity.
“The handover of patients from nurse to nurse is a vital moment in a patient’s care. However when the younger nurses refuse to take older nurses seriously, and older nurses refuse to listen to junior nurses, the patient is the one who suffers.”
Professor Lei called on managers to devote adequate time to developing trust between their nurses.
She said: “Nursing directors and head physicians must make significant time to ensure nurses are aware of the benefits of each other’s respective age groups, and impose a realisation that age diversity is positive, as it gives a broader perspective and offers a better representation of patient groups.”
She added: “Age diversity issues are a general phenomenon. It is a human issue rather than an industry specific one and as a result is something managers must look at closely.”