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Generational Diversity in the Nursing Workforce

Nurses make up the largest portion of the healthcare workforce.  There are currently more than 3 million nurses in the United States’ workforce.  Hospitals in the United States have reported shortages of registered nurses since 1998. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for RNs by 2022.  One million registered nurses are over the age of 50.

New nurses entering the workforce can expect to be working with colleagues ranging from age eighteen up to their seventies.  There are differences in attitudes, values, beliefs, and lifestyles among different generations.

Silent Generation (1925-1944) This generation consists of traditionalists; they are known as the “Lucky Few.”  During their lifetime there were three major wars, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  It’s hard for them to retire.

Baby Boomers (1945-1960) The Baby Boomers were born after WWII and promised the American dream.  They saw dramatic social changes, the birth of the civil rights movement, and the dawn of space travel.  They are known as the “ME generation.”  Enjoy now, pay later.

Gen X (1961 – 1981) This generation experienced Watergate, mothers working at new rates & in new professions; corporate downsizing and job insecurity.

Millennials/Gen Y (1982-1990’s)Millennials are known as confident, connected, and open to change.  They are socially conscious, civic-minded, and expect corporate responsibility.

Gen Z (1997-mid 2000’s) Gen Z is known as the iGeneration (iPhone, iPad) and seem to be always on their cell phone.  This generation is also known as the Homeland generation and is thought to have extremely protective parents, they’ve turned towards the traditional, have focused on social development, with a push for academic achievement.

Facing an impending increase in our nursing shortage, we all must work to successfully integrate the diverse workforce of different generations.  For nurses today, it is important to understand the diverse perspectives, values, and lifestyle expectations of our colleagues.