Conflict between baby boomers & Gen X'rs?

  1. In the current issue (January, 2002) of the AJN there is an editorial about "Generational Tensions Among Nurses." The authors (Dr. Santos and Ms. Cox) briefly report their study which looked at the differences in work ethos between the two generations of nurses.

    They state, "We discovered that boomers are both physically and psychologically exhausted. Many have been nurses for years and, frankly, they're tired. Yet they find it unconscionable to leave the unit inadequately unstaffed when they are asked to work on a day off. They wonder why they come in time and again, when their younger coworkers don't seem to have this conflict."

    "Boomers are so emotionally drained by the torrent of new nurses coming and going that they are barely able to establish a connection witht them. They realize this instability has made them resistant to nurturing these new recruits in the effort to imporve an environment that is in desparate need of such support."

    Regarding Gen-Xers they say, "And generation-X nurses are not unaware of this. Their attitude is that if an organization cannot support them with up-to-date equipment or can't maintain an adequate staff, they ought to think about moving on. A chronically understaffed unit conveys a strong message from the organization's leadership: young nurses are identical cogs in a gear. This personal sense of devaluation is poisonous to a workforce that must remain strong. Generation-Xers feel that if boomers would create an environment supportive of all, there might be fewer recruitment and retention problems."

    They call for understanding from both generations of the view points of each other.

    Well, I guess I am a tail end boomer who has had feelings ascribed to both camps AND it is notable that the nurse authors are department heads in research and a VP of patient care services, so the study does not (in this brief, editorial report) seem to address AT ALL the role of hospital administrators, lawyers, and insurances that sub-reimburse hospitals in this messy soup. (Is there an element of, "Let's watch you two fight! here?)

    But, if you can get your hands on this thought provoking editorial, read it in it's entirety and feel free to comment here. Might also be interesting to post at work.
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  2. 24 Comments

  3. by   Peeps Mcarthur
    Molly,
    I'm a "boomer" (1961) and the way the two supposed attitudes are described I have always been firmly on the gen X side. Not that I was brought up that way. My father was an airforce officer and I never lacked for an authority figure. Ironicly I learned to think for myself in the Navy as a tool for survival. Always leery of the motivations of anyone in a position above me and never giving respect if not respected no matter what the title.
    For instance, staffing is clearly a management problem. The first job of a manager is to make employees feel valued so that they"ll in turn value dedication to the job as equaling dedication to themselves.
    The author(s) of this drivel are pointing out attitudes that they actualy cultivated from thier own greed. They just need to fine tune it to now screw with a new generation of individuals that were taught to respect themselves before they would blindly follow authority.
    It would be very interesting to know how they plan to get around a whole generation. I think the winds of change are gently starting to freshen the air.
    Brad
  4. by   WashYaHands
    I'm a boomer too (1962). I think generation X begins in 1963 (not sure), guess that makes me an end stage baby boomer. I consider myself loyal to my employer but not to the point where I sacrifice the well being of my children and myself. I've learned that saying "no" isn't always a bad thing.
    A quote from the article referring to boomers: "they find it unconscionable to leave the unit inadequately staffed when they are asked to work on a day off" If this were true, we'd never leave the unit.
    We have enough divisions in nursing, we don't need to add generational divisions as well. I'm not buying into it, and I don't blame any nurse (young or old) for standing up for themselves and refusing to work themselves to the point of physical and psychological exhaustion.

    Linda
  5. by   Q.
    I have no idea where Gen X starts (I thought it was the baby-boomer's children - I am 29 years old born in 1973) but I have learned NOT to rely on my employer to provide me with pensions, etc that Boomer's in the past have relied on and been disappointed with. I also learned and have the ideal that I am not loyal to any organization because they are not reliable. I provide for myself and my family and plan for my OWN future and retirement; I don't rely on the organization to provide it for me by putting in 30+ years.

    Perhaps this is what the Gen X'ers are referring to. I don't know.
  6. by   P_RN
    There are 76 million Baby-Boomers in the age range born between 1946 and 1964.
    http://www.boomersusa.org/profile.htm

    So I'm a PRE-boomer? I was born in '44.

    I hadn't seen the AJN article but I think it's pretty much what I see. I thought that we were unique in that we had a 'core' of oldies (40-55) that had been there forever, and then a gap down to the 20-25's who stayed long enough to get their recruitment bonus then went back to their home state. Ohio did that to us a lot.

    What the article said in that the Gen-X ers would look for is just what we heard. Guess we weren't unique after all.
  7. by   kids
    Originally posted by MollyJ
    ...They state, "We discovered that boomers are both physically and psychologically exhausted. Many have been nurses for years and, frankly, they're tired. Yet they find it unconscionable to leave the unit inadequately unstaffed when they are asked to work on a day off. They wonder why they come in time and again, when their younger coworkers don't seem to have this conflict."
    My Mom is 73 and has been an RN since 1970, she was a Nurses Aide for 15 years before that. Her entire career has be spent working in SNF working on the Skilled 'side' of things. Most frequently in sub-acute care. She has enthusiasticly embraced every new technology that has come along, she was one of the first Nurses in the State to be certified in PICC placement outside the hospital, she (long ago) received the training to do simple wound suturing.

    I have worked at the facility she is at, it is one of the very few I would consider working at again. They have a good pay scale that rewards seniority and skill level, good benefits, education oppertunities and reimbursement and more importantly an understanding admin, excellent patient care and safe staffing ratios.

    She is in somewhat marginal health with steroid dependant asthma and severe arthritis in her hips and back. Her doctor just shakes his head and says to tell him when she's done. She has a perminate disabled parking permit. Mom has been admitted to the hospital 4 times in the last 2 years-3 with pnuemonia (intubated once) and necrotizing faculitis (septic) once. Twice I picked her up from work and took her to the ER. She carries her nebulizer with her every where she goes. And I do mean carry- she doesn't drive so she walks the mile to and from work if the bus schedule doesn't mesh with her schedule.

    WHY does she still work 50-60 hours per week???

    Because she wont let a unit go unstaffed until she is so sick she can't work. She has been at this facility for 10 years, she loves her coworkers (for the most part) and her patients. 60% of the Nurses that work at this facility are under 35 and have been licensed less than 5 years. For the majority they are on their 4th or 5th SNF job, they go where there is a sign on bonus, work out the required time and move on to the next sign on bonus. . They walk in the door demanding M-F days, when they are convinced to agree to every other weekend or a different shift they feel put upon. Heaven forbid you should ask them to trade a shift or day or to work a 12 to cover a call off or call them on their day off. Their response is often "call agency"...heres a news flash...I work for one of the agencies that are called for Nurses and there aren't any left.

    I have worked huge portions of my career along side my Mom, I know how she is. Mom puts a huge amount of time and effort into nurturing newly hired Nurses, she truely sees them as a blessing. Lately her biggest complaint is that so many of them punch out at the end of their shift and go home...leaving things like charting undone. Guess who has to do it for them? You got it, my Mom the charge Nurse, who by the way made all of their Dr. and pharmacy calls, I.V.s, the majority of their treatments, supervised the ancillary staff, negotiated with rehab, covered their lunches and breaks (you can bet they got them) AND worked a (smaller) group.

    Because of her work effort and dedication my Mom is working herself into the grave. While there is a huge degree of personal responsability for it I, myself hold the "new" Nurses with s****y work habits responsable.
  8. by   Q.
    Kids,
    Great post..but I beg to differ. Working overtime and dedicating yourself selflessly to your company is a personal choice. I think perhaps the younger nurses are smarter in that they realize working overtime or on days off will NOT solve the nursing crisis any sooner - so why risk THEIR health or THEIR life for a profession, or, better yet, an organization that doesn't give a rip about them?

    Companies have changed in that, years ago, pensions were promised if you put in your time. Nowadays, very few organizations offer this, or ANY reward for retention. Therefore, people in MY generation don't feel any loyality or alliance towards that company. They move around for better hours, better pay. As someone put it, we work to live. And that is my mentality.

    I feel bad for your mom in that she works her butt off on a unit because she doesn't want it to go understaffed. But again, I feel she doesn't have to make this choice and instead can choose to take care of herself. My god, NO JOB is more important than one's own life or happiness.

    I remember my husband's grandfather talking about how, in his day, people were happy if they HAD a job - whereas now, people move from job to job. Times are different and we don't have it rough as our grandparents did. We have NO idea what rough is. If times changed like that I'm sure my mentality will change as well - but until then, my personal life comes first and no unit or no company will make me put them first under any circumstance.
  9. by   -jt
    <They move around for better hours, better pay.>

    I think thats part of the problem. If they stayed for a while & demanded what they are worth, they would be able to raise the standard for all instead of getting piece-meal whatever an employer wants to give & never getting any of the problems solved. Boomer nurses did not "just accept" things. Xer nurses have the profession they have because of the fight the boomer nurses fought - if we didnt, nurses would still be mopping floors and wouldnt have a lot of the things they have now. Thats why new nurses today dont have it so rough. It didnt happen by itself. It happened by nurses demanding it & making it happen. If some hospitals do not offer pensions, and nurses just hop from job to job looking for one that does, they still arent going to offer pensions. Why not stay, demand pensions - and everything else you deserve - and make it happen? Times are not going to change until somebody makes them change. Boomers have been making change happen for 30 yrs now. It would be nice if Xers took up where we left off - instead of just running from job to job fixing nothing in the process. After a while you run out of places to run to. At some point you have to stand your ground and say NO MORE!



    Ok thats it for my comments. Im writing a rebuttal Viewpoint for AJN - have to save my thoughts for that.
    Last edit by -jt on Jan 12, '02
  10. by   -jt
    <feel free to comment here. >

    also may send a copy to the editor of AJN at dmason@Lww.com

    She will be printing them in the magazine & also sending them to the authors. Im sure they are going to get an avalanche.
    Last edit by -jt on Jan 12, '02
  11. by   MollyJ
    Originally posted by -jt
    .....Boomer nurses did not "just accept" things. Xer nurses have the profession they have because of the fight the boomer nurses fought - if we didnt, nurses would still be mopping floors and wouldnt have a lot of the things they have now
    I agree that boomers aren't quite the limp, dishrag, handmaidens portrayed by the quote excerpt and I am giving the authors the benefit a little bit; they only had a page of copy to discuss their research.

    I guess I am reminded of a conversation I had with a pretty old nurse who was within years of retiring when I started my career and she made some tart remark about not feeling like we younger nurses (Class of '78) were much like the nurses of her generation. She clearly didn't intend her comment as a compliment. We are different but the same.

    I appreciate the postings. I am still thinking a lot about this complex article.
  12. by   fergus51
    Originally posted by -jt
    <They move around for better hours, better pay.>

    I think thats part of the problem. If they stayed for a while & demanded what they are worth, they would be able to raise the standard for all instead of getting piece-meal whatever an employer wants to give & never getting any of the problems solved. Boomer nurses did not "just accept" things. Xer nurses have the profession they have because of the fight the boomer nurses fought - if we didnt, nurses would still be mopping floors and wouldnt have a lot of the things they have now. Thats why new nurses today dont have it so rough. It didnt happen by itself. It happened by nurses demanding it & making it happen. If some hospitals do not offer pensions, and nurses just hop from job to job looking for one that does, they still arent going to offer pensions. Why not stay, demand pensions - and everything else you deserve - and make it happen? Times are not going to change until somebody makes them change. Boomers have been making change happen for 30 yrs now. It would be nice if Xers took up where we left off - instead of just running from job to job fixing nothing in the process. After a while you run out of places to run to. At some point you have to stand your ground and say NO MORE!



    Ok thats it for my comments. Im writing a rebuttal Viewpoint for AJN - have to save my thoughts for that.
    I agree with you about the boomers fighting, but I think voting with my feet along with other nurses (boomers and genXXers alike) will force standards to be raised. I sometimes think the only way things are ever going to get better here is if people realize that nurses are leaving for greener pastures all the time. And I have to say GenXers are involved in demanding change as well. I didn't just sit on my butt during the last contract negotiations listening to MTV or something .
  13. by   -jt
    <I have to say GenXers are involved in demanding change as well. I didn't just sit on my butt during the last contract>


    Thats one of the things I didnt like about this article. It makes the new nurses sound as though they dont care about any of that & just flit from job to job. Its not a fair portrayal. Another thing, the way these authors sound, we should all be quiet about whats going on our facilities - dont let anyone hear about the realities - dont inform the public because that will turn students off to nursing. I cant even believe they actually said that if we didnt talk about it, there would be more recruits coming in. So we should keep it our dirty little secret & lead the lambs to the slaughter? Maybe if the employers did what they have to do, there would be more recruits coming in, no?
  14. by   fergus51
    I agree one hundred percent jt! It makes the boomers sound like a bunch of has beens and the genXers like a group with the attention span of a gnat. And I HATE the idea that we should lure new recruits in by painting an unrealistic portrait of the nursing profession. How long do people think they'll stay if we do that?

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