How nurses in a nightclub helped shape the profession's future

Unusual event gathered views of nurses and students born since 1980, and aimed to help different generations to work better together

Delegates at a nursing conference have heard about an engagement event held at a nightclub in the West Midlands, which was attended by about 600 final-year students and newly qualified nurses.

The event aimed to promote a new approach to managing nurses born since 1980, and allowed the nurses and students to talk about what motivated them to join the profession and the working environment they expect if they are to stay. It formed part of an initiative that began when chief nurses in Birmingham raised concerns about high turnover among band 5 nurses.

Kerry Jones, head of clinical workforce at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said participants felt comfortable in the nightclub, where they told the region’s chief nurses that they want clear career frameworks and to know what opportunities are open to them.

Dr Jones told the sixth International Nurse Education Conference in Brisbane, Australia: ‘The nurses said they want great teams to work in, and to be loved and supported. They want developmental feedback.’

The project has spawned generational reference groups across the region, said Dr Jones. ‘We are going to work with each generation to try to understand what the top three or four high-impact actions might be that will keep them working longer in the profession.’

Age and personality profiling undertaken as part of Dr Jones’ work indicated that the shift to all-graduate entry has brought down the average age of those joining the profession, particularly among adult branch nurses.

A high proportion of students and band 5 nurses are therefore from generation Y, which comprises people born between 1980 and 1994.

Dr Jones acknowledged that generalising was dangerous, but said the typical traits of generation Y include a need for regular feedback and positive reinforcement.

Pointing out that people in generation Y were brought up on coursework rather than exams, she said: ‘They have been encouraged to solve problems in groups, so they value teams. And of course they were taught to question absolutely everything.

‘They see the world as their oyster. They don’t see themselves tied to a particular profession necessarily or an employer for life. They are committed to their work and will do a fabulous job, but that does not mean they will do it forever.’

Dr Jones said issues arose when older nurses in managerial and leadership roles struggle to connect with staff from generation Y, which has implications for whether teams can operate effectively.

Typically those in generation X – who were born between 1965 and 1979 – do not need much feedback and get on with their jobs, so they don’t always appreciate that their younger colleagues thrive on continuous praise and recognition, Dr Jones said.

Indeed, they may think that those in generation Y are needy, or are lacking in confidence and competence.

‘This helps explain some of the interplays and dynamics between different generations in the workforce,’ she said.

‘We are not all the same. We want to create an environment that supports people to remain motivated and have a sense of wellbeing and – most importantly – to remain in the workforce for longer. 

‘To do that we need to recognise the unique contribution of each generation, address their motivational needs and encourage mutual respect. Sometimes just knowing and understanding this difference is enough.

'At my hospital it has enabled us to have a conversation and reflect on how the other person might be feeling.’

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