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Authors

  1. Watters, Carol

Article Content

Weston, M. J. (2006). Integrating generational perspectives in nursing. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 11(2), Manuscript 1. Retrieved January 31, 2007 from http://www.nursingworld.org/ojin/topic30/tpc30_1.htm.

 

We hear about bullying in our public and private schools. Interestingly, this term is also being associated with nurse-to-nurse behavior, suggesting that it is a major reason why young nurses leave the profession (Hutchinson, 2006). This phenomenon is also referred to as horizontal or lateral violence, something that is not new to the nursing profession, illustrated in the classic behavior of seasoned nurses degrading the performance of inexperienced nurses. Haven't we all heard someone say or even thought of the new graduate in the following manner: "Why didn't they teach you that in nursing school?" As Leiper (2006) asserts, why does such a caring profession sanction such behavior? We all know it has been happening for years.

 

For nurses, a component of bullying behavior may be that four different generations of nurses are now working together in most organizations, with the added tension and misunderstandings of a more diverse intergenerational work group environment. Diversity is most often thought of in terms of race, creed, and color. Diversity should also be considered from the aspect of different generations whose fundamental upbringing, values, perspectives, and strengths can clash with each other if attempts are not made by individuals and the organization to resolve conflicts. The outcome of mutual understanding and strides to facilitate intergenerational cooperation is the retention of nurses, the passing on of the "intuitive" aspects of nursing to less experienced nurses, and the decrease of workplace stress.

 

The author gives an excellent overview of the historical characteristics (hopefully not stereotypes) of each generational cohort. This foundation helps the reader to understand the reasons why nurses born in the Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennial Generations perceive the work world in different ways. She gives good examples of why diversity of the groups can lead to a creative work setting or create misunderstandings. For example, the Generation Xer who grew up as a "latch key kid," left to make decisions on his or her own, might find it hard to understand the Veteran nurse, who follows the strict hierarchical rules of the organization and can't "hang loose." Weston emphasizes that "each generation still operate(s) as if their values and expectations are universal" (p. 7). In other words, assumptions about behavior, perceptions, values, and motivations result in misinterpretations between or among generations.

 

Organizations in which multiple generations work together can be enhanced if each generation will learn from the strengths of the other. No one works in isolation today, but rather in teams that must support the care of the patient. A younger nurse can learn a great deal from a Veteran nurse or a Baby Boomer who is a member of the sandwich generation. The diversity of the group provides an opportunity to examine alternatives to nursing care plans. Weston points out that many Veteran or Boomer nurses are the leaders in the organization. Older nurses are influential when change is needed, as they sit in places of power, often at a distance from the bedside. Encouraging younger nurses to speak assertively about new aspects of patient care promotes a creative learning atmosphere and culture within the organization that can change outmoded ways of approaching problems. Newer nurses will thrive in such a culture, and retention and recruitment efforts will have successful outcomes.

 

REFERENCES

 

Hutchinson, M., Vickers, M., Jackson, D., & Wikles, L. (2006). Workplace bullying in nursing: Towards a more critical organizational perspective. Nursing Inquiry, 13(2), 118-126. [Context Link]

 

Leiper, J. (2005). Nurse against nurse: How to stop horizontal violence. Nursing 2006, 35(3), 44-45. [Context Link]