Millennials and Nursing Leadership

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Millennial nurses focus on providing quality care and making a difference in the world.

Millennials in nursing are ambitious, highly educated, tech-savvy, and interested in moving into leadership roles. At the same time, current nurse leaders, who are coping with nursing shortages, want to help millennials move up, which often means encouraging more education as well as reaching across generational divides with understanding.

Millennials are now 29% of the U.S. nursing workforce, according to the 2019 Survey of Registered Nurses, conducted by AMN Healthcare. At ages 23 to 38, they have ample opportunities to lead in their field.

To advance, nurses embrace educational programs. The 2019 AMN Healthcare survey finds that 18% of nurses say they are currently enrolled in a program to advance their nursing careers. Of those who are enrolled, 25% are millennials, 21% Generation X, and 7% boomers, which is the generation closest to retirement and likely to already have a leadership position. Of those who planned to enroll in a program in the next three years, 34% are millennials, 22% Gen X, and 4% boomers.

In addition, the survey shows that 12% of millennial nurses were currently enrolled in an advanced practice program, and 39% of millennial nurses planned to enroll in one.

Advanced education is a priority to increase quality of care, and the millennial generation plans to step up and prepare with training. According to the Survey of Millennial Nurses, which highlights data from the 2017 AMN Healthcare survey, 39% said they would seek a master’s degree in the next three years and 11% said they would begin a Ph.D. in that time.

Educational options such as Ohio University’s online MSN program offers education that can prepare nurses to find success in variety of leadership roles.

Millennial Nurse Leaders Embrace Positive Relationships

The millennial generation represents a significant change in the workplace, according to many in the nursing field. They want to work in an environment where patients receive quality care and nurses can count on professional development opportunities and supportive leadership, according to the Survey of Millennial Nurses.

In the same survey, 36% of millennial nurses say they are considering a move into leadership, compared to 27% of Gen-Xers and 8% of boomers.

While millennials face several negative stereotypes, such as a reputation for job-hopping, the Survey of Millennial Nurses revealed many positives about their generation. For instance:

  • More millennials tend to trust the clinical leader (61%) than do Gen-Xers (49%) and boomers (47%).
  • Overall, they had more positive opinions about their leaders than previous generations, including whether their leaders cared about them and their career development.
  • More millennials (74%) say that using electronic medical records improves their job satisfaction than do Gen-Xers (57%) and boomers (49%).

Millennial Traits in a Changing Healthcare Landscape

As boomers near retirement, healthcare managers look toward ways to accommodate the changes that millennials are bringing to the workplace. The incoming generation focuses on providing quality of care and making a difference in the world. They also value quality, authenticity, and transparency, according to a Deloitte study, and don’t always see making money as their ultimate goal, according to Healthcare Source.

A change in Medicare reimbursements that offers more to organizations that emphasize quality care aligns neatly with millennials’ focus on meaning in their careers. Other ways they are expected to have an impact on nursing include:

  • Technology: Millennials who have learned to track all aspects of their lives, as with a FitBit, also seek frequent feedback at work. When they become leaders, they may be inclined to give feedback in this manner as well, according to Forbes.
  • Recognition: Millennial nurses are likely to value formal and informal employee recognition programs, according to Healthcare Source.
  • Coaching: Millennials are particularly interested in career coaching that will help them move into leadership roles. Pairing millennials with more senior staff is often productive, and sometimes millennials can reverse the relationship and help an older nurse use technology more effectively, a technique called bi-directional coaching.
  • Individuality: While millennial nurses may share many values with each other — such as optimism, the desire for feedback, and openness to coaching — supervisors should remember that everyone is an individual, not simply a representative of their generation.

Nurse leaders should take the time to get to know each staff member, according to Nursing 2020. Individual priorities vary, and getting to know individuals will help leaders avoid the trap of thinking that everyone in a given generation thinks the same or has the same priorities. “Millennials are the future of nursing, and we can learn from each other how best to parlay their skill set into leadership roles,” Nursing 2020 notes.

Advantages of Advanced Degrees for Nurses

The 21st century has seen an upswing in the level of education nurses achieve, with bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and Ph.D.s becoming more common. Millennial nurses are actively pursuing education, and their preparation will help meet rising demands.

“As the Medicare population increases, so too will the demand for RNs,” according to researchers writing in “Four Challenges Facing the Nursing Workforce in the United States.”

With a foundation in the latest techniques and theories, millennial nurse leaders will influence the evolving healthcare delivery system. The millennial generation’s emphasis on quality, authenticity, and transparency pairs well with advanced education and training to deliver high-quality care.

Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program

The online MSN program at Ohio University is designed for practicing RNs who want to advance their expertise in the nursing field. Students in the Family Nurse Practitioner concentration take courses such as Primary Care of Adults and Primary Care Practice.

For more information about the online MSN degree program, MSN degree benefits, and additional concentrations for MSN nursing careers, visit Ohio University’s website.

Recommended Reading

 Shaping the Future of Health Care: The Role of the Nurse Leader

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

BSN vs. MSN: The Benefits of a Post Graduate Nursing Education


 Survey of Registered Nurses: A Challenging Decade Ahead AMN Healthcare

Survey of Millennial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession: AMN Healthcare

What Millennials Have that Everyone Else is Ignoring Forbes

Managing the Millennial Mindset in Healthcare: Healthcare Source

Four Challenges Facing the Nursing Workforce in the United States: Journal of Nursing Regulation

Mentoring Millennials for Nursing Leadership Nursing 2020