Working With Different Age Groups In Healthcare – Aussie Nurse

Jan 11, 2021 | Aussie Nurse

I recently heard that the average workplace can be represented by up to five different generations, the first being the Silent Generation- people born from 1925 and 1942 to Generation Z- people born in the mid-1990s onwards

 

Each of the generations have lived through very different times and will have a unique perspective about life from their lived experiences, but in the past few years it has become common to hear terms like ‘Boomers’ and ‘Millennial’s’ being used. These terms seem to categorised each of the generations into groups that have assumed characteristics attributed to them.

 

Stigma’s Of Age- 

Some common stigma’s that are particular to age are that “older nurses are resistant to new technologies’’ or for the younger generations- “she’s way too young to be in a senior position”. 

 

Older adults in the digital world may be seen as lagging but in the workplace I see many older nurses who are capable and maybe the digital skills gap is becoming smaller as we do all regularly embrace many different technologies in our own daily lives.

Nurses from younger generations may have their views or ideas taken less seriously as they may be perceived as “too young”, even if they possess the necessary skills needed for their role.

In both of these examples there is a perception of incompetence by “not being up to the job”, these statements can put a barrier up for these who want to seek opportunities in the workplace in respect to their abilities rather focusing just on their age.

Advantages Of Different Generations In The Workplace –

Nurses who have been nursing for many years have been exposed to heaps more experiences in the workplace, the analogy I can think of is older nurses riding a bicycle- they have gone through the process of learning how to ride a bicycle, having fallen off many times and have got back up each time may be with sustaining some scratches or injuries on the way. They have made many mistakes which has exposed them to the process of learning many times.

Experienced nurses are a great resource as they may have been in similar situations before and are able to pass down accumulated years of real life experience- the kind of experiences that is actually hard to find in textbooks and videos.

The younger generations of nurses are not bound by firm traditions, like the well known phrase of ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’. They are well educated, have curiosity and are highly creative, without a doubt technology has given them an advantage of freely accessing a lot of information from the internet, also they are more open to transparency on social and environmental issues. 

Previously supporting roles like mentoring were always thought of as training a younger work colleague by an older work colleague maybe from someone with hierarchy, but that may limit who can actually be a mentor. Supporting and encouraging peers from all ages gives an opportunity to teach and learn from one another by transferring our knowledge across the generations and sharing of the diverse knowledge by being ‘buddies’.

Caring For Different Patient Age Groups –

Having nurses with a mixed range of ages in a workplace helps by reflecting the different patient groups that attend any healthcare setting. A patient who is older may feel more comfortable being cared for by a nurse who mature or a preference of a younger patient may be wanting to be cared for by a nurse who is more relatable to them, basically having a diverse workforce can cater for the different types of patient populations.

Although in healthcare, a person may be perceived differently by their age for example a person who is in their mid-thirties with back pain may be seen as having a temporary and a treatable condition maybe sustained from an accident. 

Whilst someone who is elderly may be perceived as having back pain from ‘wear and tear’ over time, even though they may never have had back pain before and it has been sustained by an accident as well. This perception of the person being elderly may influence how intervention is provided- something simple may be omitting analgesia to an elderly person as this is seen just as the process of ageing rather than the person truly being in pain.

Maybe I am looking at the world from the sight of my own age group which is seen as having the ‘analog childhood and being a digital adult’, even with being in the middle of the generations the world around us from a technological point of view is evolving incredibly fast – the different stages of life, traditional roles and values of age are becoming blurred.

Personally I do like to hear the stories of older nurses as it shows what nursing used to be like and how much it has changed, hearing stories like- chasing the balls of mercury from thermometers when they smashed on the floor, having no slide sheets or minimal manual handling equipment, hearing the strict cleaning rituals and the funny antics nurses used to get up to, is really quite awesome.

 

Conclusion- 

Looking back to the older generations and looking forward to the younger generations, we are maybe too quick to draw conclusions of others and put them in specific categories because of their age. It doesn’t matter which age bracket a person may be from, as everything in their life has led them to where they are now.

Having multi-generational nurses in the workplace allows for creating dynamic professional environments that are rich with experience. maturity and of course with a mix of youthful curiosity and enthusiasm.

(Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash)

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter

– Mark Twain

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