Celebrate the Next Generation of Nurses—and Position them for Success

When we think about new nursing graduates entering the workforce, many of us who have been in the profession for a while envisioning a group of young, eager, women and men. While that may be true, today’s graduates are so much more and can be characterized by a whole new set of life experiences and influences than previous generations.

What does that mean for today’s nurse leaders and mentors?

For those of us who have been on the frontlines of care for years and have taken a seat at the leadership table, it means learning about new and diverse generations—what motivates them, how they communicate and learn, and what empowers sustainable success. Educating and retaining qualified nurses has never been more important as professional shortages and burnout numbers have reached an unprecedented high, leading to a tipping point across the industry.

While many young women will be joining our profession, the nursing community will also welcome a growing population of men too. In addition, many new nurses may speak different native languages with English as their second language.  Some will be Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) who are technologically savvy and crave feedback and mentoring; others, from what’s known as Generation Z (born 1998) will prefer to learn through visual cues and demonstrations.

Regardless of where the new nurses come from, or what they look or sound like, it’s up to the more experienced members of our profession to make them feel welcomed. They are here for the same reason you are – to provide patients with the best possible care.

Here are some things you can do to help ease this new generation of nurses into the field:

  • Pay attention – Everybody wants to be heard. Let these nurses know you’re listening. If they’re speaking up, it means they really want to help and contribute. And you may just find that they have a lot to offer.
  • Include everyone – No one likes to be left out, so make sure your new nurses know they are a valuable member of the team. If your team plans an after-work engagement, make sure the newer employees are invited.
  • Show them around – Introduce the newest members of the team to as many people as possible – physicians, advanced practice nurses, allied health professionals, managers, etc. The quicker a nurse gets familiar with their new surroundings and colleagues, the quicker they’ll get comfortable and be able to do their best work.
  • Appraise their work – The new generation of nurses thrives on feedback, so don’t be afraid to tell a newbie how they are doing. Offer both praise and constructive criticism as needed, and when improvement is warranted, make sure to deliver the message in private, ending the conversation on a positive and supportive note.
  • Be approachable and available – New nurses might be a bit worried about asking for help. If someone is struggling, offer up some assistance, and then let them know it’s okay to ask questions.
  • Turn mistakes into a teaching opportunity – When something goes awry, examine the cause, actions, process and result of the event. This could help a nurse better cope with the event and possibly avoid a similar situation.
  • Keep an open mind – Every new hire is different. While we often categorize nurses by their generation at first, it’s important to acknowledge that all new hires are individuals with their own styles, strengths and weaknesses. Take the time to get to know them so you can give each one of the new nurses the support they need.
  • Teach them to use SBAR communication – No one forgets how stressful it was the first time they contacted a physician or other healthcare provider. So, make sure new nurses are as prepared as possible and know how to use the situation, background, assessment and recommendation (SBAR) communication technique. Teach new nurses how to gather the information they will need to have an efficient and effective interaction.

Most importantly, always provide new nurses with all the necessary tools to help them succeed in the future of healthcare. Create supportive environments backed by a culture of learning to keep new nurses abreast of rapidly-changing care delivery models. For example, nurses must constantly absorb new information to keep up with the latest evidence in practice while simultaneously honing their critical thinking skills. Nurse leaders can employ forward-thinking techniques such as interactive case studies and virtual simulation supported by a strong preceptor program to improve a new nurse’s ability to apply new knowledge.

Experienced and successful nurses can have a big impact on new nurses by making their new colleagues feel appreciated, respected and cared for. Experienced nurses can and should help the newest members of their profession provide the best care to their patients that optimize outcomes. That will ensure new nurses feel valued and respected and will motivate them to remain practicing within your organization for a long time.