National survey shows millennial nurses rewriting the rules

At 56 million strong, Millennials have outpaced their older counterparts as the largest generation in the American labor force.

Now constituting 35% of U.S. workers, Millennials (age 19-36) are a sizeable and still-growing force bringing fresh perspectives on career and workplace environment – including to all healthcare organizations.

In the 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, conducted by AMN Healthcare, the leader and innovator in healthcare workforce solutions and staffing services, the opinions of Millennial RNs differed from Generation X (age 37-53) and Baby Boomer (age 54-71) nurses in many significant ways.

New Expectations

AMN conducts the national RN survey biennially to provide the healthcare industry with up-to-date information directly from one of its largest and most influential workforce sectors. The survey was completed last year by 3,347 RNs.

Data on Millennials were broken out to help examine the particular views of the younger generation of nurses.

Generally speaking, Millennials are continually looking to better themselves through education or job changes and are more trusting of leadership than older nurses. They also worry more about their job affecting their health and have many expectations about what constitutes a good working environment – and how that can positively affect patient care. Among these expectations are the need for professional development opportunities, transparent quality measures, a positive culture and a skill mix of nurses on the unit.

With unprecedented nursing shortages continuing around the country, the opinions and desires of Millennial nurses represent a critically important segment of the current and future nursing workforce.

Upwardly Mobile, Not Afraid of Change

Millennials are more likely than their older RN counterparts to consider seeking new employment. This trend is in keeping with U.S. Bureau of Labor findings showing that Millennials are more apt to jump ship than older workers.

According to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics news release, median employee tenure was generally higher among older workers than younger ones. For example, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.1 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (2.8 years).

When RN Millennials were asked in the survey how the improving economy might affect their career plans, about 17% said they would seek a new place of employment as a nurse. This compared to 15% of Gen Xers and 10% of Baby Boomer RNs who said they would consider changing jobs.

According to the survey, a higher percentage of Millennials plan to pursue travel nursing jobs than either Gen X or Baby Boomer RNs. Among Millennials asked about how the improving economy might affect their career plans, 10% said they would go into travel nursing, while 6% of Gen X RNs and about 5 % of Baby Boomers expressed this sentiment. This greater willingness to consider travel nursing could again reflect Millennial nurses’ openness to change and strong desire for career betterment.

This focus on advancement may also be the reason that more Millennials desire to become nurse practitioners than older nurses.

In the survey, more than one fourth of Millennials (28%) said they want to pursue advanced education as a nurse practitioner in the next three years. This compared to 19% of Gen Xers and 4% of Baby Boomers. With future job growth particularly strong for nurse practitioners, it’s no surprise that this career path would hold special interest for Millennials.

The survey also found that Millennial nurses had a significant interest in pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They were joined by Gen Xers in their enthusiasm for bachelor’s degrees and showed even higher interest in master’s degrees.

When asked whether they plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the next three years, 22% of Gen Xers responded affirmatively, followed closely by Millennials at 21%, and Baby Boomers at 9%.

But, when asked whether they plan to pursue a master’s degree in nursing in the next three years, about 39% of Millennials responded positively as compared to 27% of Gen Xers and 8% of Baby Boomers.

The numbers indicate that a high proportion of Millennial nurses see the pursuit of a master’s degree, a positive sign for the future of a highly educated nursing workforce in the future.

More Interest in Leadership Opportunities

RNs, in general, expressed little interest in pursuing leadership roles, despite showing overwhelming support for having more nurses in leadership positions. The exception to this was Millennials.

Millennial nurses were significantly more interested in moving into leadership positions, with more than one third (36%) expressing interest. This compared to about one-fourth of Gen Xers and only 10% of Baby Boomers. However, Baby Boomer nurses had a much higher percentage of RNs already in leadership positions compared to their younger counterparts.

By Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, Chief Clinical Officer, AMN Healthcare

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