Bridging the Gap Between Millennial Nurses and Boomers

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Millennials and boomers; they’re different, right? Right. However, different isn’t always a bad thing! Especially in nursing where we can use our differences to better treat our patients.

Let me explain.

Almost every time I get together with a group of nurses on a unit to talk about incivility, the topic of generational differences comes up. The boomers complain about the entitled attitudes of the newer, younger nurses and the millennials complain about the “crusty”, cranky older nurses.

Typically, this is what I hear:

From the boomers: The young nurses don’t respect them. They think they’re entitled, think they know everything (and they DON’T), haven’t paid their dues yet, act like they deserve special treatment, etc.

From the millennials:  The older nurses are mean. They won’t help, won’t share, get extremely defensive when questioned, and are threatened by new nurses, especially if he/she knows something they don’t.


Currently, the majority of the nursing workforce are either boomers (48%) or Gen X’ers (37%). Although the millennials only represent 18%, they are our fastest growing population of nurses. One of the reasons is that now that the economy has stabilized (well…maybe), boomers are now able to retire.

It’s predicated that the majority of the nursing workforce will be comprised of millennials by 2025.

This isn’t something you change – you adapt.


The key to embracing a multi-generational nursing workforce is to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. Although we’ve all read articles and probably attended a lecture or two on generational differences, we need to go a bit deeper into the mind of our boomers and millennials.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The key to embracing a multi-generational nursing workforce is to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. “]

What boomers really want from the millennial nurses:

Older nurses want the younger nurses to show them some respect and to recognize that being a great nurse requires more than just a degree. Being a great nurse requires experience too.

If you’re a millennial, try this:

“You’ve been a nurse for a long time. I’m sure you could teach me a lot of things that they don’t teach you in school. Will you help me?”

What millennials really want from the boomer nurses:

New nurses don’t want to be treated like children. They want older nurses to consider them allies who are capable and competent. They want to be treated as equals.

If you’re a boomer, try this:

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in school and although I continue to read and learn, I bet you know a lot of the latest evidence regarding patient care. If you ever see anything here that you think we should be doing differently and have the evidence to support it, please share it with us!”

We need to embrace the scientific mind of the millennial while at the same time, honoring the wisdom and maturity of the boomer. Why not tap into each other’s strengths and stop picking on each other?


I was on an airplane flying from Pittsburgh (my home town) to Denver. A young girl sat next to me and we started chatting. I told her I was a nurse and her eyes lit up! She shared that she was in nursing school and couldn’t wait to graduate and start working as a nurse. We had a wonderful conversation about what an honor it is to be a nurse. Towards the end of the flight, she asked me a question. She asked me if I could give her one piece of advice to become a successful nurse, what would it be.  I said, “Seek out the wisdom and advice from an experienced nurse who doesn’t want to EAT you. We are out there. Find us and allow us to guide you.”

I’m happy to say that her and other young nurses whom I’ve met give me hope for the future of nursing.

Whether new, old, or somewhere in between, we are all on the same team and need each other to effectively care for today’s and tomorrow’s patients!

Thanks so much for reading.

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected!

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website

Contact Renee today at to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

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