A recent survey from the American Nurses Foundation and Joslin Insight shows what nurses want from their hospitals. The survey focused on millennial and gen Z nurses, born between 1981 and 2012. Several nurses that participated in the survey spoke about what’s working and what’s not at their hospitals. Their responses show nurses have four specific demands for their employers: more work-life balance, higher pay, better training and emotional support, and improved working conditions.
Training and Support
Lindsey Klinges, 23, is a registered nurse at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA. She missed out on key learning experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she believes she works with a good team of nurses.
“I think we work really good as a team. Regardless if we have new travelers or new nurses,” Klinges said. “We really help out our neighbors and try to make the care as best we can for our patients.”
She said some of the older nurses need help using the latest technology.
“When I was in the [intensive care unit] the other day, we looked at beds that are technology run,” she explained. “Older nurses didn’t know how to use them. We were going back and forth about what worked for us, what didn’t work for us.”
Rachel Cameron, a 29-year-old surgical intensive care unit nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, describes the current situation as stressful.
“Right now, patients are sicker than ever, and that’s something that has been trending more in the last 10, 20 years. Patients who decades ago would have been dying are now living in the ICU, and patients who are on the regular floors in the hospitals would have been ICU patients,” Cameron said.
The change is forcing nurses to work harder because the patients need more help and care.
“So, there’s a general uptrend of acuity in hospitals, compounded by the fact the population is aging, people are living longer with more comorbidities,” she said.
Cameron says the number of nurses leaving the field due to burnout and stress has only made the situation worse. But the decision to quit often comes down to the person’s age and what year they were born.
Studies show previous generations of nurses were more likely to stay with one health system for the majority of their career compared to younger nurses. But Gen Z and millennial nurses are “being a little bit more savvy about their money” and have no issue jumping to a new employer that better suits their needs, according to a 25-year-old ICU nurse at a large nonprofit health system in the Midwest who wished to remain anonymous.
“I come from a long line of nurses, and my mother, my grandmother, they are all career people that have stayed with one hospital group for the majority of their career,” the nurse said. “Whereas a lot of nurses who have come up more recently are less likely to do that because they’re essentially going to chase the benefits and work-life balance.”
Many younger nurses listed work-life balance as one of their main priorities when finding a job.
“Gen Z/millennial nurses need more flexible working options,” said Shantelle Cruz, a nurse at Broward Health North in Broward County, FL.
“We are looking to be able to choose our own schedules and which hospitals we work for. Having multiple options for how we want to work is so helpful. Being able to go the traditional route of taking on a full-time role at one hospital or picking up shifts at multiple facilities to work around other commitments we might have, such as childcare or other responsibilities,” Cruz added.
Cameron also spoke about what it is like for nurses at home. Many providers continue to face difficulties when they leave work, which doesn’t give them any time to destress.
“When you’re constantly stressed at work and also stressed at home because of financial difficulties, it’s going to lead to earlier burnout among people in my generation,” she said. “The key to that is you have to alleviate the personal stressors, i.e., increase wages, or you have to relieve the professional stressors, meaning more staffing, more ancillary staff to help.”
Nurses are not immune to record high inflation. The average wage for nurses has not increased, and many providers are having trouble making ends meet.
“My rent is $2,000 a month before bills. I am barely making enough money to pay for my rent, bills, student loans, and insurance,” said Gabrielle Angeline, 25, former cardiac nurse at AdventHealth. Programs like Hero Loans discount rates are available.
“I have been told by many older nurses that organizations have cut hourly pay and differential severely since the pandemic when hiring new grads. Young nurses have to consider travel nursing in order to make ends meet or build up savings. The cost of everything is expensive right now, and cutting hourly pay is not going to help Gen Z nurses afford to live, contribute to the economy, or simply succeed.”
Improved Working Conditions
Many nurses also said their working conditions have deteriorated over the last couple years.
“What do I need to feel safe, happy, and fulfilled? I need the working conditions for my profession to improve,” said Jennifer Gil, MSN, RN, director-at-large of the American Nurses Association’s board of directors.
“A simple but complicated request for all stakeholders. Change must come in all forms. Employers need to get creative and transform outdated staffing models that no longer work. A true financial investment needs to be made in order to achieve this. Congress needs to look beyond nursing wage caps and in turn, look at innovative legislation that values nurses and involves them throughout the process. Funding for nursing education and training needs to be increased. The solutions are there. Nurses know what they need. We just need people to listen and act.”