No one wants to go to work short staffed. The healthcare industry has been filled with dire warnings about staff shortages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new nurses have been paying attention. The ongoing nurse shortage is making some recent graduates rethink their career plans.
A recent report from nurse staffing platform Incredible Health shows incoming nurses are mainly concerned about inadequate onboarding processes and being overworked as a result of staffing shortages, said Incredible Health CEO Iman Abuzeid.
Incredible Health analyzed data from recent nursing graduates and 400,000 nurses on its platform. Most of these recent graduates and new nurses were part of Gen Z. Researchers noted that many younger nurses plan on leaving the bedside down the line while others want to pursue specialized degrees.
“Many new graduate nurses have aspirations to move very quickly into specialty areas, such as an emergency medicine program,” she said. “So training programs that emphasize specialized skills tend to be what they prefer, and the ability for nurses to enter those areas sooner rather than later is definitely a preference.”
According to the report, around 80% of nurses entering the field found their training to be overwhelming, rushed, or not as informative as they had hoped. Some Gen Z nurses also lamented the fact that they were not trained by experienced nurses, but rather fellow recent graduates.
The lack of training is a major concern, Abuzeid said. She noted that 41% of new nurses reported that onboarding training was the most important resource their employer can provide.
Staff shortages are forcing hospitals to cut back on training for new hires, leaving nurses without “a formal orientation that’s long enough for a new graduate.”
The report also found that two-thirds of new nurse graduates feel burnt out within their first six months of starting work. Without enough experienced staff to go around, new nurses often feel pressure to take on excessive overtime shifts that can lead to stress and anxiety as well as poor-quality care.
“When you’re overworked as a nurse, you’re more likely to make mistakes, and your patient mortality can go up,” Abuzeid said. “Frankly, that’s very stressful. Nurses care about patient safety, and it tends to decrease in understaffed units.”
Gen Z never knew a life without the internet. They are used to growing up with cellphones and social media, which can impact their expectations for the job.
“When compared to millennials, the input of parents and other mentors is sought after less often by Generation Z,” said Scott S. Christensen, DNP, MBA, APRN, ACNP-BC, clinical operations director at University of Utah Health. “A friend recently explained to me the difference in how his kids communicate. His older child is a millennial and sends him frequent daily text messages. His youngest child is from generation Z and sends occasional text messages, perhaps monthly, which always include a picture.”
That’s because the next generation is more visually oriented.
“While other generations may prefer personal meetings, phone calls or text messages, Generation Z uses visual social media platforms like Instagram to share images, such as memes,” he said.
According to Christensen, gen Z is made up of realists instead of optimists. This youngest generation has been exposed to the hardships of the 2008 recession and the dark side of the internet and social media.
“At the same time, growing up in a world of instantaneous information paved the way for generation Z to become the brightest generation yet. Their future is quite promising,” Christensen said.
He says managers, supervisors, and nursing officers should consider incorporating more visual elements into their training and communication programs. This can include presentations with videos, emails with embedded videos or hyperlinks, and text messages with emojis, Christensen said.
He says facilities and managers should think twice before banning this technology outright at work.
“This generation has never known a world without smartphone technology and social media. Accordingly, they are dependent on this technology,” Christensen said. “This is something to consider for those who might suggest that a nurse leave their phone in their locker, or that a student keep their laptop closed.”
However, gen Z needs to learn how important touch and verbal communication is to older patients, especially Baby Boomers, if they are going to succeed on the job.
“Each generation has its own idiosyncrasies and strengths and no generation is the ‘perfect’ generation,” said Linda S. Edelman, PhD, RN, associate professor at University of Utah College of Nursing. “We can all learn a lot from each other!”