AMN Survey: Millennial Nurses Bring Higher Expectations to the Work Environment

Survey of Millennial Nurses

Across the country, much has been written about how Millennials (ages 19-36) are changing the national landscape in many ways. This generational imprint is conspicuous in the healthcare industry, where a new report by AMN Healthcare, Survey of Millennial Nurses: A Dynamic Influence on the Profession, reveals that Millennial nurses bring distinct ideas about what constitutes a good working environment and how that affects patient care.

The new report provides Millennial nurse opinions based on data gathered in the AMN 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses, completed by 3,347 RNs. The Millennial nurse responses are extracted and compared to those from Generation X, or Gen Xers, (ages 37-53) and Baby Boomer nurses (ages 54-71). The results offer new insights about Millennial nurse expectations for the work environment, which could prove valuable to healthcare leaders as they face shortage-driven problems related to nurse hiring, retention, morale, and overtime pay.

The following are some highlights:

Upwardly Mobile and Not Afraid of Change

While workers from past eras saw the length of job tenure as an important asset, Millennial employees will more readily change positions than their older peers in order to get ahead. Various studies have shown this job trend nationally, and Millennial nurses are no exception.

When nurses were asked how the improving economy might affect their career plans, about 17% of Millennial RNs said they would seek a new place of employment as a nurse. This is compared to 15% of Gen Xers and 10% of Baby Boomers.

The results are in keeping with a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on employee tenure showing that older workers stay at their jobs much longer than younger ones. The median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 is 10.1 years, more than three times higher than workers ages 25 to 34 years at 2.8 years.

In another indication of eagerness for career options, 10% of Millennial RNs said they will opt for travel nursing, while only 6% of Gen Xers and about 5% of Baby Boomers expressed this sentiment.

Survey of Millennial Nurses Infographic

Millennials Want More from Work Environment

Millennials have clear ideas about what is important to ensure a quality work environment. Among these expectations are professional development opportunities, transparent quality measures, a positive culture, and earnestly supportive leadership.

While their older peers may also see these measures as positive, Millennials placed a higher value on them across-the-board. For instance, 63% of Millennials responded positively when asked to respond to the statement, “The quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by professional development opportunities.” Gen Xers weren’t far behand at 61%, while 53% of Baby Boomer RNs saw these opportunities as important.

The disparity between the younger and older nurses grew with questions about culture and transparency of quality measures. Millennial nurses felt more intensely about such measures than their generational peers. Specifically, 68% of Millennial RNs responded affirmatively when asked if culture was an important factor that could positively affect patient care quality. This compared to 62% of Gen Xers and 57% of Baby Boomers, who responded positively. Similar numbers were seen regarding transparency of quality measures. Among Millennials, 68% responded affirmatively to a question on whether quality measure transparency positively influenced patient care. This compared to 62% of Gen Xers and 54% of Baby Boomers, who responded this way.

Millennials More Interested in Higher Education and Leadership Roles

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.

More than one third of Millennial nurses — 36% — said they were considering a move into leadership 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.

Millennials were also more interested than other nurses in pursuing higher degrees. While Millennials and Gen Xers answered positively at nearly the same percentages when asked whether they plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the next three years, the numbers split regarding master’s degrees. On this, 39% of Millennial RNs said they plan to pursue a master’s degree in the next three years, while another 11% said they will seek a PhD. Both were significantly higher than Gen Xers, where 27% and 7% planned to pursue a master’s degree or PhD. respectively in the next three years.

Along with higher degrees, greater interest in advanced practice nursing was apparent among Millennials. More than one in four — 28% of Millennials — said they would pursue a Nurse Practitioner’s degree in the next three years, compared to 19% of Gen Xers and 4% of Baby Boomers.

It’s not surprising that younger nurses would be more interested in further educational attainment compared to older nurses, who are at the latter stages of their careers. Increasing education and training, however, is an Institute of Medicine priority for nursing in order to improve quality of care, so it’s a positive trend if younger nurses remain dedicated to achieving higher degrees.

Attitudes Toward Leadership

Millennials were a little more optimistic toward leadership than other generations of nurses. This tendency was true across several categories, including how much they trust their leaders, and whether leaders care about them and their career development. Millennials more often said they “agree” or “strongly agree” regarding positive statements about their leaders than older nurses.

Millennials also value effective leadership more strongly than their peers. In responding to the statement, “the quality of patient care I provide is positively influenced by effective leadership,” 77% of Millennial nurses responded affirmatively, compared to 72% of Gen Xers and 66% of Baby Boomers. This represents an 11-point difference between Baby Boomer and Millennial RNs.