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Generation Gaps: How to Use Generational Differences to Create More Positive Healthcare Outcomes

Posted on Tue, Nov 04, 2014
Generation Gaps: How to Use Generational Differences to Create More Positive Healthcare Outcomes

By Rosilyn Rayborn
Social Media Specialist

Do you cringe at the sight of casual work attire? Do you crave a team environment and mentoring others? Or, are you tech savvy and hate to be micromanaged?

If you told me which one of the above statements you chose, I could determine whether or not you grew up as a latch-key kid, what time you prefer to leave the office and even which president was in office when you were born. It’s not mind-reading — it’s understanding generational differences.

This was the topic that captivated physician leaders during the 2014 EmCare leadership conference.

The interactive session, “Generational Differences in the Healthcare Workplace,” was led by Dr. Greg Rose, CEO of EmCare Radiology Services, and Envision Healthcare’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Kim Norman.

According to the presentation, there are four distinct generations currently active in the American workforce. Each generation has unique preferences for work/life balance, career motivation and communication, which can be key in determining how they interact with team members.

Understanding these generational differences, according to Dr. Rose and Norman, can create better healthcare outcomes for leaders and clinicians.

According to the session, the four generations that are currently in the workforce are Traditionalists (b. 1924-1946), Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964), Gen X (b. 1964-1982) and Gen Y (b. 1982-2000).
Although humans can’t be completely summed up merely by birth year, extensive research has revealed clear distinctions that can be drawn about people when you know when they were born.
Why does knowing generational differences matter to health care professionals? Well, Dr. Rose said that as a healthcare leader, one question that is always on his mind is “How does a great leader support the needs of many?”

Imagine that you’re a baby boomer medical director who manages a team member who is a traditionalist.
All of a sudden, you understand that a pay raise isn’t as important to this person as feeling valued and you can provide the proper incentives for a job well done. Or how about that Gen-X-er who can’t survive without her smartphone? It’s not that she’s not paying attention – she’s simply a product of her generation.
How would you respond if someone asked you what time the workday ended? Would you say “whenever the work is finished” and assume this person is lazy and doesn’t want to work?
How “Boomer” of you.

If you knew the dynamics of generational differences, you could identify whether this person is from Gen-Y and if so, you’d know that no, this person isn’t trying to pass the buck on their workload, but that work/life balance is important to this generation and you could respond by taking their concern into consideration.

In short, understanding generational differences helps you recruit, train and interact with fellow healthcare professionals. And it helps us all more effectively communicate and collaborate to create better healthcare outcomes like the team at Lakeland Regional Medical Center who recently shared how they worked together to drastically decrease wait times in their Genesis Cup winning presentation “Optimizing the Emergency Department for Patient Flow.