Generation X, also known as the latchkey kids, make up a substantial portion of the U.S. workforce, according to the PEW Research Center.
As of 2017, there were 53 million Gen Xers in the U.S. and they accounted for one third (33%) of the U.S. labor force, according to researchers.
“Gen X nurses have tremendous value as they’ve been working for several years, they’ll have more overall work experience when compared to millennial nurses,” said Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, executive director of the Washington Center for Nursing in Tukwila, Wash.
Although outnumbered by millennials, who total 56 million, and sometimes overshadowed by the well-established baby boomers, it could be easy for some nurse recruiters, HR professionals and nurse managers to underestimate the knowledge and skills that Generation X can bring to an organization.
“It’s still important to hire us,” said Noelle Trinder, MSN-Ed, RN, a Gen Xer and clinical education director at Banner Health in Phoenix. “Many Gen X nurses have gone back to school for advanced degrees, bring clinical expertise to the bedside, make great mentors and even though we weren’t raised with technology, we’ve adapted to technology and have adopted it exceptionally well.”
Another skill Generation X nurses bring to the table is being great advocates for their patients, said Brenda Purvis, SHRM-CP, senior workforce planning consultant at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., and president of the Oregon and Southwest Washington Association for Health Care Recruitment, a regional chapter of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment.
“Generation X nurses also have experienced enough regulatory changes to understand how care, service, time and ratios all correlate — they are great at balancing all of that,” Purvis said. “They also understand their own value and uniqueness due to their high level of skills.”
Positive work environments lead to retention
It’s important to provide a gratifying work environment for Generation X nurses. Our recent salary report revealed of the Gen X respondents, 17% said they were actively looking to change employers and 51% said they were not currently looking but open to new opportunities.
Creating a work culture that allows Gen X nurses to function with autonomy and independence to leverage their expertise is key to keeping them engaged in their jobs and can help with retention, said Candice Vaughan Griffin, MS, BSN, RN, senior director of clinical education at Banner Health in Phoenix.
“We don’t like to be micromanaged — however, we want a leader to step in if we are struggling,” Vaughn Griffin said.
As part of their retention strategy at Banner Health, Trinder said managers meet with each of their staff members quarterly to discuss their career aspirations and goals and to find ways to encourage their nurses’ professional growth and development.
“Our nurses are asked, ‘Where do you want to go with your career? What do you want to do next?’” she said.
Finding alternate roles for nurses that involve less physically demanding work as they advance in age, while still using their immense knowledge base and nursing skills, is essential, Vaughan Griffin added.
“Roles in clinical education and mentoring are well-suited for experienced Gen X nurses,” she said. “These types of positions can provide a way for nurses to continue contributing to the profession with their knowledge and skills while, at the same time, be less physically taxing.”
Gen Xers fit clinical expert roles well
Generation Xers also can serve as clinical experts when their organizations are integrating or upgrading electronic medical record systems.
“The premise for using EMRs is their efficiency,” Aragon said. “Sometimes EMRs are put into place that have pages and processes that don’t flow well and, at times, may not match the needs of the actual clinical practices at the bedside. The knowledge of Generation X nurses can be tapped into to help improve the flow and efficiency of EMRs, so they can better meet the needs of healthcare organizations.”
Other roles for Gen Xers, such as working nurse advice lines and telephone triage, are additional jobs that can use clinical knowledge, while being less physical and may be a better fit with their desired schedules, hours and lifestyle goals, Aragon said.
Having opportunities to change specialties within a healthcare organization also is important to Generation X nurses, Aragon said.
“Some nurses find there can be limited prospects of changing units so they can learn a new specialty,” she said. “When employers impinge on career growth, this can make a nurse want to jump ship and go somewhere else.”
Tips to recruit Generation X nurses
Recruiting online via social media and mobile-friendly applications to post openings and tout the salary and benefits being offered is one way to attract Gen X nurses, Purvis said.
“Gen Xers use their smart phones for most things, including job hunting,” she said. “And they aren’t just looking for stability, the promise of a job and a 401K – they are similar to older millennials in that they also seek work-life balance. They value great time off packages, so they can visit their kids that live out of state and take vacations.”
This aligns with the findings of our nursing salary report. Although salary was the most important factor that contributed to job satisfaction for Generation X nurses who responded to our survey, benefits were ranked as the second most important aspect of a job that impacted job satisfaction.
Successful nurse recruitment and retention also requires recruiters be creative, savvy and know their market, Purvis said. “If employers are not flexible with their Generation X staff, if they’re not getting the balance they need to thrive, or if they feel undervalued and underutilized – you will lose them.”