Younger Workers, Older Leaders: A Qualitative Study Exploring Generational Perceptions of Leadership in the Nursing Workforce

Wednesday, 24 July 2013: 8:50 AM

Cheryl F. Saffer, EdD, MSN, RN, NE-BC
Clinical Education and Nursing Research, Saint Peter's University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify generational differences in the nursing workforce.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to describe the percieved leadership needs as identified by each generation.

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the views of nursing leadership as perceived through the eyes of the generations in the nursing workforce. One estimate is that within the next twenty years there will be a deficit of over one million Registered Nurses in the United States. The results of the most recent national Health Resources and Administration survey of Registered Nurses, which was conducted in 2008, demonstrated that 27.8% of Registered Nurses who left their current employer did so due to “lack of good management/leadership” (Health Resources and Services Administration [HRSA], 2008).

Methods: Using a case study design, data was obtained through observations and focus groups. Guiding this study was the conceptual framework of Mezirow, which focuses on individuals’ experiences and reflections as the basis of their value system and expectations of others.

Results: Results demonstrated that perceived leadership style, nurses’ sense of autonomy and empowerment, awareness of being espected, and feeling supported by leadership varied between the generations. The value code that “linked” each concept was the importance of trust. Differences in the perception of each generation relating to each theme were evident.

Conclusion: There is limited research in the area of generational perceptions of leadership. Future studies may need to include either gender or cultural influences affecting perception of leadership. Additionally, the affect that the emotional intelligence of the leader has on the perception of staff, and the impact that it has on staff satisfaction and retention would be important to investigate. One area of specific concern is the aspect of trust. As we look at the current climate in the workforce and the world, do individuals have trust in their leaders? Will individuals ever be able to trust leadership and what will leaders need to do to regain and/or maintain trust?