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Generation Z nurses bring new perspective to healthcare
Group is known for growing up in world of smartphones and web searches
Lisette Hilton
How to Navigate
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Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer.
Generation Z, born 1995 to now, might be finishing nursing school or just beginning their nursing careers. This generation represents 20% of today’s population and is the most technology savvy of generational age groups. They also are natural entrepreneurs, according to our webinar “
How to Thrive Communicating Across Generations
Preferred communication approaches
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Generation Z is a visual generation, according to Christensen. “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. Nurse leaders, managers, educators and others should consider incorporating visual elements into communications with Generation Zers. Examples include presentations with videos, emails with embedded videos or hyperlinks, and text messages with emojis, Christensen said.
When working with millennials and
Generation Z nurses
, it is important for nurse colleagues to emphasize how vital verbal communication and touch are for patients, especially older baby boomer patients, said Linda S. Edelman, PhD, RN, associate professor at University of Utah College of Nursing and author of the Journal of Nurse Management paper.

And managers and leaders should think twice before banishing their beloved technology.

“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.”

An important takeaway for nurses of all ages is how vital it is to understand communication preferences of all other generations — preferences that don’t necessarily make sense to other age groups, Edelman said.

“Each generation has its own idiosyncrasies and strengths and no generation is the ‘perfect’ generation,” Edelman said. “We can all learn a lot from each other!”
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.”
— Scott S. Christensen, RN

What drives them?
Generation Z grew up in a world of smartphones. They’re accustomed to finding answers to their questions through online sources, said Scott S. Christensen, DNP, MBA, APRN, ACNP-BC, clinical operations director at University of Utah Health, and lead author of the paper “Can I relate? A review and guide for nurse managers in leading generations” published September 2018 in the Journal of Nursing Management. “When compared to millennials, the input of parents and other mentors is sought after less often by Generation Z,” Christensen said. “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.” Generation Z, according to Christensen, 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. This up-and-coming generation actually mirrors the much older silent generation, born between 1925 and 1945, in terms of being more cautious than their
Generation X
parents, and in the values and preferences they bring to the workplace, said Kimberly Moss, PhD, RN, CNE, ODCP, an organization and leadership development consultant and expert panelist during the webinar. “They are very family-focused, so far,” Moss said.