Generations in Healthcare – Each Generations’ Perspective “How and Why” of Work


My last keynote focused around generations in healthcare.  The event  brought me to New York City where I had the honor of presenting to a room of about 150 physicians and some staff from hospitals across the country. They asked if I would do the opening keynote on “The Generations in the Workplace,” with a focus on healthcare. In addition they wanted  a breakout going deeper into generational perspectives in healthcare. I was excited and a bit nervous at the same time to be presenting to such a well-educated audience.

The Generations in the Workplace

Karen McCullough's Generations in the Workplace Slide

The opening keynote went well.  As I got into into the content, attendees began to relaxed and became more receptive. The audience, mostly Gen X,  loved it when I talked about their generation and took them back in time, looking into their childhood worlds and adolescent experiences eg. “Remember playing outside until the streetlight came on?” Everyone started laughing! Things were going great, lots of heads were nodding, a few questions were asked. I ended with my closing story on collaboration, and it ended.

The Art of Asking Questions

After a short break, it was time for the interactive session. I asked the group to sit at tables specifically with their generation. Sitting together empowered them and things began to get interesting. We had one table of Boomers (although I thought I saw a Traditionalist or two sprinkled in). There were at least eight tables of Gen Xs. It was interesting that many choosing to stand in the back (so Gen X, right?). There was one large table  of Millennials in their 20s. Side note: Many people in their early 30s, who were Millennials, chose to sit with Gen Xers—yes, I am flexible.

I asked each table to think of some questions to ask the other generations. At first I did hear an uncomfortable moan or two. Once things got rolling  the room was buzzing with enthusiasm, conversation, and even laughter.

Here is a sampling of what was asked. And, YES, I learned a lot more about each generations’ perspective around the “How and Why” of work.

  • Gen X asked the Boomers/Traditionalists about why they were resistant to using Electronic Medical Records. The Boomers/Traditionalists very eloquently said that many physicians focus on the computer. Because they are very careful  entering the right information and codes they may fail to focus and connect with the patient. Yes, technology, and in  EMR, have made great advancements, and they are frustrated.  Boomers expressed concern  the tool has become a barrier to giving the personalized attention and care they want to provide to their patients.
  • Boomers asked the Millennials about why they “job hop.” The Millennials huddled and their spokesperson explained that if they feel that they are not making an impact, they will leave. In addition, while at work, they want to change what doesn’t work for them. But, they would really prefer staying.

Current Pew Research has revealed that Millennial workers, those ages 18 to 35, are just as likely to stick with their employers as their older counterparts in Generation X were when they were the new workforce. And among the college-educated, Millennials have longer track records with their employers than Generation X workers did in 2000 when they were the same age as today’s Millennials.

One Boomer responded that Millennials may leave if changes are not happening as fast as they want, but we (Boomers) stay because we care about the reputation and the future of our hospital, and the quality of care. They noted that not all changes happen quickly as some or many of them take tim

  • Then on a lighter note, one Boomer went to the easel and wrote something in cursive and asked the Millennials if they could read what he wrote. The room exploded in laughter to discover that Millennials, in fact, could read cursive.

Generations - Can you read this (in cursive)?

  • The Biggest Challenge. The last question came from the Millennials and addressed both Gen Xs and Boomers. They wanted to know if doctors in training (residents) should work fewer hours.

The video below shares the Millennial perspective on long hours on call.

“Millennials are contributing a lot to the world, and we’re not just talking about Instagram photos of coffee. Millennials are the key to the future of a better world for medicine. The upcoming generation of physicians will completely revolutionize medicine as a whole both locally and globally. ”

Daniel Woznickza MD

Lesson Learned

Open dialogue between the generations is healthy! Dialogue creates an understanding, and opens the door to collaboration and growth. My advice: Be open and make a shift in your mindset by asking more questions and listening to the answers. Breakthroughs come when we listen and we hear the perspectives of others.



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