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What Understanding Millennial Nursing Students Means For Education

Every incoming class of college freshmen is different from the one before, and nursing students are no different. The challenge was, and is, to help them succeed in both the classroom and the workplace. That means being adaptable in terms of instruction models, as well as putting more emphasis on real-world experiences, says Belmont University’s Dr. Cathy Taylor.

“Students are still students,” Taylor says. “They are young adults, they face the same issues that we all face at that age. Developmentally they are maturing, exploring the world around them and finding their place. I think what has changed more in recent years is the environment around them with technological advances, high speed internet, global travel, and incredible distractions with multiple devices from multiple directions.”

The field of nursing is more fragmented than ever, with multiple career paths within the hospital setting, as well as opportunities for advancement. To move ahead, young nurses must commit to lifelong learning, which can sometimes mean returning to school for advanced degrees and/or specialty certifications. Nursing students are increasingly aware of this, and so education providers have an opportunity to help them face that reality in a healthy way.

Ramped-up career pressure can create mental-health concerns

“They have to be willing and able to retrain and adapt to ever-changing workplace demands,” Taylor explains. “Likely related to this I think and similar to national trends, we have seen a bit of an uptick in mental health issues. Today's students require some additional attention and counseling. They really face a number of the same challenges that all of us did in those young-adult years, but some of their characteristics are a little bit different, and so require a different approach.”

In particular, she notes that Millennial nursing students are:

  • ·very tech-savvy
  • strong multitaskers
  • expect faculty and mentors to be tech-aware
  • strongly rely on social media for information
  • like instant gratification and recognition,
  • place a premium on transparency, authenticity, and honesty

“If they feel you aren’t being honest with them, they will call you on it,” she says. “They are very interested in career advancement, and they value even small early advances. Also, they are very interested in life balance and finding their own sense of purpose.”

Knowing what these students expect, what they are capable of and, most importantly, where they may have knowledge or adaptability gaps, will help nursing schools more effectively reach them, teach them, and prepare them for long and meaningful careers in healthcare.

About Dr. Cathy Taylor

Cathy R. Taylor, DrPH, MSN, RN, is dean and professor, Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held faculty and administrative positions with the Tennessee Department of Health, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Alvin C. York VAMC and several Tennessee hospitals. She has consulted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as China’s Ministry of Health.

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Dr. Taylor’s full discussion, link to her podcast here.

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