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How can I manage schedule conflict with my multigenerational staff?

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The whole healthcare world has changed and yet we still do schedules basically the same way we did 30 years ago. Baby Boomers (nurses between 43-63 years of age) love rules and feel entitled by seniority to have their needs met on the schedule. Generation X's (nurses between 29-42 years of age) are seeking balance. They want to be able to put their children on the school bus and be there when they get off the bus. Generation Y's (nurses 28-years-old and under) want a life and a career and are looking for lots of flexibility.

The answer? Be brave, try something totally new.

  1. First, have an open dialogue with staff, talking about generational needs to increase understanding versus judgment and anger. Ask each nurse to identify the top three consistent things they want in a schedule.
  2. Next, think outside the box. Who says shifts must be eight or 12 hours long? Pilot some shorter shifts that can fill in for peak activity times and meet the needs of Gen Xers and some Boomers seeking shorter shifts.
  3. Have each nurse write down the schedule they want, knowing that the goal is to make the numbers required for minimum safe staffing. The numbers will not meet the goals all of the time, so allow staff the opportunity to make changes to fix the numbers while they still have control of those changes.
  4. If the numbers do not meet the goal, that is when a schedule committee can come in and make some changes. Changes should be made depending on who followed the guidelines, how many changes they made to assist with the goals of numbers of nurses, and their seniority. Those who make no changes consistently or violate any rules should know they will lose their self scheduling privileges for the next schedule. This helps all staff think in terms of the unit needs.

—Judith "Ski" Lower, RN, MSN, CCRN, CNRN