Baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z—oh my! The U.S. labor force is poppin’! For the very first time in the history of ever, there are four different generations working side-by-side in the American workforce.
Medical Travelers in a Multi-Generational Workforce
Eighteenth century novelist, poet, playwriter, and art collector, Gertrude Stein, once said, “Each generation has something different at which they are all looking.”
With each new generation comes a new wave of values and way of thinking that inspires the next generation in line. For baby boomers, this was longevity in the U.S. economy. Most millennials are eager to get involved and find their purpose in life. Independence and work-life balance are irreplaceable to generation X and gen Zers continue the long-lived fight towards total diversity.
As a member of one of the working generations and a medical professional, your multi-generational workforce may be a bit more complicated than other careers, given that the people you work with determine life or death. Literally.
We talked to a bunch of pro med travelers (like yourself) from each generation to find out what brought them to the medical travel life in the first place.
The war is over!
Born between 1946 and 1964, this generation directly follows America’s victory in World War II (WWII). As soldiers returned home, the average age of marriage dropped and those newly (and not newly) weds quickly got busy making babies, which resulted in a country-wide boom of babies born after the war—hence the name “baby boomer” generation.
Typically, boomers are known to be extremely work-centric, hardworking, and motivated by position, perks, and prestige (I mean, who isn’t?). Most of these adults tend to overwork and define themselves by their professional accomplishments—think of this generation as the Cristina Yang of their time.
If you’ve ever gone head-to-head with a baby boomer in any type of contest, game, or competition, then you’ve experienced their competitive-edge first-hand, and it’s no joke. Clever, resourceful, and always in it to win it, the boomer generation equate a successful career with self-worth, which explains why they tend to be such work-a-holics.
Not only did baby boomers pave the way for Rihanna’s “Work” with their professional dedication, but they also grew up during an era of reform and believe they can change the world (and they’re not wrong). Confident and self-reliant, this generation questions established authority systems and constantly challenge the status quo because who are you to tell them what to do?
In 2011, the oldest boomers turned 65, and by 2029, the youngest baby boomers will celebrate their 65th birthdays and official “senior” statuses. Although they might be the oldest generation in the workforce, boomers are far from their way out. Unfortunately, because many baby boomers don’t have enough funds saved for comfortable retirement living, some are working well into their 70s.
For baby boomer travel labbie, Teresa, work is simply an excuse to help others and see sights unseen! She said: “I’m a boomer and I started in phlebotomy, medical laboratory technologist (MLT), medical laboratory specialist (MLS), then into management. When everything became less about the patient and more about the bottom line, I decided it was time for a change. My bachelor’s degree is actually in business so I could expand around that, if I so chose, but since I know the lab and truly love the lab, I found traveling as a new avenue to work as I see fit. I’m single with no kids at home, so I get to explore as I see fit, pick schedules I can tolerate for at least 13 weeks (mostly more), and I get to explore areas that I wouldn’t have made time to visit otherwise. A win-win for me.”
Norma, traveling MLS, relates to Teresa: “I’m a baby boomer and 14 years ago, I decided I wanted to get out of the box and do something different with my profession. I loved what I did so I decided to take the plunge into the travel world and the rest is history! I’m still going and now I also do what I love! I like learning new things, seeing new places, and making new friends while still taking care of my patients.”
Independent wo/men, like Beyonce
Known as the “beeper generation in a smartphone world,” gen Xers are strong, independent wo/men who don’t need that young whipper-snapper technology. Born between 1960 and 1980, this generation lived the bell-bottom, disco life that gen Zers can only dream of.
Just like Beyonce from her Destiny’s Child days, those in this generation buy their own diamonds and buy their own rings. Gen Xers are self-sufficient free spirits who, unlike their baby boomer predecessors, place a high value on a healthy work-life balance. These individuals carefully manage their time, set work boundaries, and design their schedules around their families, passions, and other interests because where’s the fun in hard work if you can’t play equally as hard (or maybe a little more)?
With four kiddos and a "lovely bride of 25 years," travel nurse, Matt, gets it. “I travel for the pay,” he said. “Because then I don’t have to work overtime and can enjoy my home and family time.”
Since many people within this generation entered adulthood during the 90s recession, they’ve developed tough, thick skin that’s difficult to crack. If you’re going head-on with a gen Xer, you’d better be well-prepared.
Flexibility is another quality trait of generation X. These folks were at the forefront of the historical shift from analog to digital technology, plus witnessed first-hand the invention of desktop computers, cell phones, the Internet, and social media. If you’ve ever seen a gen Xer draft a text message, they’re the ones rocking the single pointer-finger typing style (hi, Mom! I’m looking at you, Queen.).
Gen Xers tend to be extremely adaptable and amenable to change. Which, oddly enough, makes this generation ideal medical professionals!
Kathie, pro travel nurse, dreamed of a career in travel nursing for years before she finally entered the profession. The only thing that stopped her were her young kiddos and now that they’re older, there was nothing holding Kathie back.
“Now that [my kids] are all grown with their own lives, I quit my permanent job and decided to live my own life and explore the country,” Kathie said. “I want to see new places, meet new people, and have fun while I’m working. My goal is to get an RV to travel in!”
Licensed practical nurse, Laura, loves the excitement of travel. “I travel for new experiences, to take photos,” she shared. “And the freedom of it all. You meet new people with new stories and it’s always a learning experience.”
As for travel nurse, Jackie, she travels “because she can.” And if that’s not a solid reason to do the things you’re passionate about, then I don’t know what is.
Daring, digital, and dazzling
You may have heard them as “Gen Y,” “Gen Me,” “Gen We,” or “Echo Boomers.” Who are they? They’re the millennial generation we all know and love.
As one of the most populated generations of our time, millennials make up over a third of the overall U.S. labor force and about 22 percent of the total American population. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that by 2029, the bulk of millennials will shift into the 35 to 44-year-old age group, and increase the workforce by nearly 4.5 million workers within that age range.
If you weren’t already aware, the 80s and 90s were an iconic period in modern history. From Walkman’s to bomber jackets, millennials are familiar with fashion and fun. They’re the first generation to witness the arrival of technological growth and development and the youngest group to experience and comprehend 9/11.
Because of their early life experiences, millennials have an intuitive knowledge of technology, have a deep passion for learning, and place a high importance on social relationships. As they lived through real-time technological advancements and may even be the first generation to fully globalize online during childhood and early adulthood, this generation tends to have the ability to quickly adapt and change according to the newest available technology. For example, do you have that friend who always has the “next best thing”? You know—the newest iPhone, electric car, and of course, the trendiest purse pup. Or, maybe you are that friend and, in that case, more power to ya!
Sure, they’re adaptive and open to change, but that’s nothing compared to the extraordinary passion most millennials have for learning. Overflowing with curiosity and a desire to enhance their knowledge, millennials have revived the old saying, “Knowledge is power.” The best part about this innate curiosity is that it translates into both the professional and personal lives of these generation members. These are probably the kids who constantly asked, “But, why?” to everything. You know who you are.
Similar to their elders, millennials recognize the importance of hard work and a successful career, but more so, this generation cares about social relationships both in and outside of the office. Many millennials have reported qualities like fun, relaxation, and comfortability as their optimal space.
So, knowing what we know now, how do these qualities and characteristics translate into the med travel world?
Travel nurse, Amanda, knows there’s too much out there in the world to miss out on. Her curiosity and craving for knowledge expanded into earning her master’s degree, meeting new people, and feeding lots of animals!
“There’s way too much to see out there to sit still,” Amanda said. “Plus, lots of new friends to be made!”
Amanda’s wife, Tori, is also a travel nurse who wanted more out of her medical career.
“I wanted to travel to explore the country,” Tori shared. “I knew in nursing school that I wanted to be a travel nurse, but I had never really left Norwest Ohio. I just knew there was so much more to see and explore. Travel nursing allows for a flexible schedule, an opportunity to meet new friends, and adventures that I didn’t think were possible! Almost four years in and loving every minute!”
Interestingly enough, millennial and travel nurse, Jess, travels with her spouse, as well!
“I travel with my husband and pup,” she said. “We explore our beautiful country before we have kids! I’m primarily a travel nurse to travel and help others, not to chase the money!” (But we know the money doesn’t hurt—wink, wink, nudge, nudge.).
Straight out of the ‘90s
Saving the best for last are those in generation Z (shamelessly said one of the OG gen Z's). Born between 1996 and 2012, we’re the newest members of the workforce kicking ass and taking names, increasing the country’s diversity, and assisting older generations with how to operate technology, as the true tech natives of American history.
Gen Zers have lived through some major world events that have defined who we are. Because of significant tech advancements and the Great Recession, gen Zers are diverse, open-minded, and place a high importance on mental health and wellness.
It’s no secret our country’s demographics are shifting, and gen Z is going to be the last predominantly Caucasian generation. Diversity has always been a top priority for those in generation Z because the backdrop of our early adolescence celebrated the country’s first Black president (thanks, Obama!) and the legalization of gay marriage.
In addition to societal diversity, gen Zers are more likely to have grown up in a diverse family structure, as well. Many of us experienced a single-parent household, multi-racial household, or a household in which gender roles were blurred, so a lot of us are less fazed by differences in race, sexual orientation, religion, and more. Gen Zers just want you to be you. Afterall, YOLO (you only live once).
Travel labbie, Cheyenne, embraces diversity as a professional med traveler. “I travel to explore,” she said. “I get to see new parts of the country, experience different cultures, and meet so many wonderful people. It’s only a matter of time before I have a friend in every part of the country!”
As tech natives, we’re constantly flooded with mass media and an exposure to every race, gender, idea, and story at just the click of a button, which has its pros and cons. But the biggest perk is that gen Zers are culturally knowledgeable and open-minded. We are acutely aware of the beautiful collection of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that make up our community and gen Zers are here for it.
Over the past couple decades, mental health has become increasingly more important to the different generations, but especially to gen Zers. Referred to by some as the “loneliest generation,” gen Z’s tend to foster feelings of isolation and depression due to the ease in accessibility to social media and news outlets. Gen Z’s mental health is highly affected by the turbulent state of the world and a large amount of the generation have admitted to off-the-chart stress levels. As a result, more than 37 percent of generation Z individuals are seeking mental health treatments through therapy and counseling, which is more than any previous generation (not to brag).
Four generations of awesomeness
Obviously, there are a ton of perks to teamwork—need we remind you that teamwork makes the dream work? With four generations of awesomeness working side-by-side in the U.S. labor force, there are many benefits of togetherness for each generation.
- Chances to learn: So many employees from different generations working together offers plenty of chances for everyone to share personal experiences, ideas, and thoughts with each other. The multiple working generations provides more effective problem-solving techniques, plus offers more creative solutions.
- Mentorship opportunities: With a diverse group of individuals in the workforce, it opens a chance for mentorship opportunities. Take advantage of the generational knowledge and create a partnership to you can learn more from others and see an alternative perspective.
- Working smarter: Each generation is unique in their skills. By sharing and utilizing these skills with different generations, we can learn from each other and benefit from upgraded efficiency and more focused productivity.
- Innovative advances: With four generations’ worth of life experiences and views, there are bound to be an abundance of ideas and solutions to various challenges. The collection of different perspectives leads to diverse ideas, which has the potential to skyrocket innovative advancements.
At the end of the day, there are four generations of awesomeness leading the American labor force, and it shows. The next generations to come will certainly have big shoes to fill.
Regardless of the generation you’re a part of, a multi-generational workforce is a plus for everyone—you, your colleagues, and the medical facilities you serve. Whether you’re a baby boomer whose waited their whole lives for a med travel job or a gen Zer newly entering the professional world, each generation has one thing in common—immeasurable passion.