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Why This CNO Takes Advice From a Millennial Nurse

Analysis  |  By Michelle Clarke  
   August 24, 2018

One nurse leader created a millennial nurse mentor role to help her address the needs of younger nurses and improve retention rates.

When thinking about mentoring, it's usually assumed a nurse with years of experience will be coaching and guiding a newer, less experienced nurse.  

But in an effort to understand the needs of millennial nurses to improve their retention rates at the healthcare organization, one CNO flipped that traditional relationship on its head.

Karen Clements, RN, BSN, MSB, FACHE, CNO at New Hampshire–based Dartmouth-Hitchcock, decided to enlist a millennial nurse mentor to ensure she was meeting the needs of this generation of nurses.

While the overall nurse turnover at her hospital is 13%, the turnover rate for nurses with zero to three years of experience is closer to 18%. The organization hires 150 to 200 new graduate RNs every summer, and it has a nurse residency program that is being fine-tuned.

Clements first learned about the concept of a millennial mentor at a CNO meeting a few years ago.

"Somebody presented this idea and it piqued my interest because about 60% of my staff are nurses with less than two years of experience," she says. "I came back from the meeting and reached out to my nurse managers and asked them to find a new graduate who would be willing to be my mentor."

The search for a millennial mentor wasn’t a lengthy process. Once Clements identified what she was looking for, her nurse managers made a suggestion for a match. 

"In my hospital, I have five generations of nurses working for me, and I want to make sure I’m meeting the communication needs, the recruitment and retention needs, [and] the development needs of our nurses," Clements says.   

Related article: What Are Millennial Nurses Thinking? Here Are A Few Insights

Meeting with the Mentor

Before meeting with the mentor, Clements outlined the scope of the mentorship, which would be quarterly meetings that allowed the two to touch base on meeting the needs of millennial RNs on issues such as:

  • Professional development
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Scheduling
  • Work-life balance
  • Work environment

The meetings are casual, either in the cafeteria over coffee or in Clements' office. There is no standing agenda and they talk about the current hot topics in the hospital.

At their first meeting, Clements' mentor brought a notebook with lists of questions and ideas, she says.

The topics of discussion can range anywhere from improving technological communications to exploring ways to increase social interactions outside of the hospital. One conversation revolved around how the millennial generation is very tech savvy and due to Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s remote location, they’re still using pagers because the phone signal is not completely reliable, says Clements.

As a result of one of the conversations with her mentor, Clements explained, the organization is looking to move to a cellular communication platform.

They’ve also discussed the lack of social opportunities outside of the hospital and ways to increase those. The hope is that the increased opportunities for socialization will encourage the nurses to remain at Dartmouth-Hitchcock longer than three years.

Currently, each unit is trying different tactics such as hiking as team building, says Clements.

Additionally, the mentor has suggested a social event specifically for nurses, and they are exploring the best way to do that, which can be a challenge because nurses work long shifts and the average commute time is around an hour each way, Clements says.

Advice for other CNOs

When asked to reflect on her experience with the millennial mentor, Clements says, “I think it’s important to stay on top of the issues of the nurses coming in and managing the different generations, [and] to be able to provide opportunities for growth, preceptorship, and communication methods.”

"I think all of us need to figure out how to communicate with these different generations [about] the work ethic and the schedules and everything that goes along with that," she says.

Clements' advice for CNOs considering a millennial mentor?

"Besides, do it? I think I might tell CNOs, if you’re not connected with your millennials and what their needs are, then you’re going to miss the boat for recruitment and retention."

Photo credit: (at top)


A millennial mentor can give guidance on the generation's professional development goals

Understanding what millennials want from an organization may be one tactic to improve retention

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