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20 Apr 2023     

HKMU research finds young nurses seek work-life balance rather than promotion, calls for understanding their competency needs to retain talent

The manpower shortage and heavy workload have led to an increasing turnover rate of nurses in Hong Kong, resulting in a vicious circle. Research conducted by the School of Nursing and Health Studies at Hong Kong Metropolitan University (HKMU) found that young nurses are interested in a healthy work-life balance and are less willing to be promoted because of concern about a heavier workload. This and discrepancies among different generations of nurses regarding the essential elements of managerial effectiveness are possible factors for the manpower shortage in the nursing sector. HKMU researchers will present their research findings at the International Council of Nurses Congress in Montreal, Canada in July 2023.

The research project was led by Dr Sandy Choi, Associate Dean (Global Partnership and Community Engagement) and Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies at HKMU, to examine the core competencies required of current and future local nurse leaders to provide a reference for hospital administrators to develop strategies for retaining talent. Dr Choi’s team conducted in-depth interviews with about 50 hospital nurses of various ages and positions from October 2020 to November 2021 to understand how they perceive the role of nurse managers.

One of the study’s findings was that nurses’ perception of job responsibilities differed significantly by generation. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) tend to have clear career aspirations for managerial positions and are willing to sacrifice their personal life and interests for the sake of work. In contrast, Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) view nursing as an occupation rather than a profession and constantly strive to achieve a balance between their work life and personal and family interests. These two generations are more reluctant to seek promotion because they are concerned about losing their “work-life balance” if they take on a senior position. In an interview, one nurse pointed out that the workload of nurse managers was overwhelming, but the salary was only a bit higher than that of Advanced Practice Nurses, so they are not properly compensated for their hard work. Another nurse expressed the need to take care of family members and was reluctant to spend private time on work.

The research team also found that Generation Xers and Millennials, born in the era of advanced technology, generally preferred to use instant messaging mobile apps for communication and receiving information, so it suggested that hospital administrators make more use of electronic communication platforms (such as mobile apps) to facilitate multi-generational communication.

The researchers hope that the findings will help hospital administrators develop strategies for managing multi-generational nursing teams, thereby creating a better work environment to retain nurse managers and attract younger people to join the nursing workforce, which would eventually benefit local citizens. The research project was funded by the University Grants Committee’s Research Matching Grant Scheme, and the results were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The research project won the Grand Prize in HKMU’s Outstanding Research Publication Award 2022.