Skip to Main Content

“The magnitude of difference between the newer and older generations in the profession depends on how pronounced are the societal changes from one generation to the next.”1

For the first time in history, 4 generations are working together— traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials. Each generation carries with them a unique perspective of the world based on their shared experiences, and interacts differently with those around them.

Generational boundaries are defined by groups of individuals with shared experiences and common values. Historically, this definition has classified generations that changed at the rate of change of world values. Generational change has accelerated to meet the rapidity of change of the new millennium.

Each generational cohort includes members who had similar childhood experiences and a comparable worldview, work traits, teaching and learning styles, communication preferences, and expectations of how they interact with their world.2 Individuals born on the border between generational groups may engender attributes of more than one classically defined generation. These people, called “cuspers,” historically play an important role in facilitating intergenerational understanding and harmony.3

This chapter will describe individual generational characteristics and the intergenerational differences among topics encountered in the practice of emergency medicine (EM) including teaching and learning, technology, and departmental structure and function, and conclude with strategies to bridge these generational differences.

Generational groups (Figure 105-1) tend to share major life experiences and societal events at similar stages of life development. This common history leads to mutual values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Table 105-1 lists attributes of each of the 4 generations in the workplace today: the traditionalists (born 1925-1945), the baby boomers (born 1945-1962), generation X (born 1962-1980), and the millennials (born 1980-1999).

Figure 105-1.

Current US population (aged 10 years and greater) divided by generation of birth. (Source: Data courtesy US Census 66; © 2011 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. Used with permission.)

Table 105-1 Overview of Generational Characteristics

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.