Millennials are currently aged between 24 and 39, and the average age of students entering medical school is around 24. This means that around a decade from now, many health professionals treating patients will be from this generation. Millennials have a distinct set of characteristics that have made them the subject of media scrutiny. They are known as a generation with profound values that are meaning-driven and interested in sustainability, but also more desirous of a work-life balance. How are these values influencing this generation’s idea of what it means to be a doctor, and in what ways can these values benefit future patients?

Experience And Technology

In his article, “Lecture Halls without Lectures: A Proposal for Medical Education,” Dr. Charles G. Prober points out that medical education in this era can be better catered to younger generations if we “embrace a learning strategy that is self-paced and mastery-based and boosts engagement.” If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us one thing, it is that the education and work gap was significantly reduced through technology. Millennial medical students who value flexibility can ‘create’ more free time by combining practical experience with classes via Google Meets, Zoom, and other modalities that do not require long commutes on a daily basis.

The Need For Feedback And Mentoring

Millennials are often criticized for being ‘praise junkies’; in other words, they are used to receiving positive feedback and may not react well to criticism. In research published in the Journal of Academic Ophthalmology, researchers argue that owing to this fact, mentors in hospitals from the boomer and Gen-X generations need to be clear with millennials from the very start, letting them know that they will be receiving negative as well as positive feedback with only one goal: that of making them better doctors. Peer mentoring and feedback, and group mentoring (in which one mentor works with a small group) can help reduce defensiveness, as can the creation of group social opportunities for mentors and students to get to know each other outside the workspace.

Working As Part Of A Team

The idea of being assessed and given feedback by peers is one that resonates with millennials because this type of feedback may already have been provided earlier on in their education. Millennials are also more likely to embrace group experiences. As reported by M Aaron, 20th century doctors were more autonomous and independent; they worked individually, researching and collating information before sharing findings with colleagues. Today’s physicians work in interdisciplinary teams and coordinate patient care on a daily basis. Millennials are therefore amenable to group projects, as they thrive on attaining team objectives.

The Importance Of Flexibility

Modern hospitals can consider finding innovative ways to offer doctors a better work-life balance, since this is one of the top values on millennial students’ priority lists. Ensuring that doctors are rested and physically and mentally recharged at work has benefits for patients, since good sleep and personal happiness can boost professional productivity and cognitive performance. By the same token, medicine is by its very nature a field that can sometimes require long hours — especially when emergency or crisis situations are involved. Hospitals hiring millennial doctors need to openly and clearly stipulate policies with respect to what staff are expected to do when children are ill, when spouses need assistance, when they need personal time off, and the like. Hospitals can also do their share to ease the burden on medical professionals by offering at-work childcare, employee-friendly arrangements and flexible conditions.

The Importance Of Technology

Millennials are used to relaying key information (both personal and professional) via text messages, email and voice messages. Hospitals should lay out rules regarding etiquette when using online means of communication. However, they should also consider training staff regarding how to communicate in person with patients and older colleagues. Staff should also receive training on video conferencing tools and other tools their millennial colleagues are likely to use on a wide scale.

Millennials have so much to bring to the medical profession. One of the most important values they can share is the pursuit of meaning. Medicine is, by its very nature, a vocational profession, and attracting those who sincerely hope to make a positive difference can only be a good thing. Millennials crave flexibility, enjoy working in teams, and are heavily reliant on technology. Employers should take account of these characteristics, laying out clear rules so that nothing comes as a surprise to new members of their team.

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