Reflections On…

Generation Y work attitudes/habits in the modern medical workforce.

I am sure by now, many keen minds must have been aware about the shift in the modern working force albeit the white-collared middle to upper class drones. The bulwark of the modern workforce will eventually consist of those born in the Generation-Y era (starts in the late 1970s ending in 1990) with smattering of Generation Z (those born post-1990). What I am wondering about is how this shift in culture and thought would emerge in the medical workforce. For now, lets just concentrate on doctors. Nurses deserve their own special segment (which they intensely crave for anyway).

Just to properly list some of the common positive attitudes shared by Generation Y working drones:

  • Generation Ys huge affiliation with technology during childhood development means they are much more adept and willing to harness new techniques and ideas for use in the workplace and especially in the personal realm. Example: Modern junior surgeons and their supposedly higher proficiency at laparoscopic surgery because they are used to console games and navigating 2D-3D visio-spatial tasks (Personally I don’t believe it but that’s my anti-surgeon bias speaking).
  • Generation Ys are great at working in team environments
  • Generation Ys have great passion with what they are interested in and will pursue that interest with much gusto, initiative and creativity
  • Ability to multi-task well
  • Ability to learn things fast
  • etc.

If one takes a step back, not all of these attributes can be given to people of Gen-Y age all around the globe. If I take my view on South-East Asians into account, some of these attributes are quite non-existent and these are probably as a result of cultural, economic and educational reasons.

Moving on to common negative attitudes shared by Generation Y working drones:

  • Want instant gratification and unwillingness to do the ‘hard slog’ in order to achieve gratification.
  • Feel entitled to benefits which are not yet earned.
  • Disloyal.
  • Lack professionalism (although some will argue this as a positive, for Gen-Ys have a more humanistic focus and touch. I agree with the plus side more).
  • Easily bored.
  • etc.

I am sure the list goes on. There are always more bad news than good news.

Now…how does all of these points reflect in the modern medical workforce. People with these attitudes will become the doctors of tomorrow and will be caring for you (yes, you!) in the times to come. Do you feel scared already?

Before we move on futher, I must stress that the realm of medicine is still rather archaic and is by default, conservative by nature. Sure, we have new medications and techniques as the years go by but the working ethos and structure have not changed much since the dawn of man. We have proper medical schools now but the education process is no more than a glorified apprenticeship. Admission to post-graduate training is governed by guild-like organizations which don’t always judge based on merit. There are very limited promotion prospects (which are often 2 if not 3 tiered only). Progression of career is quite dependent on peer “review” or senior “approval”. Independent action is frowned upon and discouraged. The list goes on and on….

But we are a glorious profession! We are regarded as God (some of us think that we are deity, serious)! Lives are in our hands!
With such heavy responsibilities, we all should be made right and be OK from the word go, right?. RIGHT!?

Since when has heavier responsibilities mean greater performance?

I doubt many of the negative Gen-Y attributes would have a place in our ancient school of Medicine. The type of people who enter it are often people who have put in the “hard slog” and are no stranger to slogging even more in order to climb to the top of the monkey-tree (or get ahead in the rat race, if you prefer). Most of us intrinsically know that there is no gain without some pain.

But the aspects of ‘disloyalty’ and ‘boredom’ worries me. As the modern Western working ethic swings back to a greater emphasis on work-life balance, I won’t be surprised if more doctors leave for greener pastures and resort to making their practice a part-time one. The medical degree is a huge gateway into other career opportunities when you come to think about it. Its very strange not to practice your trade but it is still held with very high regard by many a person. Making inroads into different careers is not difficult.

The question now is how our archaic system will cope with this changing attitudes.

The simple answer so far is…

A: Chop the bad part away. Its not our problem, its just the bad bits that need to corrected.
B: Won’t you lose a big part of your workforce?
A: Sure we will lose our workforce but who cares?
B: The patients are going to suffer
A: Since when have we put the patient that important?
B: Huh!?
A: What’s most important is our job and the pursuit of it. Nah, its not the money, don’t get us wrong.

As you can see, modern medicine blindness to its own approach to its art is inherent in how it will approach the issue of working attitudes.

And there are enough upstarts that want to take the place of those who want to question the status quo. I can almost hear their “Asian (especially Chinese and Indian)  middle class parents” giggle with glee.

As much as our profession be a large part of our heart and soul, its also a parasitic disease which kills us while making us smile.



~ by shybeg122 on December 6, 2008.

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