Preceptor Preparation Online Course - Advanced

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Module 5: Managing Learning Experiences with Culturally and Generationally Diverse Students


When APRNs and APRN students think of diversity and cultural differences, they usually think about race or ethnic status. Rarely do they think about gender or age as a dimension of diversity. However, there are significant differences between generations in their approach to teaching and learning. Understanding these differences are vital for preceptors to comprehend in order to help bridge the "generation" gaps which can exist when there's a lack of communication or understanding between one generation and another. Bridging the generational gap can have positive and negative effects on working relationships, as individuals may not understand generations outside of their own and how best to work with the needs of that individual.

Generational diversity refers to a group of people defined by age boundaries who are born during a certain time and share similar belief systems based on their shared experiences. Each age group has a distinct set of values, attitudes, behaviors, motivators and work ethics. The generation in which an individual was raised profoundly influences their relationships with others, including work ethic, group dynamics and communication. Different ways of thinking and varying approaches to the work setting are formed by shared experiences such as wars, natural catastrophes, movies and music. These experiences influence the way members of these generations approach the world and differ from generations before and after (Strauss & Howe, 1993). The generation raised during the depression are viewed as "savers" and learned early to delay gratification. Their children, the Baby Boomers, however, experienced prosperity after World War II and became the "buy now, pay later" generation. Consistent with other cultural differences, viewing generational differences as diverse, allows movement beyond biases that otherwise may result.

Patrice Thompson describe the value of integrating multigenerational views in the workplace:

The Generational Differences chart is an in-depth review of the influences, values and attributes of the different generations and also a guide to mentoring each group. By acknowledging differences, preceptors can facilitate learning between generations by emphasizing the positive aspects, such as millennials ability with technology, to enhance learning for everyone. Preceptors from the Baby Boom generation may have difficulty understanding Gen X and Millennials reliance on technology. Baby Boomers did not grow up with technology and may have more difficulty dealing with it. Asking for assistance from Gen X or Millennial students can help bridge the gap resulting in learning for the preceptor and increased confidence for the student.

Characteristics of generations chart


Outlook Practical Optimistic Skeptical Hopeful
Work Ethic Dedicated Driven Balanced Ambitious
View of Authority Respectful Love/Hate Unimpressed Relaxed, Polite
Decision-making Hierarchy Consensus Competence Collaboration
Relationships Self-sacrifice Self-gratification Noncommittal Loyal, inclusive
Perspective Civic-minded Team-oriented Self-Reliant Civic-minded


Use the chart above to choose the generation with which you most closely identify. How might your generational attributes influence how you precept a student of a different generation?

Resource. This report describes some of the challenges of foreign educated nurses experienced when transitioning to positions in the U.S.

Recruitment & retention report: Understanding post-hire transitional challenges of foreign-educated nurses Evidence Based Practice Perspective - Thekdi, P., Wilson, B. L., & Wu, Y. (2011).

International migration of nurses and their adaptation to the US Healthcare system is an increasing problem for nurse managers. Components of their orientation to hospitals can be a guide to preceptors involved with nursing students from other cultures. This qualitative study focused on foreign educated nurses and their preceptors. The primary concerns of the foreign educated nurses involved communication difficulties and the attitude of their peers. The nurses felt they understood English before entering the United States but found that it took years to achieve a functional level of English. Because of other priorities they also were unable to avail themselves of English as Second Language classes. When interacting with peers the nurses felt that their communication challenges made them appear less knowledgeable than US nurses. The foreign nurses felt they needed more education in pharmacology and practice with making independent judgments.

The preceptors in the study identified that the foreign born nurses needed assistance in understanding the differences between nursing practice in the US and the nurse's country of origin. Preceptors also identified communication challenges as a problem. They felt that the nurses were more easily understood if they spoke slowly which mitigated their accented speech. Preceptors felt that English language classes would be a helpful step in mitigating communication difficulty. The foreign educated nurses also had greater difficulty communicating with individuals perceived as having greater authority or power and with individuals of another age or gender.

Practice Implications

Preceptors should have information about the cultural backgrounds of preceptees, especially targeting differences and methods of accommodation. Encouraging preceptors to demonstrate assertive communication techniques may also help those who culturally defer to those with more authority or power. Finally, the preceptor can make the student feel respected and valued which helps fight bias and prejudice among others. For the full article, click here.

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