The O&P profession is about to change. Millennials will comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce in 2015, and more than 75% by 2025, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While modern tools and ideas could enhance traditional methods, the profession must adapt in order to embrace this new era.
A fresh perspective
Millennials – people who were born between the early 1980s and 2000s – have a different mindset than other generations, Scott Stack, CPO, clinician at Hanger Clinic, told O&P Business News.
“We see the world unlike anyone,” he said. “Having grown up in the digital age, technology has changed us. It changed the way we interact … [and] the way we look at everything.”
But some believe millennials have become addicted to technology, he said.
“It is true our generation has embraced technology…but we are not conjoined to it. We are old enough to understand social interaction, but young enough to maximize technological advancements.”
Those advancements have offered the best of the social and digital worlds, Stack said. Networking and multitasking have become innate as a result.
“Generally speaking, we may be able to embrace change more easily than some of the clinicians in our field who have been doing things the same way for many years,” he said.
“There is an opportunity for O&P to embrace new ideas and technology…and I believe we are the ideal generation to make that happen.”
While millennials offer change, their strengths could carry inherent weakness and divide them from more seasoned professionals. One potential disconnect is method of communication. While millennials prefer email or social media to connect, many clinicians prefer more personal methods of interaction.
Accessing medical information online is another issue. Ease of access could mean quicker answers to questions, but could also eliminate the skill to think critically about a patient.
O&P professionals show concern that millennials lack soft skills, are unprepared or have an undeserved sense of entitlement because of their education.
“Anyone leaving academia to join the workforce may have a cavalier attitude,” Stack said. “So there may be some truth to the labeling of our generation as entitled.
“But [to overcome that], we have to respect the experience of seasoned clinicians…[and] understand we do not know everything. A degree gets you in the door, but true training starts after you open it.”
Structure can be a method of training. Regular hours, consistent activities and clearly defined goals can help millennials progress. Technology can also develop skills, but should not replace traditional learning. One-on-one clinical exercise should take priority over training remotely online.
Millennials also prefer in-person assessments, as more than 80% chose real-time feedback to traditional performance reviews, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan–Flagler Business School study found.
“It is important for experienced clinicians who may need to train new employees to understand the long transition process from a college student to a skilled professional,” Stack said. “The transition from college to the real world is not easy. We are not leaving school and learning a couple of tasks.
“We must be able to adapt our knowledge of medical diagnoses, biomechanics, problem-solving and even art. Add a patient population uncommon to any other field and you get a career that requires a lot of training.”
Stack said while millennials benefit from employer guidance, they also seek flexibility. Balance between work and personal life are also factors, he said.
Millennials seek a challenge in the workplace, Stack said. They search for opportunities to grow and are most invested when they feel connected to the people around them.
“We want to feel connected to our fellow employees…and to our place of work,” he said. “By letting us know our importance through fair pay, feedback and collaboration, the benefit is mutual on both sides.”
Understanding millennials will become increasingly important, Stack said. More than 75 million will join the workforce in the next decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although their ideas of work and technology may not align directly with others’, their passion for patient care does. The crucial ingredient for success is understanding and respect for what other brings to the workplace, Stack said.
“It can be a struggle for two generations to find common ground, but with time, middle ground will be found and an embrace of different skillsets will transpire, resulting in a better outcome for the patient,” Stack said.
“Our understanding of technology can advance this field…[and] enhance patient care. Just like our predecessors, millennials look to the future…and are willing to embrace challenge and make change along the way. The key is patience and persistence…[and] that is how true advancements are achieved.” — by Shawn M. Carter
Disclosure: Stack has no relevant financial disclosures.