The Net Generation of Nursing: Keeping Empathetic Communication Alive

Article excerpt

Electronic communication has had a profound impact on generations, in the nursing profession as well as in society as a whole. Nursing educators struggle with facilitating verbal communication skills in didactic and clinical settings, particularly with the Net Generation. Online education is rapidly becoming the norm in degree-completion programs. Nursing educators must assure that empathetic communication with patients will not become a lost art.

Many of the current trends in electronic communication appear to work against the kinds of empathetic listening and conversation that nurses need to employ with patients and their families and with colleagues. The concern is that we will become a silent profession, with limited verbal communication in our workplaces, homes, and personal lives. With e-mail, texting, tweeting, video games, and social media becoming the predominant way for many people (especially those in what is being called the Net Generation) to send and receive messages, will nursing communication for patient care become a lost art?

THE NET GENERATION

Our society is in the midst of a technology explosion. According to Bauerlein (2009), the average teenager sends or receives 2,272 text messages a month; middle and high school students spend 9 hours a week on social networking-an average of more than an hour a day of communication that does not use verbal skills. Individuals communicate 24 hours a day but with minimal face-to-face interaction (Bauerlein, 2009). This is the generation that will soon be entering the profession of nursing.

The generation born after 1980 has never known a time when the Internet has not been a major presence in our lives. Regarding their relationship with technology, this demographic group is described as the Net Generation. Feiertag and Berge (2008) suggest that members of the Net Generation (as employees and/ or as students) have a particular learning and communication style. They tend to be less independent in learning than other generations, preferring to work collaboratively. They seek structure and feedback and need information that is tailored to them. Communication focuses on expression of ideas rather than on interpretation of language. Instead of the traditional lecture format, an active learning environment with interactive information delivery that engages students and trainees (e.g., using role play to teach empathetic communication) is more effective (Feiertag & Berge, 2008).

What are the implications of the technology explosion and the Net Generation for the profession of nursing?

THE ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR

Individuals whose predominant modes of communication are electronic can rapidly lose the ability to interact with others face-to-face. Technologies such as iPads and e-books can be particularly fascinating to children; overuse of these devices can limit daily interactions with adults and other children.

The personalized digital age has forced changes in educational methods throughout the elementary, middle school, high school, and college domains. The element of entertainment that has been incorporated into most digital technologies has led some faculty to feel that they must become actors and actresses to keep pace with the entertainment expectations engendered by their students' handheld devices. Nursing education has become a multitasking endeavor to hold the attention not only of students of the Net Generation but also of students from previous generations who are distracted by instant, constant input.

IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON CARE PLANNING AND THE NURSING PROCESS

The process of approaching, connecting, and collaborating with patients and their families is a learned skill at which nurses become adept over time. Handheld devices that are becoming standard equipment in many patient care settings deliver instantaneous information while de-emphasizing physical contact and verbal communication with patients.

Care plans consist of computerized forms that contain evidence-based interventions (the hallmark of the health care professions). …