CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · J Acad Ophthalmol 2018; 10(01): e38-e40
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1620235
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

The Millennials in Medicine: Tips for Teaching the Next Generation of Physicians

Maria M. Aaron
1  Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
Patricia Levenberg
2  Formerly of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Review Committee for Ophthalmology, Chicago, Illinois
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

07 August 2013

30 November 2017

Publication Date:
19 March 2018 (online)


A new generation of men and women, the Millennials, are entering our residency programs and clinical practices, and these young physicians learn and work in ways that are remarkably different than the cohorts of the past three generations. Therefore, it is important to have an understanding of the general characteristics of the Millennials and the other three generations because the differences, particularly in regard to the Millennials, will have a significant impact on both the delivery of health care and how the different generations interact within academic medical organizations. Next, one must then learn how to maximize the teaching and learning environment for the Millennials in our residency programs.

While it is important to understand the qualities of all four generations, one must keep in mind that not all individuals of a generation have precisely the same characteristics and many individual qualities are the result of parenting styles. There are currently four generations in the workforce: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials. The Traditionalists, also known as the “silent generation,” were born between 1925 and 1945. Typically they are “all work and no play” doctors. They are the Professor Emeriti and senior faculty members, who have wisdom, a strong work ethic, and loyalty to their jobs; you can count on them. However, they may lack knowledge of the latest technological advances and are often perceived as too formal.

Next, the Baby Boomers, born after World War II (between 1946 and 1964), are generally the midlevel and senior faculty members, often the leaders in our departments. The Baby Boomers are considered workaholics who are extremely dedicated, ambitious, idealistic, and competitive. Their careers often define them and provide their identity. Therefore, they have little understanding of work–life balance, another “all work and no play” group.

Declaring their independence, the Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1979 and are mostly midlevel faculty members. They tend to be more cynical, distrust authority, and believe that there is more to life than work. Since they believe that family is a priority, they want balance between work and life and dislike rigid work requirements. They often seek out feedback and tend to rely on technology for communication more so than the Traditionalists or Boomers.

Finally, the Millennials, or Generation Y, our current junior faculty, residents, and medical students, were born between 1980 and 2001. These individuals grew up in a booming economy and therefore are often accustomed to the best. They have been called the “child-centric generation” because they were raised with close parental involvement (the so-called helicopter parents). Millennials have many positive attributes, such as being team oriented, safety oriented, optimistic, civic minded, and want to make the world a better place. They desire immediate access to technology, tend to have shorter attention spans, and necessitate talented instructors to persuasively engage them.[1]

Armed with solid demographic information, a good teacher can create learning activities and bedside instruction based on the traits that most characterize the generation. Our standard approaches to educating residents are no longer ideal. Our newest learners in the healthcare arena require novel approaches to feedback, mentoring, teaching and learning, and work–life balance. If faculty wants to succeed in ensnaring this group, they must get creative with their approach to learning.