As we all know, the HM revolution has evolved at a breakneck pace. While our specialty’s growth has outpaced that of any other in the history of modern medicine, hospitalists have a narrow bell curve of age, with a relatively rare “old” hospitalist. Having been a specialty for less than 20 years, HM’s working hospitalists primarily encompass a single generation. However, we are on the brink of brining a new generations of hospitalists into the workforce: Generation Y.
Social scientists and peer-reviewed publications have spent countless hours and pages speculating and defining generational spans. The typicality of each generation is both completely fascinating and grotesquely overgeneralized.
Baby boomers (born 1946-1961) are characterized by expansive individual freedoms; they are associated with civil rights, gay rights, and the feminist movement. They are notoriously hard-working, disciplined, independent, and relied little on their parents.
Generation X (born 1962-1981) is characterized as being media-savvy and highly educated, but more materialistic and less hard-working than baby boomers. Most hospitalists fall into Generation X, currently ages 31 to 50.
And now enter Generation Y, born beginning in 1982. This generation has more nicknames than Snoop Dogg. They also are known as Millennials, Generation Next, the Net Generation (referring to a reliance and comfort with the Internet), the Trophy Generation (referring to their need for rewards based solely on participation), the Boomerang/Peter Pan Generation (referring to their delay of typical adult transitions and a longer reliance on their parents), and “echo boomers” (as children of the baby boomers).
David McCullough brilliantly summarized Generation Y in a recent commencement speech. If his name does not sound familiar, it is likely because you have never lived in Wellesley, Mass. Known as “Swellesley” to local residents, it is a charming town about 15 miles west of Boston. Wellesley has a “Lake Wobegon” mentality, where “all the children are above average.” McCullough, a Wellesley High School English teacher, delivered the high school’s commencement speech this year to a packed room of high achievers. His message?
“Contrary to what your under-9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh-grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers, and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you … you’re nothing special.
“Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you, and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled, and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over, and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the [local newspaper]. And now you’ve conquered high school … and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building …
“But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.”1
I imagine this blasphemy caused something on the order of an existential crisis in Wellesley, but it does capture the essence of what it has been like to grow up as a Generation Y’er.