The Rise of Millennial Med Techs


We’ve all heard the stereotypes. Millennials are lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed. And with the baby boomers retiring from the lab, millennial med techs are now filling up job openings. As a lab manager, this may be a reason for anxiety. Given what we’ve heard about the millennials’ work attitude, how can these incoming hires fit into a task-oriented, team-based environment like the laboratory?

Inclination for Technology

For a technology-based, millennials are undeniable assets. They are much more comfortable working with automation than the other generations. Their adaptability to change also makes the transitions to technical upgrades more manageable.

“They embrace technology and want to use it whenever they can, and they like to be creative and discover how to simplify a task using technology,” explains Brandy Blackburn, the lab supervisor of Quest Diagnostics Inc. “They don’t have all the answers, but they sure know where to find them.”

Despite showing great skill in technology, millennials can have the tendency to be less interested in the mechanical aspect of the job. The med tech workload can be pretty routine-heavy at times and this could be in conflict with the millennials’ preference for change and spontaneity.

Work Attitude

 “Laziness” seems to be one of the most enduring labels stuck onto the millennial generation. They’re always thought of as idle for refusing to do the nitty-gritty work. But from Blackburn’s experience, this may be a misconception. Millennials “just seek easier ways of getting things done” and prefer to work smarter, not harder.

Millennials are also comparatively more flexible and can switch tasks more easily. “They are more willing to change their hours to accommodate business needs than are workers from other generations,” said Blackburn. She also noted, however, that issues can arise from their desire for flexibility. “They want a lot of flexibility from their employers with regard to scheduling, which is an issue in a clinical lab where turnaround time is critical.”

Team Dynamics

Millennial employees typically have direct and frank opinions – an openness that could benefit the team. If there’s something that they don’t understand, they will ask. If they have suggestions about improving the workflow, you will hear about it.

This could further exemplify this generation’s lessened reverence to hierarchy. They don’t feel the need to shy away from stating their suggestions just because they’re in the lower branch of the org chart. They’re more likely to question a superior the way they question their peers. This shift in work attitude usually clashes with the older generation of med techs.

Reward systems have also significantly evolved between generations. Millennials respond greatly to feedback and recognition. Whereas baby boomers may feel that they don’t need affirmation since they’re only doing their job. Blackburn also stated that, “Millennials need more encouragement but less direction. Job security does not worry them as much as other generations, likely because parents now support their children up until their late 20s.”

In Managing the "Unmanageable"

Not every employee within the millennial age group will be the same. Everyone will have their own pros and cons that may not align with the ones listed above. But as a generation raised during a period of great technological and cultural shift, expect that this new set of workforce will not perform the same way the previous set did before.

Blackburn summarized this in saying, “I don’t think that there is a problem with the millennials; I think the problem is how to integrate millennials with other generations. I am sure it is an issue faced every ten or so years when a new generation is introduced into the workforce. There is no right or wrong; there is just different.”