Understanding Millennial Physicians’ Polarizing Reputations

A new survey commissioned by AGE-WELL, a federally-funded Network of Centres of Excellence, and conducted by Environics Research, offers a number of fresh insights into the attitudes of Canadians aged 65 and over and aged 50-64 toward aging, health and technology. The survey was conducted July 11 – 30, 2019 with over 2,000 Canadians 50 years of age and older.

My doctor retired last year; and after seven months of searching, I finally landed myself a new GP – a Millennial GP. I wasn’t sure at first. My first thought was that I would have preferred someone with more experience and, truthfully, someone who didn’t look quite so young! Nonetheless, his ratings were good and, as someone who works in healthcare research, I knew that although my first reaction was common, it wasn’t necessarily valid.

By most definitions, Millennial physicians are those doctors practicing between the ages of 28 and 38 (or born after 1980); and they make up nearly one tenth of practicing physicians in Canada. Chances are, if you have a Millennial physician, you haven’t been with them for very long and, as a company that specializes in understanding human behaviour and social values, we know that an experience like getting a new, younger physician can trigger a pretty strong response.

On one hand, some might fear that a lack of experience or a stereotypical “narcissistic/entitled Millennial” mindset could result in poor patient care. These fears are worsened by evidence put forward in articles like Forbes’, “Do We Have a Millennial Physician Problem?”.

Some, on the other hand, might feel that one of those “tech-savvy Millennials” could deliver better patient care by possessing more cutting-edge knowledge and being more in touch with today’s patients; a theory supported by articles like Millennial Physicians: On the Edge of a Brave New World”.

But how could these viewpoints on Millennial physicians be so contradictory?

Having spent decades tracking Canadian social values, our data offer a simple explanation for the wide range of conclusions surrounding this group of physicians — there is no one type of Millennial. When it comes to Canadian Millennials, one size (or one viewpoint) does not fit all. In fact, our research has found six distinct groups or “tribes” within the Millennial cohort in Canada.

From the Bros and Brittanys tribe made up of enthusiastic consumers who work hard for the lifestyle they want, to the energetic, sociable and idealistic Engaged Idealists, to the deeply skeptical of authority Lone Wolves — the six tribes that make of the Millennial cohort in Canada each hold their own distinct attitudes, behaviours and values.

Learn more about our six Millennial tribes

Further to our understanding of the generational cohorts like the Millennial tribes, our social values research has also provided us with a more thorough understanding of the Canadian health and wellness landscape. Using a similar method to the one that allowed us to segment Millennials into six unique tribes, our MDConnect™ Segmentation tool enables us to segment physicians in Canada into four distinct groups, and map those segments along the two dimensions that most powerfully differentiate them: how they view their role as a physician, and their sense of personal control.

Physicians in the Entrepreneurs segment are defined by their energy, buoyancy and insatiable need for the newest gadgets and most up-to-date information. They are tech-savvy and happy with the lifestyle their career affords. Networkers, on the other hand, view health and treatment holistically; and are deeply patient-centric while striving for a healthy work-life balance and refusing to see work as the be-all and end-all. The segment of physicians we refer to as Stoics approaches their medical career with a sense of stoicism (as the name would imply). They feel the weight of their responsibility to their patients, and long for better control over their lives. Finally, the Traditionalist segment of physicians takes a strong leadership role in their practice and with their patients, viewing physicians as the experts of healthcare and embodying the old adage, “doctor knows best”.

With an understanding that characteristics such as enthusiasm for technology and a focus on work-life balance are common among Millennials, it’s not surprising that Entrepreneurs and Networkers are the fastest growing groups of physicians. But that doesn’t mean that Stoics and Traditionalists are becoming endangered species. Traits associated with any of the six Millennial tribes can be aligned with each of the physician segments.

Physicians, like all of us, are people first and professionals second and even millennial physicians hold their own unique set of values

To sum it up, if you have a Millennial physician, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a disconnected doctor who doesn’t put in enough hours to properly care for you. It also doesn’t mean that you’ve been blessed with a physician who possesses knowledge of the most cutting-edge technology and treatment, or believes that you know what’s best for your health.

Physicians, like all of us, are people first and professionals second – and even Millennial physicians hold their own unique set of values. Whatever their behaviours, attitudes or motivations may be, good doctors will always do their best to help you take good care of your health. In my case, I moved past my initial instinct to assume my Millennial physician lacked sufficient knowledge or experience, and thank goodness I did; my stereotype was proven wrong.

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