Objective: To determine how attitudes of rural mental health nurses differ across generations. Design: Survey. Setting: Mental health services in rural New South Wales. Participants: Practising mental health nurses. Main outcome measures: Survey responses. Results: Survey response rate 44%. A total of 89 mental health nurses, clustered in inpatient units and community health centres, responded. Of these nurses, 4 were veterans, 52 baby boomers, 17 Generation X and 5 Generation Y. Conclusions: There are significant difference in how mental health nurses from different generations view their work, and in what is expected from managers. Managers need to modify traditional working styles, allowing greater flexibility of employment. They must also accept lower staff retention rates, and facilitate the development of younger staff.