How to avoid gossip on the nursing floor

iStockphoto + Scrubs

How do you know when your innocent passing of seemingly harmless information about others is gossip? I have been thinking about that a lot as of late. Here’s why: we have recently had some pretty malicious gossip that has severely impacted some of my coworkers’ lives. I am bothered by it!

So what is gossip? I love how Wikipedia defines it, “Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted.”

I think what’s so difficult about gossip it that it interests us so much—no matter if it is about a celebrity you don’t know or your co-worker whom you know too well. We all want to know what’s happening, right? I’m as curious as the next person!

When we haven’t worked with someone in a while, it seems kinda natural to ask, “How is so-and-so doing?” That always seems to come with a genuine level of concern. But it’s when we start taking other peoples private affairs—their financial situations, their relationships with others, their home lives—and start digging into them and dissecting them that we have a problem. When someone starts a conversation with, “have you heard…” I immediately brace myself for gossip and prepare my avoidance.

Speculation on what other people are doing or how they are doing is always dangerous. For example, you know that Nurse A has been hanging around an awful lot with Radiologist B. Talk on the floor is that they are friends, maybe more. Everyone is talking about it—constantly. And when Nurse A is gone from the nurses station, and Radiologist B also can’t be found, someone guesses that they are together. Before you know it, in the minds of everyone, these two people are having some sort of intimate relationship. And things snowball from there. Jobs are lost, people are hurt, friendships are damaged. Seen that happen? I have, and it stinks.

So how do YOU not get caught in the gossip snowball? I can share what’s worked for me:

1) I just don’t even ask. If I want to know how someone is doing, or what is going on with a situation, I talk directly to the person involved.
2) I never repeat gossip. I will state facts if asked—and I am not in the confidence of someone—but unproved gossip goes in one ear and stays there.
3) I ask that others stop gossiping around me or I remove myself from the situation. Really, I DO NOT want to know.
4) I confront people if there is gossip going around about them. I would want to know so I could correct things—especially if it is threatening my job.

Gossip has little place in the workplace—it is damaging and takes our attention off the patient. I’m working harder than ever to eradicate my participation in this harmful practice–look, I don’t like how I feel when I gossip or particpate in gossip! It’s not easy to stop, but it is the right thing to do.

So, how has gossip impacted you or your nurse team?

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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6 Responses to How to avoid gossip on the nursing floor

  1. K

    We actually have a nurse suing our employer, but she still works on the same floor and the same hospital. Lots of questions about what and how she can do that is surfacing. Also, anything anyone does to her is taken as a personal hit to her. She spends most of the time talking with one nurse in particular about how bad it is. Why does she still work there? How can she be happy at work when half of her coworkers are being called for depositions? The gossip going around is maddening, the floor morale is down because of this stuff.

  2. Amy Bozeman Scrubs Blogger

    WOW, that’s pretty heavy, but I bet NOT very uncommon.

  3. jeanne

    One of my co-workers took it upon herself to report me because she said she had witnessed me signing up with a girl for overtime.I had previously talked to the girl who wanted me to work for her,and told her that I could not work that night.I still got in trouble with my supervisor even though I had never signed anything, because this coworker had everyone sign that they had seen me signing up to do overtime with this girl.It was one of her busines.I had told the girl that I couldn’t work for her.Meanwhile she got a 2 hour break at night to walk her dog, never took a district,she just floated around the unit at night.She had to be one of the laziest people I ever saw.

  4. Granny RN

    To: jeanne:
    You were a victim of the very ‘bullying’ about which I just posted a comment in a different article this week.
    You were ‘stabbed in the back’ and have every right to be VERY pissed!
    People such as the one who did this to you are poisonous to EVERYONE with whom they ever work. Sooner or later they move on and keep on terrorizing others until we ALL, as a profession, say ENOUGH already! and put a stop to such crap.

  5. Granny RN

    I once worked in a large urban trauma center which had certain lunch times for staff and others for visitors.
    For about a month there were a pair of little ladies who showed up every day just before ‘staff lunch’ and sat at the same table in the middle of the cafeteria for the duration. It was simply assumed that they had a long-term patient in the hospital who was a relative until one day, about a month after they first came in, when one of the administrators walked over to introduce himself and to ask about the well-being of their ‘patient’.
    Imagine his surprise when they said: ‘Oh, no! We don’t have anyone IN here who is sick. We just come here for lunch to hear all of the latest gossip!’
    Gotta love the ‘little old ladies’…

  6. dlindab

    Beware of the gossiper who appears to be back-stabbing someone. Sometimes they are just trying to bait you into saying something unkind so they can go back to the person with, “Guess what she said about you.”
    If you wouldn’t say something directly to someone, best to not say it at all!