Some consider gossip, rumors, and hushed whispers a harmless way to vent about frustrations in the workplace. For hospital work staff, especially nurses, gossip and rumors can create a toxic work environment. It lowers the work morale and creates a whole host of problems. In fact, there are several different problems nurse station gossip can cause.
Nurse station gossip is usually about a co-worker, a supervisor, or a patient. In some cases, nurses might even gossip about life outside of work. The problem is when the gossip and rumors find a way back to the individual (or individuals) they are originally about. It creates a toxic and uncomfortable work environment. Depending on the nature of the gossip, it can even make some nurses feel unsafe.
Lost Trust and Respect
Negative gossip and rumors can create skewed views of nurses, patients, and supervisors. You hear a couple nurses having a nasty gossip-related conversation about a patient or co-worker, and some of your trust and respect for all parties involved in the gossip dies. The only gossip that is healthy for a nursing station is positive or happy gossip. Negative and nasty gossip just creates problems for everyone.
Potential HIPAA Violations
Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review notes one of the more common Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations is the discussion of a patient between two nurses. Should that patient – or anyone who knows the patient – overhear you and your co-workers discussing something related to their health, it can result in hefty fines for both you and the hospital. In general, nurses should use extreme caution when it comes to what they discuss at the nurse’s station. You never know who is listening to the conversation.
Discussing patient information is not the only problem with nursing station gossip. Potential patients or potential donors (individuals donating money to the hospital or clinic) could get the wrong impression of the clinic or hospital if they hear you and other nurses talking badly about fellow members of the hospital staff or patients. At the end of the day, a hospital or clinic is a place of business, and your gossip could cause the establishment money and potential business.
How to Stop Nursing Gossip
Now that you understand the dangers of pow-wowing with your fellow nursing staff members about a supervisor or patient, the next question is – how do you stop nursing gossip from happening?
Never Repeat Gossip
You cannot always prevent yourself from hearing gossip, and you reporting your fellow nurses every time they gossip might just make things worse. But, that does not mean you have to repeat every piece of information you hear. The easiest way to stop gossip is to prevent it from spreading. You can do this by not discussing any of the gossip you hear. Just make sure the gossip ends at you.
Report HIPPA Violations to Supervisor
While tattling every time you hear your fellow nurses’ gossip is not ideal, you need to speak up of your nursing co-workers chat about patient information in public areas. You tell your supervisor so he or she can address the problem before the wrong person hears the gossip and it turns into a HIPPA violation with fees attached.
Talk About Something Else
One of the reasons nurses gossip is because they need something to do to pass the time other than their work. You can converse with your co-workers without using gossip or rumors. Talk about a new TV show that started or what you had for lunch yesterday. You could also discuss the neat thing your kid did last week.
As you can see, stopping to gossip with your nursing co-workers is not healthy or wise, even if you find the conversation to be relieving. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent hospital and/or clinic gossip. Check out our article, “How to avoid gossip on the nursing floor,” to learn more about nursing gossip.