Psst....Let's Talk About Gossip in the Nurses' Station
Gossip comes in many forms. But, no matter how it gets started, it can be harmful. Let's explore the good, the bad and ways to keep ourselves out of the dirt.
It is flu season. Turn on any news station and you will hear statistics about how this year's flu has spread faster than anything. But, there is one thing I can think of that spreads faster than flu and does not have a limited "season" - that's right Gossip!
Gossip is a pathogen, infecting workplace morale, productivity and the mental and physical health of those around it. Gossip happens at the nurse's station, in patient rooms, in the elevator and even through text or email.
One study found that gossip is expected to occur in stressful work environments where people work closely as a team. Nursing certainly fits this criteria.
What is Gossip?
Dictionary.com defines gossip as idle talk or rumors about the personal affairs of others.
According to Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN, gossip can be an attack on another person's character or personal attributes. It betrays trust, damages relationships and breaks confidence. In some situations, it can even be considered a form of bullying.
Gossip comes in many forms. Here are the most common ways it shows up in nursing departments:
Rumors - repeating information that is not entirely true
Judgements - forming an opinion about an issue or person without adequate information
Tattletales - telling on someone or revealing information about another person's actions
Betraying Confidentiality - sharing information you were told in confidence by another person without their permission
Let's be clear about one thing: gossip can be good. It can relieve emotionally charged situations. It can spread information more quickly than a flyer on the back of the bathroom stall and it can decrease stress and create bonds.
The negative effects are certainly stronger and greater in number than any positive effects. Gossip must be regulated and at times, resisted.
Why Do We Gossip?
Gossip can be fun. It may make you feel like you belong to the "in" crowd. It builds social bonds between yourself and the other gossipers. And, you can even use it as a way to feel better about yourself. Negative talk about others, makes us feel superior.
Tips for Staying Out of the Dirt
Redirect the Conversation - If you are given information that is a rumor or gossip, simply redirect the person who is sharing this information with you. Try to gently change the subject by asking a question that is far from the gossip or share something else that can easily grab their attention.
Reflect on the Feelings or the Sharer - Instead of engaging about how Susie left a mess in Room 4 for Greg to clean up, reflect on Greg's feelings. Use a statement such, "Greg, it sounds like your shift started out rough. What can I do to help?"
This removes Susie and her actions from the conversation and allows you to let Greg know you hear him and are there to help him with this difficult situation. Gossiping about Susie will not get Room 4 cleaned up, but your help and willingness to listen to Greg will.
Remove Yourself From the Conversation - If reflection and redirection do not work, it may be time to simply walk away. By removing yourself from the conversation, you are making a clear statement that you do not want to be part of the gossip.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Don't Repeat - If you hear gossip. Simply tuck it away and leave it where it should be, in the past. If you would not be comfortable saying it to the person's face, don't repeat it behind their back. No matter how juicy it may be.
Set High Professional Standards - We can each set high professional standards for ourselves. Standards that gossip simply does not fit into.
If you are a nurse manager or leader, set high professional standards for your staff. Model the behaviors you want to see in your nursing department. Don't tolerate gossip. Confront those who are habitual gossipers and set clear expectations. Hold everyone accountable for keeping gossip to a minimum.
Most nurses chose this profession with helping others in mind. Yet, our treatment of colleagues may not always be helpful. Use these tips to stay out of the dirt on your nursing unit.
Have you ever been the subject of nurse gossip? Did you confront those talking about you? Have you ever stopped gossipers in their tracks? Share your stories with us.
About melissa.mills1117, BSN
Melissa Mills is a nurse who is on a journey of exploration and entrepreneurship. She is a healthcare writer who specializes in case management and leadership. When she is not in front of a computer, Melissa is busy with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs and a fat cat named Little Dude.
Joined: Feb '17; Posts: 94; Likes: 205
Freelance Writer, Nurse Case Manager, Professor; from US
Specialty: 19 year(s) of experienceJan 29I have found that most places that try to regulate "gossip" are actually trying to manage lateral cordial communications in an effort to control comradeship. This is in an effort to prevent group think, the first step on the road to organized labor.
Nurses are generally a social people considering their profession is highly dependent upon interpersonal relationships.
I guess I have mixed feelings about this. The best teams I have ever been on were very socially intimate and most of the worst teams and problems I have faced were directly due to a lack of communications and understanding.
I think we all can agree that there are positive and negative communications but generally it is the lack of the right communications that is the foundation of most problems.Jan 29I love to gossip, hear other people gossip, bathe in gossip, cook up gossip in a pan and eat it ...makes the day go by faster.Jan 29One definition you give is "repeating information that is not entirely true". That statement can literally be applied to anything. Only getting half the story from one person and not the other person...that person is repeating information that is not entirely true due to biases.
I think we tell others what we know to have a tighter knit group, but unless you are there and completely unbiased, it can be defined as gossip. Rather than saying "don't gossip" (redirect, etc), change how you interact with the subject of the gossip. If everyone is talking bad about Mary, be a friend to her instead. That will change people's opinion much quicker than redirecting the conversation. If you become the person no one can talk to, then you can't help those they are talking about.
Just my 2 cents.Jan 29At my old job the nurses were terribly gossipy. They were always talking about someone be it a co-worker, patient or family. It made me wonder if they would talk about me when I wasn't around. Not that I really care what others think of me, I just would rather people tell me what they are thinking about me to my face.
The gossiping got so bad that I swear I felt like I should have been on an episode of ER. A few nurses were talking about a young patient that was pregnant within earshot of the patients mother..we had to pull the mother off the patient I thought she was going to strangle her. The patient was barely 13 and planned on getting an abortion so the mother wouldnt have been any the wiser(in NY state minors do not need parental consent for abortions). Its a crying shame those nurses turned that poor girls(and her mom) life upside down for nothing. Everything about that hospital was dangerously lax(hello HIPPA)? Its no surprise it closed it's doors.
I guess the saying really is true..loose lips really do sink ships.Last edit by Munch on Jan 29 : Reason: SpellingJan 29Thankfully there is no nurse's station where I work in the OR. I am far too busy running my operating room that I have no interest or time to gossip. Huge difference from when I worked the floor. It's magnificent actually.Jan 29I don't like gossip. I think there is a difference between sharing and saying something negative about someone behind their back. To me that's what makes gossip destructive. If you need to address an issue, go ahead and be upfront. Otherwise you are prone to creating a negative atmosphere and at times spreading rumors and false information.Jan 30Personally, I don't think anybody should be the subject of a conversation when they are not present. I've almost never seen that end well and often the people who are flapping their lips lack to courage to actually address any issues they have directly with the people that can make any changes.Jan 31Quote from Sour LemonDon't forget to bottle it so you can use it for hydration...I love to gossip, hear other people gossip, bathe in gossip, cook up gossip in a pan and eat it ...makes the day go by faster.Jan 31I don't like gossip but I do like to know heads up of potential things that could affect me like coworkers who would say something about you in a heart beat. But to gossip about people I wouldn't do because I do not see the point of it. But if someone warns me of an issue that can come up with person x... I appreciate it and helps me get through the day more smoothly. Also if someone starts false rumors I would like to know about it and address it with coworkers as the situation arises. There was this person who lied to the staff about me refusing to switch her schedule and said I outright said no. Actually, she wanted to switch a day on a certain week and I said no. So she wanted to use that as if I said yes then she could tell management would say that I agreed to switch permanently....When i said no about the days she wanted to switch for that particular weekend, she turned around and told people that I said no about switching schedules with her. It was never discussed so when other staff asked me why I refused, I said there was no discussion about that and it was only for a couple of days on a certain weekend of the month. Silly rumor and gossip that really I thought was unnecessary.Jan 31To many fellow co-workers have diarrhea of the lips, here's an Imodium, shut up and get back to work.
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