Great post Mira!
The NICU is very interesting in that we are often in constant proximity with one another during the entire shift. It's not like you can leave your patient's area easily when you don't want to be in the middle of certain conversations. Sure, you can leave to go to the supply cart or something for a few minutes but ultimately you are stuck together basically all the time.
I found this rather disconcerting right from the start because I've never been one to gossip. I've always physically left the area when such conversations began. In the NICU, if I can't leave, I simply begin charting or do something with a baby so I look too busy to be included in the conversation via eye or voice contact. Trying to change the conversation can help sometimes, but when a group of people want to gossip, they can get a bit irritated with the person who tries to derail their gossip conversation.
My "refusal" to join in with the gossip placed me in the "outcast" group of people... Sometimes being in the clique can be helpful in knowing about upcoming events, who's planning on leaving, who's up for promotions, etc. It's a very fine line to walk if you want to be "in the know" yet not known as "a gossip". We "outcasts" tend to hang together in an unspoken way. I did have my manager during a performance evaluation tell me that she overheard some nurses talking about me and they said, "You know, I've never heard Ana say a bad word about anyone." I still smile when I think about that. I may not be everybody's buddy but I'm also not looked at as anyone's enemy either. I'm thinking some folks look at me with suspicion as if I'm a possible "snitch" or something though... which I'm not... but that's sometimes how I feel.
I believe that nurses, just like other groups of people, have their different personalities and insecurities. Life is like that. I do wish all nurses were different though, but I like to believe that as a whole, we nurses are more thoughtful and compassionate as compared to other groups of workers.
That's the optomist in me talking... and believing it to be true.