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Do Not Over-Share!

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

1 Follower; 228 Articles; 316,151 Visitors; 27,607 Posts

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Bipolar disorder and other mental health issues are still very much stigmatized in many healthcare settings. Moreover, some physical ailments carry a stigma. Do you disclose your health problems to your employer? Do you disclose your prescribed medications?

Do Not Over-Share!

I first met Toni in the summer of 2010.

Toni (not her real name) was an average-height woman in her late 40s with a medium build, gray eyes and dark brown hair that fell several inches below her shoulders. She was a floor LVN at the same specialty rehab hospital where I still work. And she was one of the most proficient, highly skilled nurses I had ever met. With nearly 30 years of experience, this woman was a valuable resource who could run circles around virtually every other nurse on the unit. It's unfortunate I only got to work with her for a grand total of three months.

Toni lacked a verbal filter. She talked too much about her personal issues: the perpetually unemployed husband who cheated on her, the slacker adult children, and so forth. Once she revealed to her coworkers that she had bipolar disorder, they began to whisper to themselves, "This woman is so crazy!" As soon as she disclosed that she was not being treated for her issue, some coworkers placed a bulls-eye on her back and began to target her. And eight years of dedicated employment went down the drain as she was forced to resign over a questionable accusation made by a student nurse who was completing clinical rotations in the facility.

Prior to Toni's revelation that she suffered from bipolar disorder, no one bothered her.

Bipolar disorder and other mental health issues are still stigmatized in healthcare settings, whether or not anyone wants to believe it. I am cognizant that many state boards of nursing require nurses to disclose certain mental illnesses. However, if management or the employee health department at your place of employment is not asking about your health conditions, I would not divulge to any of your coworkers that you have any type of mental illness, because it is unfortunate and inevitable that some of these people will label you as 'nutty' or 'unstable.'

Also, develop an internal filter that will prevent you from sharing your personal problems that are none of your coworkers' business. Smile, be pleasant, and play the game. Do not over-share!

It took me some time to learn this lesson because I also have a history of mental health problems. I was treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the distant past and took medications for a while. I am also an extreme introvert who doesn't particularly enjoy mingling and small talk. Prior to sharing too much information at a previous workplace several years ago, coworkers largely respected me. However, once I casually mentioned my childhood traumas and other personal issues surrounding depression, people began to whisper that I was "weird."

To wrap things up, Toni's forced resignation taught me a couple of lessons that will remain in my awareness for the rest of my working career. For starters, if no one is asking about your mental health issues at the job, do not share unless you wish to be stigmatized. Second, if no one is asking about your physical health problems at the job, I also see no need to share this information unless your employee health department has a specific reason to know.

Finally, get an internal filter as soon as possible. Talk about superficial topics such as the vacation you recently took, the wedding you attended or your kid's birthday party. Anything more personal is none of your coworkers' business.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

1 Follower; 228 Articles; 316,151 Visitors; 27,607 Posts

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subee has 45 years experience as a MSN, CRNA.

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Being bi-polar is one thing, but working as an "untreated" bipolar (her words) is another. And I'm sure long before she admitted to being an untreated bipolar (who made this diagnosis?) she made people uncomfortable because she's sharing stuff people don't want to know trampling on everyone's boundaries, including those in her own family. So, not an employee I would want to have around, especially since she refuses treatment. I don't blame them for firing her.

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4 Articles; 16,161 Visitors; 176 Posts

The bipolar disorder did not get Toni fired (love that name); her lack of a verbal filter got her fired.

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RNdynamic has 5 years experience and specializes in Critical Care, Float Pool Nursing.

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If there is a specter of past substance abuse as well, you will be stigmatized. MAJORLY.

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

1 Follower; 228 Articles; 316,151 Visitors; 27,607 Posts

And I'm sure long before she admitted to being an untreated bipolar (who made this diagnosis?) she made people uncomfortable because she's sharing stuff people don't want to know trampling on everyone's boundaries, including those in her own family.

The bipolar disorder did not get Toni fired (love that name); her lack of a verbal filter got her fired.
Very true. . .but management and my coworkers at my place of employment had been dealing with her candor and lack of a verbal filter for 7+ years. Once she revealed she had untreated bipolar disorder, management made the decision to get her out of there.

Prior to disclosing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, she was considered a blunt over-sharer who perhaps lacked some tact and grace when dealing with coworkers. She always received compliments from her patients and was a proficient nurse.

After disclosing her history of bipolar disorder, all of a sudden Toni was labeled "a crazy nurse" who needed to be gone.

Another lesson learned: interpersonal skills will either make or break you!

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4 Articles; 16,161 Visitors; 176 Posts

Prior to disclosing her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, she was considered a blunt over-sharer who perhaps lacked some tact and grace when dealing with coworkers. She always received compliments from her patients and was a proficient nurse.

After disclosing her history of bipolar disorder, all of a sudden Toni was labeled "a crazy nurse" who needed to be gone.

Another lesson learned: interpersonal skills will either make or break you!

You call it candor? That was too much information that didn't need sharing in a workplace environment. The revelation of her "bipolar disorder" was the concrete reason for management to part ways with her. Might make one wonder what she shared with her patients.

If it was that easy for her coworkers to turn on her, they must not have really liked her in the first place.

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LadyFree28 has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Pediatrics, Rehab, Trauma.

75,153 Visitors; 8,427 Posts

Agree..."over sharing" such issues can affect your career...although sometimes "over sharing" in a succinct way can help...at least for me; I over shared with employ health and certain management at a previous employer; my over sharing during a PTSD exacerbation prevented me for a do not hire.

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CrunchRN has 25 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health.

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I have seen over sharing come back to bite many people in the butt in the work place. Smile, be friendly, and share surface/filtered versions of things is great advice that you gave.

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ThePrincessBride has 3 years experience and specializes in Med-Surg, NICU.

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Ha! I couldn have written this post last week. Great advice!

I have Borderline Personality Disorder, severe anxiety and clinical depression. I've been in and out of psych wards, but I am now stable and on medication. But guess what? I have never divulged this to a single coworker or employer.

People are so ignorant and judgemental especially about things they don't understand. Toni could have taken the employer to court over this.

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Nalon1 RN/EMT-P has 2112 years experience.

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One of many reasons I am pleasant with co-workers, but do not talk about personal stuff with any of them.

Work is work, home is home. I do not mix the 2.

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Meriwhen is a ASN, BSN, RN and specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

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And this is why I say "NO" when nurses wanting to work in psych ask if they should share their MH diagnosis to help land the job. More often than not, it comes back to bite you in the rear. You're not "identifying" with the patient population--you're placing a target on your back instead.

Edited by Meriwhen

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jtmarcy12 has 15 years experience and specializes in Med-Surg,Oncology,Neurology,Rehab.

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Commuter: You have such a way with words and such excellent verbal and communications skills,etc Have you thought of writing a book?

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