Nurses Go Clique-ety Clique

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Heard at the lunch table on campus the other day, “I sometimes miss working in the mill”.

This spawned quite the conversation, I must tell you. The conversation topic involved the ‘pulse’ of the nursing profession and its  sometimes palpable cut-throat atmosphere. I think you’ve heard it before. Nurses can be ‘catty’, and cliques seem to be a very common occurrence on nursing units.

“We need more men in nursing”

(I must say I wasn’t expecting this statement). When I inquired as to why we need more men in nursing, the response was not what I expected (or hoped).

“Most men confront you when there is conflict. They tell you how they feel right to your face. They speak their business and move on.” “Women do just the opposite”

Catty: Subtly cruel or malicious; spiteful (Free Dictionary)

As you can tell this was quite the venting session amongst a small group of nurses. It seems that a lot of nurses feel that the majority of nurses are following a horrible stereotype. Apparently most women can be quite mean?

As you can see I’m writing this blog post with a lot of question marks. I’m wondering just how true these opinions really are. Or should I say, how common are these feelings outside of my lil’ world of nursing?

I have to bashfully admit something though. I found great humor in this conversation. Mostly because I’ve heard this before. But more specifically, I found it highly entertaining that I was the only man in this conversation.

I for one think that there is a shred of truth to these thoughts, but I’m not so convinced that they are gender specific. I’ve met a lot of cruel men and women in my professional career thus far. I don’t think the ‘meanness’ trait has some strange exclusivity to the X chromosome. But it sure makes you wonder.

So folks, what do you think?

Are most nurses catty?

If they are, why? And what the heck can we do about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. All I can say is women period can be itches with a “b” and I’m a woman. Women nurses can be just as bad. Before my sister passed away she and I constantly used to say we would rather work with men any day because women were itches with a “b”. Well she’s gone now (I still miss her each day) and I have still not figured out why women do this to each other. Worst of all nurses. How can you cut up a co-worker then go and care for a patient? It’s an oxymoron.

  2. When I graduated in 76 as a nurse the older nurses ate their young, and now the milleniums are working. Wish we could all work together more effectively and share.

  3. I agree with Lora, not necessarily limited by gender or profession. But it can seem to escalate among females in the nursing world. For the many years I have been in nursing I have been able to stay disconnected from the working limitations that cliquishness can create, if not kept in check this can severely impact job satisfaction and consequent patient care. Here are my suggestions: most often you get back what you give. Go in expecting the best of everyone and that everyone is there to do a good job and be a great team. I talk to all of my co-workers. A tried and true strategy is to ask them about themselves. No one can resist talking about them self, so just listen and then show interest in their life. If there is a group that tends to cling together and have inside jokes, you may never be “in their group” but why would you want to? You can still develop a good relationship with them by giving and asking for help. I sometimes ask if they could all help me . I also have found that simply approaching them in a positive way and asking about their conversation clears the path. For example, “you guys look like you are having a great conversation, what is the topic?” or “is this just a conversation for the “cool people” or can other join too?” If you find out something cool about a co-worker share it with others in their presence and ask the group to agree about how cool it is! Another essential for me has been to not join in on gossip or inside jokes. If I am given information about someone I always ask the conveyor of the information if they have verified this information with the person them self. I usually follow that by stating, “I do not like to believe information I hear without verification so I will just ask the person next time I see them.” This sentence conveys that I do not approve of or want to participate in gossip. It also assures the speaker that if ever needed they can trust me not to gossip about them either. I love nursing and all the teams I have worked on. Team and trust are vital to good teams and gossip and cliques are the number one enemy of team.

  4. when I was in the hospital I liked the male nurses better they were more sensitive. The females either tried to start an arguement with when I was to tired to want to talk. Or kept me up most of the night by visiting my room mate every hour chatting at full volume. I just like the male nurses better all around. I also work in a healthcare facilty and some arent very nice. I wouldnt want a female nurse to take care of me because there are only a few good compassionate ones

  5. Male nurses are out of the ordinary and quite a welcomed change when one is your nurse. They typically are more direct, get their work done and help others out as they can. They tend to keep their professional opinions just that; keeping most relationships on that level lest risk being labeled a perv. This goes without saying; some can be down right nasty and hateful, team destroying instead of building; out to move up or to “one up” you just to make themselves look better or more knowledgeable.

  6. Oh how true. Nurses can be very catty. I did not face this clique mentality until I worked with nurses who were all the same age and when they all worked together, it was horrible. I loved my job at this fond place and we had had a good mixture of ages. Then the DON hired 5-6 RNs who were about late 20’s -early 30’s. THE CLIQUE. They were skilled in chemotherapy but only helped each other. I hated working Thursdays when they were all there together. And I’d been in Nursing for about 20 years when I had run into this pack of wolves. Never had I experienced such poor professionalism. I am an LPN still work per diem through an agency for private duty and love it.

  7. It is not gender specific, nor career choice specific. I personally like to speak my mind in an appropriate place and with professional kind words. I do digest and check myself first, often I find it is my mood that is the issue and I work to correct it and make any apologies needed. Sometimes I digest and decide it is important to speak with the other party. I also will walk away from any “cat fest”, and if you try to bend my ear about another, I will ask if you need to just vent or am I to address this and is it any of my business, once many digest those questions, they sometimes change the line of conversation. I might be showing my age, but with maturity comes wisdom…or so they say! Oh and yes I used the word digest quite often here, but it is lunch time, and I am hungry!


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