BACKGROUND: Radio frequency identification (RFID) is an emerging technology that is rapidly becoming the standard for hospitals to track inventory, identify patients, and manage personnel. METHODS: Research involved qualitative methods including participant observation and interviews with hospital staff members and industry consultants in the United States. RESULTS: Hospital staff, especially nurses, expressed concern about the surveillance potential of these tracking technologies. Additionally, nursing staff frequently experience an intensification of labor as a result of the implementation of RFID systems because the task of keeping the systems operational often falls upon them. CONCLUSIONS: The social and organizational factors that contribute to the success or failure of RFID systems in hospitals must be further analyzed. The implications of RFID systems, such as privacy concerns and work intensification for nursing and other hospital staff, should be taken into account from the outset, especially during the design and implementation of the technology.