These days, it seems like everybody has a tattoo. In fact, according to a 2020 study, 44 percent of United States adults have one or more tattoos somewhere on their body. As society evolves and younger generations grow up, it’s no surprise that tattoos are becoming increasingly more popular. People are beginning to embrace the ancient art form, using tattoos to show off artistic freedom, important memories, and favorite quotes. However, there are some professions that still prefer employees to be un-inked on the job. So, when it comes to nurses and tattoos, what’s the deal?
The Breakdown on Nurses and Tattoos
Why the Stigma?
Let’s start by breaking down the negative stigma that surrounds nurses and tattoos. Tattoos have been viewed negatively in medical professions for some time now. There are two main arguments against visible tattoos on staff. While these reasons may be outdated, they are still present in the medical field in a lot of facilities across the country.
1. Association with criminal activity.
Back in the day, tattoos became associated with illegal activities. Tattoos were used to show gang affiliation, criminal history, and incarceration. If someone had a visible tattoo, others often viewed them as rebellious or dangerous. While this is still a widely used form of ink in some communities, it’s not the only reason an individual would have a tattoo. Nonetheless, traditional folks still only associate tattoos with criminal behavior and rebellious tendencies.
2. They look unhygienic and unprofessional.
Some individuals believe that tattoos are dirty and unhygienic. Although the tattooing process is, in itself, very safe and sanitary, some still believe that tattoos appear dirty. A lot of people also claim that tattoos are unprofessional in the work force. While this idea falls backs to more conservative times, the underlying belief still lingers in many corporate policies. Appearing unhygienic and unprofessional can severely impact the way your patients view you and the procedures that you have to perform for them.
Are There Rules Regarding Nurses and Tattoos?
Officially, there is no known or set policy regarding nurses and tattoos. Since no nursing authorities have taken a stance, the topic remains an unresolved issue. With that being said, many nursing schools and hospitals have implemented their own policies on body ink. For the most part, there’s usually some leeway when it comes to nurses and tattoos. Here are the most common policies that facilities have set.
- Some facilities require nurses to cover tats will working in scrubs, either with long sleeves or bandages.
- Some facilities only require large tattoos to be covered, allowing smaller, delicate tattoos to remain visible.
- Other facilities may allow tattoos, but none on the face, above the collar or below the lower arms.
- Some facilities prohibit tattoos of any kind.
Obviously, all facilities will require inappropriate tattoos to be covered at all times. It’s a universal rule to prohibit ink that shows graphic images, nudity, gang affiliation, offensive, and political elements.
Nurses interact with patients the most, so the impression they leave is very important. The nurse’s image is important for the credibility of the hospital, as this is how the patient will perceive the facility as a whole. This explains why some facilities ban tattoos – they want nurses to look “clean” while on the job. This is a controversial topic in many professions across all industries. The arguments that arise center around a facilities rights to limit their staff’s creative expression.
Many facilities claim that patients are more likely to trust a “traditional” looking nurse. However, this is an outdated idea because studies show that patients care more about the quality of care rather than the appearance of their provider.
What Should Nurses with Tattoos Do?
If you’re a nursing student or a nurse with tattoos, don’t panic! The most important thing to do is simply plan ahead.
If you’re starting the job hunt, check the dress code policy of the facility you want to work at to verify the rules on tattoos ahead of time. Find out if they allow tattoos at all and, if they do, what their cover-up policy is.
Additionally, if you’re thinking about getting some ink in the future, consider putting the tattoo in a spot that would be covered by scrubs. Since the policies regarding nurses and tattoos vary greatly, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, it’s best to get tattooed in a spot that can be easily covered up when needed.
Advantages of Tattoos in Nursing
Despite the negative stigma and strict policies surrounding tattoos, there are definitely some advantages to being inked as a nurse! Here are three advantages to getting that ink:
1. Tattoos can act as an icebreaker.
Tattoos can serve as an awesome conversation starter with patients. If a patient sees a tattoo on their nurse’s arm and asks about it, it could very well make them feel more at ease and comfortable. Especially during a difficult visit or a procedure. Tattoos can be a great tool to distract patients from what is causing them anxiety or stress.
2. Tattoos build connections.
Patients with tattoos may feel instantly connected to a nurse who also has them. Even if the patient doesn’t have tattoos, a nurse’s tattoos could spark a conversation about something that both parties have in common or enjoy. Body ink could serve as common ground between patients and nurses, which builds empathy and compassion.
3. Tattoos may distract pediatric patients.
Any pediatric nurse knows that children are often easily distracted. When a child is in distress during an exam, tattoos can be a great tool to divert the little one’s attention.
What are your thoughts on nurses and tattoos? Are you a nurse with some ink? We’d love to hear your experience, let us know in the comments!