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Can You Have Tattoos As A Nurse?

In the not too distant past, having visible tattoos could preclude you from certain professions, including nursing. There was a certain stigma attached to body art and strict policies and dress codes forbade them.

Those rules have since relaxed, but nurses with one or more tattoos may still face some issues when applying for work.

In the following guide, we'll address whether you can have visible tattoos as a nurse and whether or not you'll be punished for having body piercings and dyed hair.

Can Nurses Have Tattoos?

There is no universal policy concerning body art in the nursing profession. The same applies to nursing students.

However, there are specific tattoo policies that could make your life difficult if you have a visible tattoo.

It all depends on where you work and how strict the facility is.

Tattoo policies may include terms declaring that all employees must:

  • Cover up visible tattoos using bandages or long sleeves
  • Not have visible tattoos on the hands or face
  • Not display tattoos when wearing scrubs

These strict dress codes aren't always enforced, though. Individuals are often judged on a case-by-case basis and they are more of a suggestion and a deterrent than anything else.

For instance, you likely won't be reprimanded for having a little tattoo on the back of your neck or wrist, but you may face issues if you have multiple face or hand tattoos.

Employers generally don't hire people who have a lot of visible tattoos only to ask for them to be covered up. However, if you work in a facility with a strict dress code it's best to make sure all new tattoos are in areas that can be easily covered up.

What About Body Piercings and Dyed/Long Hair?

Body piercings can fall foul of the same dress code restrictions mentioned above. Check the codes and remove the piercings as needed.

The same applies to long hair. In this case, there may be a hygiene or safety issue, but that's rarely the case and as long as you respect the facility's dress code, you should be okay.

Why Would Tattoos Be a Problem?

In an ideal world, tattoos wouldn't be a problem. It's just a form of self-expression and as a large number of Gen Zers and Millennials now have at least one tattoo, it's one that's very common.

However, there is still some stigma attached to tattoos. Some people associate tattoos with gang affiliation and criminality. These same individuals may also see tattoos as "unclean", even though the tattoo process is incredibly sanitary.

Many older patients view tattoos in this manner and the same could be true for high-ranking employees. As a result, they may be distrustful of nurses with tattoos and it may be harder to establish a connection with them as a result.

On the plus side, younger generations are much more accepting and may be more willing to open up to someone who has tattoos.

How Do I Cover Up Tattoos?

It all depends on where the tattoos are. If you have tattoos on your arms, wear long-sleeve shirts, bandages, and other accessories that cover your arms.

There are specially made sleeves that are designed to cover up tattoos in the workplace. These sleeves are comfortable, breathable, and come in a variety of styles and colors. They will hide tattoos without making it too obvious.

If you have tattoos on your neck, wear higher collars.

What are the Best Nurse Tattoos?

A small tattoo that can be easily hidden is best for nurses. Choose something that will be hidden by your scrubs and be sure to avoid the following:

  • Anything that might be considered offensive (cursing, referencing criminal activity, gore)
  • Large tattoos that cover the entire arms
  • Tattoos on the hands/lower arms, face, or neck

What if My Employer Doesn't Have a Dress Code?

Just because your current employer doesn't have a dress code, doesn't mean you should get a visible tattoo. They might not care, but what if you accept another nursing job? What if you start working as a critical care nurse and find yourself surrounded by restrictions? What if you start working in home health care facilities and find that you're constantly receiving distasteful glances and complaints from patients?

You don't know what the future will hold, so keep those employment opportunities high by saying no to large and visible tattoos.

How To Maintain a Professional Appearance

As a nurse, it's important to maintain a clean and professional appearance at all times. You're dealing with people who will put their lives in your hands, people who must trust you entirely, and while we're always told to never judge someone based on appearances, it's something we're all guilty of.

Spend time on your personal appearance to show your employers that you mean business and to show your patients that you care.

  • Use as little makeup as possible.
  • Don't cover yourself in perfumes and colognes. Not only can the smell be overpowering, but some patients may be sensitive.
  • Practice good self-care and personal hygiene. If you sweat a lot, use antiperspirant.
  • Wear solid-colored scrubs.
  • If you have long hair, secure it, and keep it tidy.

Which Health Care Facilities Have Dress Codes?

Dress codes can exist in all facilities, from nursing homes to hospitals, doctor's clinics, and more. As noted at the outset of this article, there is no industry-wide standard when it comes to tattoos and body piercings and it all comes down to specific employers.

Summary: Nursing and Tattoos

Humans have been tattooing for thousands of years and this art form has had a varying reputation throughout that time. To our Neolithic ancestors, tattoos may have been used for religious and medicinal purposes.

To Greeks and Romans, they were mostly viewed with contempt and reserved for prisoners of war, slaves, gladiators, and criminals, before later becoming common among soldiers and religious practitioners. In the late 19th century, tattoos became more of a socially accepted art form.

It is estimated that between 1/5th and 1/6th of the US population now have tattoos, and those numbers are much higher in current/former members of the military and young adults. They are also ubiquitous in the prison population and among gang members.

There is very little stigma attached to body art these days, but you may still encounter some professional roadblocks if you have visible tattoos. It's not a huge problem for nurses, but as noted above, it all comes down to where those tattoos are, what they show, and what your employer's policies are.

Individuals in law enforcement, banking, and teaching may face similar issues.

find nursing schools near you

find nursing schools near you