I am a tattoed nurse

Do you know the difference between a tattooed and non-tattooed person? The tattooed person doesn’t care that you don’t have tattoos.

Nurses who have tattoos. Are they any less professional? Do they provide a lower quality of care? 

Does professionalism have anything to do with art on your skin??

Before you answer… let’s throw a couple more logs onto the fire.

The public’s perception is their reality. Do tattoos change the nurse-patient relationship?

Oh, and what about employers requiring nurses (and other Health Care professionals) to cover up tattoos? (We’ll come back to this shortly)

I’m a professional. I’m a nurse practitioner. I’m a health care provider. And I have tattoos (yes more than one).  I have an admittedly biased, but honest belief that tattoos do not make the person. The person makes the tattoos.

Up until recently, all of my tattoos were hidden from plain sight under my work uniform. I would chuckle at the reactions from people who knew me through my professional life and then discovered that I have tattoos.

“*GASP* YOU have a tattoo??!!”

I’m sure I read into their reaction a bit, but it gives the impression that they’re shocked that ‘I’ have a tattoo. The ‘professional’. The health care provider. (I mean… Sean… you just don’t LOOK like a tattoo person)

Weird. What DOES a “tattoo person” look like then? Hmm.

Yes. I have tattoos. I’ve had them most of my adult life and each one of them told a story in my book.

I’ve blogged about this topic a number of times over the past decade. I don’t feel it makes me any less of a professional. It doesn’t diminish the quality, nor nullify the work I do. It’s simply an expression of me. Each tattoo represents something in my life (no matter how poor or how faded the tattoo may be).

With all that being said, the culture and profession that we currently live in continue to change and adapt. Less than ten years ago, visible tattoos in the workplace were viewed negatively and dare-I-say not accepted.

Tattoo = bad person (untrustworthy, unsafe, uneducated)

Not to mention the workplace just wasn’t having it, at least not in the world of health care. If you had a visible tattoo while in uniform, you had to cover it up.

Until now.

These days visible tattoos are almost the norm and seeing tattoos in the workplace barely bats an eye. While some employers still require employees to cover visible tattoos, others are at the forefront of embracing change:

Nurses with pink hair and tattoos? Why this hospital system is changing the rules

Here’s where things get interesting (with me). Remember I said I’ve blogged about this topic previously? These are the words I wrote back in 2009:

Now, I must also admit that there should be a certain balance when it comes to tattoos in the professional world. Part of being a professional is maintaining a certain level of professionalism, more specifically your appearance. I feel that tattoo sleeves, neck and hand tattoos can be a bit much for my patients. In that same respect, I also think dangly earrings, over-the-top body piercings (non-traditional I guess), unkempt facial and head hair, tattered clothing and lack of personal hygiene are also not ideal appearance qualities for the professional. So take my opinion with a grain of salt.

As times have changed, so have I. Not only is the public embracing tattoos in the workplace, but I have changed my mind about them. I don’t have a specific incident that changed my mind, I can only tell you I’ve gone from not fully embracing visible tattoos on other professionals, to having my own tattoo sleeve.

Oh My God Wtf GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yep. Change is the only constant thing.

Oh, you KNOW I had to do a video. I did this video a while back:

A tattoo artist discussing his art…

What to you think? Do tattoos matter in the world of healthcare? And is one’s opinion swayed by having tattoos?

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5 thoughts on “I am a tattoed nurse

  1. I’m a nurse. I have several tattoos as do many if my coworkers. I’ve had a few patients look me over a little during bedside report…but even the most traditional 96 year old patient easily accepted the large anatomic heart on my arm and requested me as her nurse 3 nights in a row during her stay on the cardiac med unit. 😎

  2. I agree there is less fuss made about tattoos now, and also hair colour.

    I’ve been refused one job because I had forgotten to wear a longer sleeved blouse to the interview and also taken aside at work (in front of 17 colleagues) for them to tell me that being able to see the very bottom of my tattoos below the bottom of my sleeves was not allowable. This was literally the tiniest line of black which only really showed if I happened to move a certain way.

    Thankfully, our uniqueness is beginning to become acceptable. I love not being the same as everyone else!

  3. Look Sean – you love your tattoos and they probably mean something to you but they don’t necessarily mean anything to anyone else other than “hey, this guy has a lot of tattoos”…..or whatever else you can imagine.

    Do they affect your nursing competence? Of course not! Unfortunately, we live in a world that we have to BEND to — not a world that bends to US. Enough opinionated people are out there who have views of tattoos that don’t line up with yours and as long as those people are out there, some hospitals are going to set their policies accordingly.

    Should some tattoos be covered up? I don’t know. You might think some should but another person might think otherwise. The only way to avoid case-by-case discussions is to allow either full blown showing or complete covering-up.

    Maybe one day, when every single hospital policy maker has tattoos all over their body, we won’t need to have these discussions. Until then, that’s just how it is. I’m sorry.

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