What Do Nurses Think About Tattoos?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Historically, if you mentioned the word “tattoo” to a nurse, you might as well have drawn a line in the skin—er, sand. On one end of the spectrum, you had nurses who would like their bodies and the bodies of colleagues to remain completely untouched. On the other end of the spectrum, you had nurses who would like to cover every limb with ink and could probably recommend the best needle to get the job done.

We had an inkling that nurses may be evolving to adopt a more accepting attitude toward tats. In order to know for sure, we decided to needle the nurses on our Facebook page for their opinion and here’s what they had to say:

“I am an RN and dementia runs in my family…I personally don’t mind tattoos, so for my 65th birthday, I am going to treat myself and get two. One is going on my left lateral thigh. It will say, ‘Hadol here,’ along with a target symbol. Then on my right lateral thigh will be another symbol, but this one states, ‘Alternate sides please.'” —Laura F.

“I have 12 tattoos and I’m a nurse. As long as it’s not inappropriate, then it shouldn’t be an issue. Except for those ridiculous tattoos on the face! I absolutely hate face tattoos.” —Rasheeda H.

“I worked in [the] private sector where we had to cover up; our policy was no visible tattoos. Now I work for the VA and we do not have that policy, probably because of the population we serve; most veterans have at least one.” —Kim J.

“I would rather work with a nurse who had tattoos but was a good nurse and coworker than a nurse who had none but didn’t take good care of their patients and treated coworkers badly.” —Laura S.

“I am a nurse for the state of MN and I just got my first tattoo for my 50th birthday. Everyone at work, including my boss, loves it!” —Jodi T.

“If we start defining professionalism or base hiring standards on whether one has tattoos, then that opens up the availability for people to start judging by other superficial means; soon it will be no fat people or ugly people, etc. Come on folks, let’s grow up.” —Christina B.

“I have tattoos that can all be covered. However, I worked with a surgeon who had both arms sleeved. Did NOT affect his ability to do some fantastic work. Actually had a patient comment that he thought it was cool!” —Rob E.

“We went from a cover-up policy to a tattoos-are-okay policy as long as they are not offensive; determined by your supervisor. Not a tattoo person, but to each his own.” —Billie Jo L.

“In excess, they can be very distracting and unprofessional. As long as they are not sleeve, neck or facial tattoos, I think tattoos are fine.” —Barbie Y.

“Do! My tats do not affect my nursing skills, care or compassion. I haven’t had a patient who said anything negative about them. I find that most people are curious about them and ask what the meanings of them are. None of them are just random; they each have their own significance. I’ve got seven right now and plan on more. I even thought of getting ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ in the middle of my chest.” —Pam P.

“Be you!” —Stacey R.

Love them or hate them, tattoos are here to stay. Literally.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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Patricia Beaty
2 years ago

Nursing is a profession not a modeling show for opinions or a body art show. I think nurses should stick together for professionalism and continuity. Why are we even discussing another way to pull nurses apart? Just cover them up at work and avoid controversy and potential discrimination from a population who does not care for body art, piercing and rainbow colored hair. Respect is earned not guaranteed.

2 years ago

Oh my sweet jesus…an opinion was asked on if is ok for nurses to gave tattoos…but most of the comments are either people answering the question or people bashing people for not liking them….
You are allowed to like tattoos but you shoukd respect the people who dont.
Wow nurses do eat their young….

2 years ago

To each his own, though I personally dislike permanent tattoos. Temporary tattoos can be fun, and I have been known to play around with them, especially on Halloween!

Bennie Pulver
3 years ago

I am concerned about hepatitis? I was taught that there was possibility of transmission. Tattoos send a flag that they may have this communicable disease.

Laurean Keasling
3 years ago

In the area i work in, psychiatry, its hard NOT to have or run into tats. Some nurses have sleeves, some have the dermal piercing, one of my colleagues has an ear tat. With some patients it is a way to build therapeutic rapport due to having something in common. I just want a couple more one on the hand that just says ‘this too shall pass’. My patients will know what it means.

L pierce
3 years ago

I at one time did the hiring for a LTC facility. Some Tats are classy and some are not… I’ve seen the cute little lizard become a crocodile or words becoming a foreign language that has not been discovered yet. Facial tats, necklaces .. not really appropriate for that environment… skulls in the over 70 population may represent poison. So… I think for nurses it’s best to keep them covered. I don’t have one… not for any reason but I just don’t want to be branded! I think the profession dictates a certain amount of reserve… however, to each his… Read more »

Anne Oishei
3 years ago

Anne, Madge, and Joyce,
I am an RN with a BSN AND more importantly a compassionate, efficient, bright, and professional nurse. My sister died last year and I got a tattoo for the first time in my life. It is a small pair of pink crocs with her initials and RIP on the inside of my forearm. This was a beautiful way to honor my sister and having this tattoo has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to provide excellent care to others.

Marci Jones
3 years ago

Tattoos are a personal choice. For the professional, having face and neck tats could be distracting for some patients and coworkers. But, in today’s world, most people are exposed to seeing extreme tats and piercings. The problems with tattoos and piercings happen when these people need surgery and don’t want to remove the belly button rings, or expect that the tattoos will look the same after the incision is made. I would suggest that they think about the location before they get inked.

3 years ago

I do not judge my co-workers or especially my patients who may have body art. As a primary hiring person in the past , as long as it is not offensive language or in-appropriate visually, I am good with it. Kind of speaks to nursing being judgemental or profiling of people. That, folks, will affect your nursing care and assessments. Please don’t do this.

Joyce Canavan MSN, RN
4 years ago

Food for thought: If 2 equally qualified nurses are applying for a job I will always hire the one sans tattoo.
Unprofessional baggage to say the least

madge Gunia
4 years ago

I can’t even imagine why anyone would want a tattoo. They are always ugly and disfiguring. MG, RN

Deanne Francis, RN, IBCLC, LCCE
4 years ago

I graduated with a BSN in 1963….yup! The dark ages: starched white dresses, white nylons, white shoes and those abominable starched caps. Love scrubs. Hate tattoos on many levels. I think it is hard to improve on even the most humble bodies by adding colored drawings or writing. There has just got to be a better way to express oneself than that. And don’t get me started on mothers who refuse to take their nipple rings out long enough to supply needed breastmilk for their preterm infants. Good night, nurse!! Deanne Francis, RN (NICU)

Barbara Fitch, RN
4 years ago

We have really come a long way baby! Nursing instructors used to measure the length of our dresses from the floor, had to be below the knees (yes dresses) NO GOING without a FULL SLIP either. Hair could not touch the collar!!!! Tiny stud earrings, micro pearls for example. Have come a long way. Yes I graduated in 1976, Any questions.
Nurses that trained in Catholic Hospitals had it THE WORSE!!! To all our young cool nurses,
GO GET YOUR TATTOOS and live it up!!! We are out of the DARK AGES.

Ruth J.
4 years ago

I never could quite understand why anyone would do that to their body. I have my ears pierced but even the holes could grow back together. With tattoos you are disfigured for life. Besides, to me they are unprofessional looking.

Wendy G
4 years ago

My son has Type I Diabetes posted around the medical symbol. He refuses to wear any tags to alert others of his condition. This tattoo literally saved his life. He was in a car accident and the EMT noticed his tattoo. BS was extremely elevated. No more complaints from me.

4 years ago

My tattoos are just as much a part of me as my fire engine red hair. Neither of them affect my skills as a nurse. I think that this difference in myself make me more accepting ang compassionate with others who are different. A good nurse is a good nurse, no matter what she looks like. However, I will say, I don’t like vulgar tattoos, that is disrespectful…

4 years ago

I hate tats ….think they are ugly and would never get one myself because 1) I hate needles (yes I know and I worked in adult oncology) and 2) I think they are unprofessional.

Cyndi D.
4 years ago

I don’t understand the remark by Laura S. What do tats have to do with a nurse being good at what he/she does or bad at it? I do agree with Christina B…”judging by superficial means” because of having tattoos is ridiculous. Just abide by cover-up policy if one is in place.

4 years ago

Hadol? How long u been a nurse? Nursing home doesn’t count…