Can Nurses Have Tattoos [Outdated Policy Updates in 2020]

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Tattoos, as a trend, are becoming more ubiquitous in our society with every passing year. Some businesses and industries are becoming increasingly accepting of employees having tattoos. A recent study even found that patients do not perceive tattooed physicians to be any less professional, competent, or caring that physicians without tattoos. Still, the question remains: can nurses have tattoos?

Can You Be a Nurse if You Have Tattoos?

Yes, absolutely!  In general, as long as your tattoos are small, easy to cover, and non-offensive you should have no issue preparing to become a nurse.

However, there are definitely some situations where tattoos are stigmatized, thus making it somewhat difficult to understand when medical professionals can (and can’t) have them. As a result, a prospective nurse should consider several factors to determine what kind of tattoo they should get and what precautions they should take.

When Nursing Tattoos Are Not Acceptable

Large and Visible

If a tattoo covers your entire arm, you may have issues in nursing. The industry is typically lenient, but only to an extent. However, while a tattoo that fully covers your neck or arms can present issues, some employers are accepting IF they can be covered up during work hours.

Your best option here is to opt for a place that is easily covered if needed, not a spot that’s visible regardless of what you’re wearing.

Offensive

Tattoos with offensive imagery are not likely to be acceptable in nursing. For example, tattoos that have nudity, provocative imagery, or imply gang affiliation and criminal offense can all be problematic for a nurse. These types of tattoos would have to be covered up, and it would likely be seen as unprofessional by both patients and colleagues. If you think that the content or visual of a certain tattoo could be seen as inappropriate, then you will need to find ways to conceal it.

Employer Policy

Nursing associations in the United States do not have a definitive answer on if nurses can have tattoos. As a result, most schools, hospitals, and places of work have varying nurse tattoo policies in place that employees must adhere to. Some institutions require tattoos to be covered up, some ban tattoos of the neck, lower arms, and hands, and some ban all tattoos visible if a nurse is wearing normal scrubs or lab coats.

Related: Our Favorite Lab Coats for Female Nurses & Doctors

It’s important to examine the tattoo policy for places where you are interested in working as they could potentially have limiting restrictions. This does not mean you have a pass if you are currently employed and are seeking a new tattoo – it’s up to you to review the rules and ensure you follow them or you are just as likely to be penalized as a job seeker.

Military Policy

If you’re considering a career with the United States military then you may want to avoid most tattoos. Many tattoos that are not easily covered up, such as tattoos on the hands, are prohibited. In addition, anything that can be deemed offensive is also prohibited by the army and there are sporadic reports of prejudice against nurses with tattoos.

Tips on Choosing A Tattoo if You’re a Nurse

Placement

There are some places where a nurse should not get a tattoo. For example, many institutions ban tattoos that can not be covered up – this means that neck, lower arm, and hand tattoos are almost always off limits.

If you are still deciding on where to get a tattoo, it’s smart to get one on a body part covered fully by your scrubs. That means that a tattoo on your torso, back, or legs is ideal.

Design

A nurse should avoid offensive designs when picking a tattoo and the best tattoos for nurses aren’t large and provocative. Simple things like names, words, or positive images (like flowers or hearts) will typically be acceptable.

If a design is offensive in content than it is crucial that it can be covered up in working situations. There are creative ways to cover potentially offensive tattoos, but if you’re in the process of picking a tattoo, you should avoid anything offensive on parts of your body that you can’t cover. It is best to consider designs that can’t be interpreted in crude or inappropriate ways; this will limit the risk of being scrutinized in the workplace.

Medical Field

The types of patients you interact with on a regular basis should influence your decision regarding tattoos. Depending on your field, you’ll likely work with a different subset of people. If you’re working with older people that are likely less accepting of tattoos, you may not want to get something you can’t cover up.

Some patient populations are more likely to have tattoos of their own. If this is the case, they may relate more to a nurse that also has tattoos.  The patient population you work with should help decide what kind of tattoo a nurse gets, but keep in mind you could change jobs sometime and might have a different set of viewers…

Employer Policy

Most importantly, your employer or prospective employer’s tattoo policy should influence your decision. You shouldn’t get an arm tattoo if the employer fervently opposes lower arm tattoos. Although tattoos are personal, it isn’t worth losing your job or being reprimanded over and you should take the policy seriously in the decision-making process. If you’re considering getting a tattoo that could be visible, you should also consider speaking with your manager to make sure they are on board with it.

Yes, it is possible for nurses to have tattoos, but there are a lot of caveats. After considering their restrictions and unique working environment, a nurse should be able to pick a tattoo that fits their circumstances. If you really want a tattoo, this information can help you make a thoughtful decision about what tattoo you get and where to put it.