Conflicting views on Nurses with tattoos!

Wow!  Recently I heard negative comments by members of the general  public about two Nurses who had visible Tattoo’s. I posed a question about Nurses having Tattoo’s on the Nurses for Nurses Network public facebook page and have received some  great  thought provoking posts!

The comments  heard by the members of the public implied that these Nurses were not ‘trustworthy and looked  ‘tough’. I  can only assume, and it may not be accurate, that their personal judgements are based on past societal   perceptions regarding anyone with a Tattoo.  A peer shared that it was probably related to  ‘ those in the older age groups’ – however did not articulate what those age groups were.

In healthcare we work with   individuals across a wide generation gap including our  clients / patients and colleagues. Do you think patients of any age would be bothered by being cared for by Nurses with  visible Tattoo’s?    Surely the patients we care for are focused on the Nurse being professional  and caring for them in a competent and empathetic manner. Many of us over the years have worked with Nurses who have perhaps been less than professional based on their  personal presentation and behaviours in the workplace which have not been linked to visible Tattoo’s.

Have you ever experienced any negative feedback relating to same? Personally I have only heard a peer on one occasion in more than  30 years of  Nursing comment  about a Nurse who had visible tattoo’s on their neck and the side of their head and the comment  was ‘ bl..dy hell, they must have a high pain threshold that would have hurt’.

Most workplaces have professional work and dress code standards and some workplaces insist that staff ‘cover up’ visible Tattoo’s. What are your views on this and are these policies reinforced?

Professionalism encompasses far more than mere appearance and do you think that Tattoo’s are, like a hair style or vibrant hair colour  merely an individual choice that should not be negatively viewed in the workplace or do you think that Tattoo’s detract from the public’s perception of Nurses as a professional body?  We would love to hear your views and comments!

There are 20 comments for this article
  1. tina mcgrath at 12:07 pm

    I have a tattoo on my foot where no patient will be seeing it as socks n shoes cover it at work. My x boss did not like tattoos on show or coloured hair and asked the 2x staff to re dye it. I think the hair colour is fine as long as its of neat appearance and clean.

    • wendy pankhurst at 10:35 pm

      i do not like tattoos, but in saying that 5 of my 6 children have tattoos. They have all been brought up in a Christian household and are positive contributors to society. Son in defence force; daughters as IT Specialist; Corrective Services Officer; Confined Spaces and last but not least a reg nurse, who is kind compassionate empathetic skilled strong and has an excellent work ethic. She builds great rapport with her patients esp the elderly, many of whom keep in touch with her after discharge. Clothes do not maketh the man and tattoos or lack there of do not maketh the nurse. It is like the recent comments about mothers with tattoos being bad parents. Those who persist in beating this drum are ignorant and judgemental and irrational in their their assessments. Tattoos are irrelevant in most cases in defining a person! BTW my last daughter is a schoolie and she doesnt choose to be tattoed



  2. gillian at 5:12 pm

    I think a single tattoo is fine. But full arms should be covered. I have a friend who is a male nurse x boxer and he has a tear drop on his face. He covers that up everyday with makeup.

    Each to there own really. But as long as they look clean and tidy otherwise.

  3. Lynne McIntosh at 7:53 pm

    As a registered nurse for over 30 + years and as a Director of Nursing ( or above ) for most of those years I find visible tattoos very off putting on Registered Nurses . I have been a patient many times and I often feel that educated nurses knowing the risks and public perception need to consider their role before getting a tattoo that will be on display.

  4. Gayle Pershouse at 10:30 am

    While I do not like tattoos at all, I believe that tattoos have nothing to do with a persons ability to deliver quality care to another person. As long as the person is clean, tidy, empathetic and professional, I have no issues with this.

  5. Mel at 2:23 pm

    I have tattoos, I cover them up at work because of these previous comments, but I choose to cover them and am not asked to by my superiors. Most people would not assume I have tattoos by looking at me. Most often people assume I am quite boring and “dowdy” and the look of shock when I am out socially, including at work social get togethers, is hilarious as I do choose to show some of my “ink” then.

  6. Sue at 6:42 am

    I have very visible tattoo’s on my forearm, I have a wonderful position as a clinical coordinator in an aged care facility, my residents love my tattoo’s, they are hearts and represent my family, I also have the breast cancer symbol and a graduation cap visible for all to see. These things all mean the world to me and I’m proud to show them off!

  7. Barbara Healey at 2:12 pm

    I am a registered nurse from the older generation. Having been exposed to the very strict code of conduct including professionalism and appearance. In the “old days” we were not allowed heavy make up and only a small piece of hair on the forehead, the rest under a cap or veil.Whilst I am glad the bad old days are over I still base my first impression of nurses on their presentation and appearance.. Of course it has nothing to to do with the delivery of care and compassion but to me it signifys professionalism. Excessive exposed tattoos reminds me immediately of bikies and thugs This is something I cannot help, because of my generation, but of course I have to accept the new generation’s ideas. Everyone these days can voice their opinions and unfortunately they are my opinions. I cannot understand why anyone would want to deface the beautiful body that was given to them.

  8. Helen at 2:44 pm

    My brother-in-law removes them for a profession – can’t keep up with the demand. Most of his clients say they’re having them removred because they can’t get work. If you have a job & it’s accepted, then well & good but if you need to apply for a new one, you could find some prejudice.
    And incidentally … Why have needles put into your skin unnecessarily? There’s always the risk of hepatitis C – Pamela Anderson can vouch for that.

  9. Bonita Green at 10:14 am

    Let’s get real here, you will always be judged on your appearance. Nice people have tatts and so do bad people. If you want to be viewed as a professional nurse, forget the tatts!

  10. Maria Macdonald at 10:55 pm

    I do not like tattoos personally but I never judge a person according to how they look. However I am concerned about the explosion of tattoos especially after viewing ABC’s “The Epidemic of Ink”. Please google it for yourselves and become informed about this industry which is unregulated. Essentially anyone can setup a tattoo parlour and where does the ink come from and what does it contain? Very interesting documentary.

  11. YH at 1:18 pm

    I am a nurse with a tattoo on my wrist and my ankles and to be honest had these before deciding to be a nurse, every person is free to be there own person, if it was a skin condition or massive scars covering people then no one would care, if you don’t like tattoos then don’t get one but if it came down to someone being able to save me or help me when I or a family member is in need I don’t care what they look like, I personally wouldn’t cover my arms neck or face but I wouldn’t be offended either by a professional having them, skin doesn’t affect the way they work or how they care for people.

  12. Deb at 7:47 pm

    Tattoos do NOT make or break a Nurse unless their own character is not above board or it may be prejudice or discrimination. The person covered in visible tattoos being judged is no different to the person next to him in chest to thigh ink you just can’t see them!

    I have visible tattoos and have had since I was 14 and in school. I am also a Registered Nurse. I have on occasions had patients or their relatives have a look of (oh your a nurse?) on their face, or asked if I was a cleaner or kitchen person (no offence to these occupations) However after engaging with these people caring and advocating for and making a great contribution to their recovery and occasionally saving their life, I have never found this opinion to be maintained!

    I have always had a good rapport with my patients. The elder generation you would think would be the most judgemental however it is generally their younger relatives who are the least trusting! I have often over heard some of my older patients say ” she is just lovely isn’t she” or similar..only then to hear the younger ones go omg she has got loads of ink or she has piercings! But as said before by the end of their relatives or their own stay they are thanking not just me but our great team! In fact my arm tattoos often open up a wondeful conversation with patients of all ages and always in an upbeat way.

    I have only been asked once to cover my tattoos as an assistant in nursing when I was 17. The Matron asked me to wear darker stockings then the other nurses as I had leg ink.
    My current Nurse Unit Manager has never commented in a negative manner or advised me of anything in regard to my tattoos. One complaint in nearly ten years on this ward and there was not a mention of tattoos.

    And so just recently (I’m now 50 so big gap there from 17) I made the decision as follows, I work in a major cardiac hospital in an acute cardiac ward, however on a Tuesday I do a memory clinic with out patients some who have dementia!

    I have only a certain amount of time to perform testing for each appointment and found in my first few interviews my sleeves (full arm tattoo and half arm) were a distraction to the dementia patients! They would ask questions and comment (never been anything negative) and I found I would have to redirect their test or questions! As some have volunteer buses and booked transport I don’t have time to allow for tattoo discussion and reorientation!

    So I guess that could be viewed as a negative however I just wear a different shirt that has sleeves or as its winter here and I’m in an office not beside a bed I leave my jumper on. So yes I’m covering them up.

    I have not found prejudice because of my tattoos by the public in general. I shower twice a day, clean clothes hair always washed and tied up short nails clean shoes. My work performance has never been questioned. I’m sure plenty have judged from afar but that’s their problem 🙂 Deb

  13. Angela Simon at 7:59 pm

    It is simple really, ‘Don’t judge me for having tattoos, cos I don’t judge you for not having them!’ I have tattoos, my mother hates them but when I asked her if it changed me as a person, she replied ‘No.’ I still maintain my level of professionalism at work and will always strive to do so. Times have changed and by the time I am in a nursing home, I’m sure the nurses looking after me will be trying to work out what mine mean and the answer is ‘ nothing to them’ but ‘everything to me!’

  14. Kerri Bendeich at 1:09 pm

    I too am a tattooed RN and have been for 27 years.
    Inidividuals get inked for a vast array of reasons, for the art of it but mostly I find for the connection the ink represents to their life..
    Departed loved ones, current loved ones
    kids, partners, pets etc.
    Like hair colour and style visible tattoos may offend some people in society and the people we care for, however if the artwork is not politically, racially or faith offence, then why should we have to cover them up?
    Personality is far too often based on appearance, and most often a poor predictor of personality. Such judgemental attitudes do not consider the nurses skill, behaviour, professionalism and caring characteristics.
    It’s unfortunate that we as humans all judge people too quickly..
    I recall an extremely rude patient commenting on a colleague choice of hair colour, which at the time was a pastel pink..
    The patient was extremely rude and kept commenting all shift about said colour..
    Meanwhile the female patient had the best mullet you have ever seen home made tattoos visible on forearm, and probably hadn’t seen a shower for sometime..
    So why do we judge people, just because it’s not something we could imagine doing to ourselves and expect others to agree and abide to our standards whatever they maybe..
    In a profession where there is strict Infection Control policies, clean washed hands with natural clean nails should be of greater importance to patients, then the nurses hair colour or ink visible..

  15. Dr. Wayne Gard at 6:25 pm

    This is very controversial topic Cheryl, it’s all depends what kind of tattoo it is that is visible and not covered by the uniform. If the Nurses violates the dress code and guidelines from any facilities, they should be discipline or do something about it. Removing the tattoo is much painful anyway.

  16. Niresh Reddy at 4:13 pm

    I had a student on placement recently in a Aged care setting with a pair of pouting lips/Kiss tattooed in red on upper side of her neck-and highly visible. Our elderly residents comprising of conservative ,cognitive and mental health diagnosis,made unsavory comments which upset the student and stated she felt harassed and picked on.. In hindsight I think tattoos are a personal choice but if it is going to attract comments which are not nice and will hurt your feelings and also does not sit well with elderly clients in workplace, maybe should in a private part of body which can be covered by uniform/outfit.

  17. Leanne at 11:51 am

    I have 2 visibale tattos on my wrists, I have had many comments made to me by Patients
    1) so what’s that about…my response was…that is about my son whom has passed away
    Patient replied, I’m so sorry.
    2) Arr, another one with tattoos, , to,which I replied, nicely,and calmly, they won’t make me hurt you, and I will always treat you right , there a personal thing, I’m. To offend you dont have them, and I’m still a good nurse.
    3 ) and my favourite is , so why would a pretty girl like you do that to yourself, to,which I sat with the patient and explained why they were there. Sincerely apologies will always follow and I have always offered to cover them , not that they are very big to begin with .
    All depends on how the person is on the day…only once I have found 1 person didn’t like and you know that’s ok. There not for everyone, I have colleagues who don’t like them either , but I can relate to their opinion as long as they can relate to mine, where all individuals and not like my face is tattooed either

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