Appearance--Double standards in Nsg Programs?

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  • Specializes in private duty/home health, med/surg.

We have a new clinic instructor (this is "Kelly's" 2nd semester teaching) who happens to have a few visible tattoos; our school requires her to cover them with band-aids during clinicals. The same policy applies to nsg students; we're also required to remove any visible piercings except for one pair of stud earrings in our earlobes. Part of the requirement is for safety reasons, but it is mainly so that we project a "professional" appearance.

I was speaking with a student who had "Kelly" last semester, and their group asked her about the tattoos. She said she was very happy with them & wished she didn't have to hide them. Many people were surprised that the lead OB instructor had even hired her, including Kelly--although she has great educational credentials, our instructors are very conservative. Kelly said she got the distinct impression during the interview that the lead instructor wasn't happy with her tattoos. From what I've read on this board, it seems like many nursing instructors are also fairly conservative about this matter.

However, when nursing students go to theory, we have it pounded into our heads that we should not make judgements about our clients based on their appearance. This seems like a double standard to me. Am I way off base here?

I agree that there has to be attention given to appearance--most people don't want a nurse with a dirty uniform, and it would be distracting if the person coming to give you "just a little poke with a needle" had piercings in every imaginable spot. These days, though, there are so many people of all ages and all cultures choosing to express themselves through some form of body art. I think nursing instructors need to realize that the times are changing, and maybe they should rethink their attitudes toward tattoos.


739 Posts

Specializes in OBGYN, Neonatal.

I agree that it is unfair that people are judged by appearances but I can see why they say cover them. My guess is because as you said many people won't want someone with tons of piercings and tatto's and such. I have to say, even myself, I love tats but am not fond of body piercings...but I can't tell someone else not to do it. I guess to each his own!

I think its pretty cool that your teacher as tat's. Mine are on my ankles so they are normally covered in everyday life. Hubby has tats on his arms and was thinking of nursing school so he would have lots of long sleeve days :) I'm sure he can handle it though as he has done that for job interviews.

Coming from an HR background, I like people to interview with me showing that they have taken the time to prepare for the interview: clean, pressed clothes, no ragged edges. I can tolerate jeans (as I love them) as long as they are properly fit and not raggedy looking. I always hated the no jeans thing! But I would prefer that peoples hair be groomed and that they didn't have 100 piercings, but I wouldn't hold it against them, because it doesn['t mean they can't do the job.

I'm rambling LOL

Just saying I totally understand your view on this! :):)

Coming from a tattooee!

not now, RN

495 Posts

Specializes in LTC, med-surg, critial care.

The subject of tattoos and piercings was brought up in orientation by our Director of Nursing. I went through middle and high school with her daughter and I know for a fact that she's a pretty laid back woman. Anyway, she explained it like this: "I don't mind tattoos. I don't mind piercings. You guys can do to your body's as you choose but the dress code remains as it is for this reason. A majority of your patients will be from a generation where tattoos were only for inmates and bikers, piercings through the eyebrow were unheard of. They still see it that way and if you come at them looking like that, they will refuse your care. We can't be judgmental but they can."

That's why I think your school requires her (and everyone else) to cover tattoos and remove piercings. I was dared to wear a nursing dress on Wednesday's since we don't do patient care (just gather information and meet our patient) but I can't because my ankle tattoo shows through tights.


6,620 Posts

Schools always have dress requirements that are a little more strict than the real world. I do think it's a little silly, but that's life. I found nursing instructors and nurses were more concerned about eachother's appearances than the vast majority of patients. As long as they are clean and abide by hospital policies, I could care less if a nurse has a tattoo.

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