Policy on Tattoo's & Piercings

Nurses General Nursing


Hey all ...

I'm going to toss a general question out there? What is your work's policy on Piercings & Tattoo's. I'm a male nurse with my ears pierced, I take them out usually, or have very small hoops if I forget, almost nobody notices, and nothing has been said.

However, I have a tribal band around my mid-bicep. my scrubs usually cover it, unless of course I reach for something and and sleeve gets scrunched up, the other night I had co-worker say to me that I better cover it up a little better before one of our attending see it.

I skimmed through our handbook and there is NO mention of tattoos or piercings anywhere. I was just wondering if you do have to cover up your tattoo's on shift???


94 Posts

I don't have tattoos but our policy is that you cannot have them visible while at work, so a few people that had them on their necks had to wear turtle-necks or something to cover them. This change in policy made many upset but they also reminded employees that if they got new ones they must make sure it will not seen. With piercings male/female can only wear studs or very small hoop earrings

I think you should ask your resource nurse or NM about the policy since it is not in writing

Specializes in ED, OR, SAF, Corrections.

I would never have thought this was even an issue. I'm a civilian nurse working for the Army and we have active duty military with full sleeve tattoo's, tattoo's on the nape of the neck, etc... places you can't hide unless you're in full dress uniform, and I've never heard anything said to them. They would be more likely to be reprimanded for wearing the wrong color t-shirt under their scrubs (NO joke) than anything said about the tattoo's. Also, at the civilian hospital I worked at before I came to my current position, the nurse educator in the OR (female) had a HUGE tattoo on her left forearm that you couldn't hide if you tried.

But if you really think it's an issue, I agree with LVADRN to check with your NM or even human resources if there's no policy.


326 Posts

I'm a student, and our nursing school doesn't allow tatoos to be visible. I was in orientation when this was announced, and a girl with a full sleeve just got up and walked out. I don't know if she got mad about the policy and decided nursing wasn't for her or what. Maybe she just had somewhere to be, but I didn't see her for the rest of the day.

Christen, ANP

290 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, Orthopedics, Hospitalists.

my facility does not allow for visible tattoos, and earrings in the more uncommon areas (such as the nose or eyebrow or lip), nor for extreme hair colors (i.e., pink, blue, etc). that being said, typically if you are subtle, such issues may go unnoticed.


463 Posts

Specializes in MSP, Informatics.

It is in our employee handbook that all tatoos have to be covered. Out Lab guys seem to the the majority of tats, and seeing them come to the floor to draw blood with large bandages, and kurlex wound arround their arms.... I think I would rather see a tattoo on someone drawing my blood than a huge bandage--and wonder what kind of awful wound they had!


282 Posts

The nursing program that I work in bases our student uniform policy on that of the three major hospitals where we send students. We did this as the school must comply with the policies of the hospitals in order to have clinical privileges for students. Here is a summary: No visible tattoos, no visible piercings except stud earrings, one in each ear only, no colored nailpolish or nails over 1/4 inch or fake nails of any kind, hair must be pulled back and off face,only naturally occurring hair colors, no fad hair styles (dred lock, mohawks, etc...).

I've only had a few problems with the dress code, and it is usually reminding students to take off the extra three earrings in their ear, or remove their tongue piercing. Or to remove the purple or black nail polish. Easy things. The one big issue that I had was one student had a head of wild hair that looked as though he never combed it and it was pretty unkempt. The nurse manager even complained about it, to the point that we all had to sit down and come up with something to do. He didn't like pulling it back in a pony tail, as it was kinda "in between" in length, as it didn't look good at all pulled back. We compromised and decided for him to wear a surgical cap on the unit. Two weeks later, he responded by filing a complaint with the school saying that were sexually harassing him and treating him differently than the girls in the clinical group. You guessed it, the school caved and allowed him to not comb his hair and come to clinicals as he wanted to. All that because he wouldn't comb his hair. After he finally graduated, I saw him at his work site, and I have to say that his hair was much shorter and groomed appropriately. I guess the workplace was able to put the pressure on him to look professional.

Specializes in ER, Step-Down.

one of my coworkers has to wear a sleeve over a (rather nice) forearm tattoo. More pt's take notice of the sleeve than if the tattoo were exposed. *rolls eyes* I understand the concept, but some people are a bit too reactive to it.


8 Posts

Specializes in Surgical Ward (Post Op).

I guess it does depend on where you work. I have a small tattoo on the back of my neck which means "tranquility" in Asian. I got it before I considered becoming a nurse and one of my former employers would have me cover it up with a band aid which was a real PAIN. On hot days the band aid would either end up on the inside of my collar annoying me or tangled up in my hair. I spoke to the lady and told her she knew I had a tattoo on the back of my neck when she hired me and that I was not going to cover it up anymore because it was a pain to try to keep it covered. Surprisingly she never bothered with it again.

Now I'm a nurse and working at a hospital and so far I've not heard a single comment about my tattoo despite the fact my hair is cut very short in a pixie hairstyle, and the tattoo can be seen clearly. On occasion someone will ask me what my tattoo means and when I tell them they smile. Then they say, "it's really cute! "It kinda looks like a little man wearing a sombrero", and it does! I love it! Of course I haven't gotten anymore tattoos on my neck (one is enough). =)

Anyways, you really should check with your NM just to be on the safe side.

i just chopped off my long hair to keep from having to wear the ponytail or a bun, both of which looked awful, in order to comply with my nursing programs rules. we're allowed one pair of earring in each ear, the must be discreet. as well, all tattoos must not be visible. hair must be neat, combed and off of the collar and face.

hollyvk, BSN

125 Posts

Specializes in Peds, GI, Home Health, Risk Mgmt.

The rule in the real world is, "Never get a tattoo where a judge will see it." While body art is common for folks in Generation Y, it used to be a sign that you'd been in the Navy, or in jail, or in a gang.

So why do employers want you to cover up your tats and limit your piecing jewelry? Because your job is not all about you, it's mostly about your patients--many of whom are older and do not share your appreciation of body art or think it is "kool" at all. :cool: At best, they may just think it shows questionable judgment on your part, but at worst, they may think you must have had a scuzzy or criminal past . . .

Now you're thinking to yourself, "But that's SO unfair!" Well yes, but we all make assumptions based on appearance. So your employer may reasonably expect that you will have a professional appearance that will not detract from or interfere with your professional duties.

And speaking as an old RN (who has seen it all and done it all, but no personal tats), the tattoos and piercings are going to be completely out of fashion in a few more years. :selfbonk:

And then it will be time to visit the laser tattoo removal clinic, which having assisted with such procedures I can tell you are both expensive and painful. :o

Good luck to all of you who are dealing personally with this issue.


998 Posts

Specializes in General adult inpatient psychiatry.

I recently got a tattoo with dress code policies in mind. I have "Carpe Diem" in small script writing on the inside of my right wrist. It's easily covered by my watch and just to be certain, when I interviewed for my new grad position, I asked if covering a tattoo with a watch was appropriate and received the go ahead. I've had patients see it peeking out of the side of my watch and ask me what it said/meant and have had no problems at all. It was kind of an impulsive decision, but it means alot to me and it's certainly not something I think anyone would frown at upon seeing.

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