Do nurse dress codes allow tattoos to be shown?

Do nurse dress codes allow tattoos to be shown?

By Josephine Reid

Any dress codes of conduct should first and foremost be taken up with the Human Resources department at your workplace. There may be specific guidelines that have not directly been pointed out to you but do exist. If no policy is laid out for you to follow, it is best to follow some unwritten rules as expressed by nurses as seen below, via

“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 be seen. With piercings male/female can only wear studs or very small hoop earrings” - LVAD RN
“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 [hospital] 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.” - Anisettes

This topic was also explored just recently on in the article, My Body Is Not My Resume: Exploring Nursing Dress Codes.

There are a lot of people who believe that self-expression through body art is acceptable. It means that people, regardless of education, socioeconomic status or occupation, have tattoos and piercings, and nurses are no different. Many nurses, doctors, and other healthcare personnel have tattoos.

While the research is limited, one study done in 2012 looked at how patients' perceived patient care providers with tattoos and or body piercings. In this study, patients were shown images of male and female patient care providers in uniform with and without tattoos and/or non-earlobe body piercings.

The results were that patients perceived the patient care providers with visible tattoos and/or body piercings as less caring, confident, reliable, attentive, cooperative, professional, efficient and approachable. Patients perceived females with tattoos to be less professional than male patient care providers with similar tattoos.

An example of tattoo policies being ever-changing comes with Mayo Clinic. According to Becker Hospital Review, as of January 1, 2018, Mayo Clinic has instituted a new hospital scrubs dress code.

Becker Hospital Review reports that under this new rule, tattoos "may be visible if the images or words do not convey violence, discrimination, profanity or sexually explicit content. Tattoos containing such messages must be covered with bandages, clothing or cosmetics. Mayo Clinic reserves the right to judge the appearance of visible tattoos."

Mayo Clinic has long been known for its professional appearance and conduct of employees. The hospital continues to stress that all employees are expected to project a professional appearance and demeanor.

Mayo Clinic is not the first or the last healthcare facility that will change their hospital scrubs dress code policy. Industries outside of healthcare have been feeling this shift for many years. There are simply many people in healthcare that feel that allowing these forms of self-expression will make patients feel uncomfortable or less trusting of the staff in general.

Overall, it is best to adhere to what fits best with your place of work, and leave the challenges for work-- not your dress code!
I'm Josephine Reid and I work at headquarters in Los Angeles. I have a B.S. in Retail Merchandising and Business from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I like to keep a beautiful balance of a creativity and business mindset.