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Are beards a DO or DON’T in nursing?

iStockphoto | ThinkStock
iStockphoto | ThinkStock

What are your thoughts about or experiences with male nurses with beards? –Edmondo

Are beards a health hazard in the nursing profession? Or just an expression of style that doesn’t hinder the job in any way? Scrubs reader Edmondo wrote in asking about our readers’ experiences with male nurses and beards, so we turned to the experts–YOU! We asked our Facebook fans whether they thought beards on male nurses are a DO or a DON’T. Read on for their thoughts…then share yours in the comments below!

They’re a DON’T:

I think it’s a DON’T due to falling hair and open wounds.
Sheryl Treadwell 

In my hospital males aren’t allowed to have beards because they prevent a proper seal when using N95 respirators.
Lynette Jones

I don’t think it projects a professional image. And it can be unsanitary.
Jen O’Neal Thornburgh 

A DON’T. Even if it’s short, it’s still untidy for me. Where are the practices from college days? No beards, no long nails, no nail polish, etc. Aside from looking neat and clean, it reduces the risk of infection.
Edjs Luzano 

They’re a DO:

I am a bald man with a beard who happens to be a nurse. Some days I look like a lumberjack and other days it’s clean and trimmed. My patients do not judge me on it; rather they judge me on my care, my attentiveness to their health and their need for a health care advocate. If my beard hindered my career, it would be shaved. I do not consider my career a beauty pageant; it’s an experience that covers you in feces, blood, sweat, tears, urine and every other bodily fluid. After all that in a day, don’t tell a man to shave the beard.
Marc Bell

If it’s groomed and well kept, what’s the problem?
Judi Elizabeth

It depends on the type of nursing. I’m not sure if a bearded gentlemen can pass a respirator fit test to protect him from TB. And I don’t know if there are beard guards available for surgical nurses to prevent contamination. With those exceptions, a man’s beard is no different than a woman’s hair and should be groomed, maintained and not get in the way of providing quality nursing care.
Deanna LaForce

As long as you keep it tight and clean, I see no problem with it. My patients actually comment about [mine] positively quite often.
Bob Scribner

What do you think: Is a beard on a male nurse a DO or a DON’T?

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13 Responses to Are beards a DO or DON’T in nursing?

  1. LGee905

    I happened to be in the ER a few nights ago as a patient. My nurse had a scraggly-looking beard, untrimmed and extending all the way down his neck. Since I’m still adhering to my nurse training from 18 yrs ago that even one’s shoelaces should be clean, I found his appearance made me feel less confident in him.
    I don’t mind facial hair, as long as it is trimmed and neat.

  2. thursday

    Facial hair is fine, considering it is well kept. Not unprofessional. No more of an infection hazard than women and their hair.

  3. julie6700

    I have no problem with beards or facial hair. As long as it is neat and clean.

  4. patricksm

    How is a beard any more unsanitary than hair up in a pony tail bobbing away? Its much easier to wash and there is less chance of loose strands falling all over. For the person asking about beard nets in the OR, yes those are available (I chose to shave mine when transferring back to surgery – keyword CHOSE.) No – men with beards can’t get a proper fit the the N95, but you have a team of nurses that can be spread around for the patient with TB unless you are on a weird floor with 26 patients infected (I would move out of that town.) You can keep a pregnant woman out of a room when methyl methacrylate is used right? A beard and pregnancy (in most circumstances) are both choices. I understand LGee905’s point on tidiness and attempted to keep it trimmed, but some weeks just get ridiculous! Let the men be men; we’re changing the misconceptions of men in nursing without sacrificing care.

  5. kassie726

    I work with 3 men on our ward and they are all clean shaven. It looks professional. But on the other hand…. I was taught back in the day that a nurses hair should be up, short nails and no fingernail polish. There are plenty of female nurses I see with longer polished nails, longer hair and now they are sporting tattoos and facial rings. Times have changed. Though imo not for the better of the professional image.

  6. FlTraumaRN

    Facial hair, no matter how “neat” conveys an unkempt, unprofessional atmosphere. Nurses should portray excellence and good hygiene to promote respect of our skill and knowledge. A beard is primeval and was a necessity to keep the man’s face warm in hunter/gather times; I suppose lumberjacks need the protection …oh and criminals who want to hide behind the hair. If you’re proud of yourself and your profession, you should be care about your appearance. Get rid of the beard!

    • zman1x1

      primal? are you serious…the only reason you think you should be able to have a beard is if you are a lumberjack/criminal??? that statement in itself makes your opinion void . sounds to me like you have problems with a manly figure… there’s only so much a guy can do to modify his appearance. leave the guys alone

    • MaleNurseBanx

      Just because you sin differently you get to judge other people by your own standards.

  7. OR Virginia RN

    We allow beards in our OR because the bearded staff (MDs, PAs, RNs, etc) can use the PAPR for TB cases. For those at the sterile field, full face coverage is required for bearded men. It’s a personal choice. Of course, looking professional, for men and women, includes a neat appearance, good grooming, and NO fragrances. I find the abundance of perfume/cologne to be far more detrimental than hair. Everyone (patients,visitors, staff) shed hair, skin, allergens, etc. We want to keep it to a minimum; there are far more egregious stuff we unwittingly introduce.

  8. Snolesrn05

    They are fine as long as they are nicely groomed. It’s not any different than head hair as far as falling on anything. If you are doing something in a sterile field, cover it. Doctors do it.

  9. swimmer07

    Let the men have it. As long as they provide excellent patient care, that is all that matters!

  10. BeardedNurse

    If female nurses feel that they can state whether a guy with wiskers is professional or not, maybe it is time for guys that are nurses to state whether the female nurses are professional or not, by their hair styles or perhaps their hair color. Really, people want to waste time whether someone is professional or not because he has a beard? Come on!, have you ever heard, not to judge the book by its cover?
    I have been an RN for more than 37 years plus a Masters in Womens’ Health, 29 of them as an L&D/Birth Center nurse. No woman ever told me that I could not care for them because I had a beard. I am 6ft, 285 lbs, and now at being in my 60s’, bald! Early in my career, I had shoulder length hair. At this time, I have a full face beard, about 3 to 4 inches long and begining to grey and some white. I am begining to look a little like Santa Clause! When I started in maternity, I did cut the length of my beard because I noted that when I bent over to check the fetal heartrate (using a fetoscope) my beard was touching their bellies. I quickly trimmed it. Two reasons, 1) Yes it was not professional & 2) The thought that some thing could jump off of the woman’s lower belly into my beard hair, scared the heck out of me.
    Now if people are going to choose who is professional by hair length or if they have beards, what is next? Oh she does not look professional because of her skin color or nationality. Folks, judge not the cover!

  11. cosmille

    For those that can’t be fitted for N95 masks, whether due to facial hair or whatever issue, you can be given a PAPR instead. Pretty standard for facilities that have patients on droplet precautions/have negative airflow rooms.

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