Can Nurses Have Tattoos?

With seemingly every other person sporting some type of ink these days, it’s clear that tattoos are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. In fact, according to this poll conducted in 2015, roughly three in ten Americans have one or more tattoos. As tattoos continue to gain popularity, they gain social acceptance as well. In certain professions, however, tattoos are still frowned upon by employers. Nursing, for the most part, is not one of them.

Nurse Mendoza

If you have tattoos and want to work as a nurse, you’ll be pleased to learn that the nursing profession as a whole is fairly accepting of body art. For many nurses, having tattoos is a non-issue at work. Nurses with easily concealable tattoos, for instance, don’t need to worry about patients or supervisors making judgements based on their body art. Even nurses with difficult-to-hide tattoos run into few work-related problems as long as their tattoos aren’t excessively large or explicit. However, tattoos can be a problem in the nursing field in certain circumstances. Here are a few of them:

Large Tattoos

Large tattoos, or a large number of tattoos, can be a problem when it comes to nursing. While this isn’t true for all employers, some facilities do require their nurses’ tattoos to be hidden while on duty. If you have tattoos that cover your arms or neck, keeping them out of sight isn’t always going to be easy. Employers with strict dress codes are aware of this, and many of them simply won’t give you a chance if they notice large tattoos during the interview process.

Employer Policy

Nurses have, for the most part, some leeway when it comes to visible tattoos, but this isn’t always the case. Some employers’ tattoo policies are stricter than others. For instance, there are still facilities out there that do not allow their nurses to have visible tattoos or body piercings of any kind. If you have tattoos in hard-to-cover locations, like your hands or neck, there’s a good chance you’ll have trouble meeting some potential employers’ dress-code policies.

Offensive Tattoos

Innocuous tattoos, like hearts and names, are probably not going to be an issue for most employers. Tattoos that could be considered offensive, on the other hand, might make it harder to find and keep a nursing job. To be on the safe side, tattoos that display nudity, promote drug use, or can be associated with prison or gang culture are best left out of sight while working in any nursing capacity!


Now, if you think you might run into one of the issues mentioned above, don’t panic! The following ideas should help you handle most of the problems you’d encounter working as a nurse with tattoos:

Cover-Up Strategies

The easiest way to deal with tattoo-related issues while working as a nurse is to simply avoid them altogether. If your current employer’s tattoo policy is fairly strict, simply keep your tattoos out of sight while at work. Long-sleeve shirts can be used to cover tattoos on the arms in most cases. Alternatively, skin-tone sleeves can be used to cover arm and leg tattoos without wearing an additional layer of clothing, which is great for the spring and summer months. For tattoos on the face and neck, try keeping your hair down to keep them out of sight. If that won’t work, there are special concealers that can be used to hide tattoos quite well.

Job-Hunting Tips

If you don’t want to hide your tattoos on a daily basis, you might want to consider working somewhere that is a little more accepting of body art. While you could ask about tattoo policies during the interview process, a better strategy would be to look these policies up beforehand. Most hospitals and large-scale organizations have copies of their dress-code policies posted online. With a copy of a potential employer’s dress-code policy in hand, you’ll know exactly what to expect. If you can’t find dress-code policies online, consider asking someone (preferably a friend) who works at the facility for more information.

Tattoo Removal

As a last resort, you might want to consider having your tattoo removed. If your tattoo is hurting your employment opportunities, or if you’ve wanted to remove it regardless, now might be the time to get rid of it. Unfortunately, having a tattoo removed is not quick or cheap. Typically, to achieve optimal results, it’s necessary to receive 6–12 treatments, which usually cost hundreds of dollars each.


What do you think about nurses who work with visible tattoos? Should health-care facilities allow their employees to display their body art while on the job? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!

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7 Responses to Can Nurses Have Tattoos?

  1. JenEdwardsRN

    I am a Psychiatric RN and a very well educated one at that. I also have multiple tattoos. There are only three that my patients can see however. I have one on each wrist that represent very important parts of my life, and then my wedding ring is tattooed on. I am one of at least a dozen nurses in my department that have tattoo’s. It has never been an issues for any of us or for management as long as they are tasteful, appropriate and not offensive in any way. For example if someone were to come in with hate symbols tattooed on their arms, they either wouldn’t be hired, or they would be required to cover them up. That kind of thing is not tolerated. Piercings are also allowed as is individuality encouraged within reason. I, for example, have my nose pierced with a small genuine diamond and my hair while styled in a modern and appropriate manner, is burgundy. Again, maybe it’s because I work in psych, but my patients love it and tend to relate better to me than they do to some of the more “straight laced” nurses. I see no problem with tattoos or piercings as long as they are tasteful and appropriate.

    • onlyme

      JenEdwardsRN: I’m not in the least surprised that you say: ” I am one of at least a dozen nurses in my department that have tattoo’s”. An even more accurate question in the title would, rather, be: “Do nurses get tattooed?” to which the resounding, self-evident answer is: Yes, they do.

  2. Jettern

    Tattoos at this day and aged is ok, in moderation.. Its one thing to have a flower, star, heart etc on your arm, wrist… But dont go on your neck, or your head, the general public are not ready for that…
    I have a few tattoos, and i have one on each wrist, pretty flowers, and i truly get lits if compliments from my patients.. Also it a great destration and conversation tool, before their surgery… Im a surgical nurse…
    In other words a tattoo dont not define you, you define the tattoo…💕💕

    • onlyme

      Doing it in moderation should be compatible with a career in nursing. So many 18 year olds hoping to embark on a career in nursing also expect to go get their first ink; at 18 it’s a rite of passage and should not in moderation (the word you used) be incompatible with it.

  3. BendyEm

    I think, in the UK at least, we have a “Bare below the elbows” (no sleeves, bracelets, watches, rings, nail varnish etc) policy, and hair must be kept tied up and not touching your collar, for infection control reasons, so I think many of the cover options aren’t actually possible.

    Most of the male nurses and HCAs I work with are at least in their late 30s-40s (some in their 60s), and have tattooed arms and knuckles, and no one blinks an eye.
    But when a younger female nurse came in with a new tattoo, she got a warning that if she got any more, it might be considered offensive and unprofessional.
    The official dress code states that tattoos are allowed, though offensive ones much be coverable-aka under clothing.

    I have two completely hidden tattoos and plan to get more. I also have my nose and septum pierced. The septum I keep tucked up, and I have a small stud in the side. I had my tongue pierced for a while, but again, no on noticed!
    My friend however has to have 6 retainers in her face, and has tattoos down both arms, and pink, purple, green and blue hair.

  4. Christina1972

    I have worked at a place where. That nurses had to keep any visible tattoos covered up but the CNA’s did not. Have one arm that is a partial,sleeve and one on back of lower next where just a very 1inch area showed so I had to wear turtle necks under my scrub tops. This was 13 years ago. The job that I am currently working for is for the federal government. I was so used to covering my tattoos up and the state I moved to temps in the summer are 90-105 degrees that can last into September and some,of October,and in rare occasion first of Nov. I also have several piercings nose, tongue, a long,industrial that runs the length of both ears, 2 regular ear piercing,in each ear plus both trachs and a daxx. I usually out in plain regular studs in ears through the week nose was a barely noticeable small diamond and most never noticed tongue stud. After a year my nurse manager called me to her office and said Christina you always wear tuettle necks and I see you sweating all,the time is there something I need to know so I told her what and how I do it through the week I work and about my piercings she said we work with veterans and psych patients they are covered tomorrow where what you normally would piercing wise and go without your tuettle neck,and go,to,the chief of nurses and see if he finds anything,offensive so the next day I put in all my normal piercings just wore my scrub top and pants and met,her in his office before work started and he looked at all,the tattoos that were visable and my piercings and said do you have more tattoos and piercings than this that are covered up I felt my stomach drop I said yes and he said are they in places that you would not show to anyone but your spouse or boyfriend. I again said yes then he started laughing i said what is so funny and he took off his white long doctor’s coat and he was fully sleeved on both arms and neck and fully tatted on chest and full back piece by the way were all amazing designs and we’re excellently done. He said we realize that people have them and piercing and the patient population we serve with and work with would not care the least believe it or not from the ages of 20’s all the way to their 70-80’s have them and makes them feel more comfortable with you and will actually be more open and honest with you and will start asking if they could look at them and sure enough went,i went back to my department,my third patient was like fantastic arm,tattoo and I can see the hint on the one on your neck would it be innapropriate of me to look,at them so I showed him and he showed me mine and this has been a patient that had always been reserved when he came in now we are aski,g each other how families are doing. It the best feeling,that I can go into work being myself and learning so much more about my patients because they are more comfortably. Best feeling,ever company’s need. Realize as long as it is not open tats that this is a new generation that not only young people but people up into their 80’s have them and my advice to them is wake up. So yes nurses can have tattoos and them be disable because it can help you with your patients from the toddlers to the ones close to end f life you can use them to distrate them from whatever test painful or not and tell,them the meaning of it and or why you got that particular style and to the judgmental people you may work,with or not work with them I just ignore them,and go on because the several I have had meaning to me about the important things that have happened to me over my life. Sorry this was so long.

    • onlyme

      No worries about the length! people have plenty to say about their tattoos, not least nurses; and a veteran nurse that started getting ink at 18 may eventually be able to say a very great deal about ink!