Tattoos and Healthcare
“You’ll never get a job as a nurse with all those tattoos.” Well I‘m 5+ years deep into developing my career in the healthcare field, and I must say. I have yet to have an issue getting the position I’ve pursued because of my tattoos. My tattoos define me but they do not determine the quality of care I provide for my patients.
Since the moment I made it known I wanted to go into the medical field I was told that I would never be able to get a tattoo or grow out my beard. Let’s just say, neither has been true. Initially I made sure that a basic t-shirt could cover any tattoo I decided to permanently ink my skin with. But as time went on during the period of my life of heightened interest in tattoos I was running out of coverable space to display my desired art. I had a decision to make and this lead me to the mindset that I continue to live by today. This being that if any place of employment couldn’t accept me with my tattoos then they didn’t deserve the nurse I knew I would become. This didn’t mean that I was a rebel and went against policy. I just knew that if my tattoos were the one thing that would keep them from hiring me, even if covered, then that was someone I didn’t want to work for.
Throughout nursing school we were required to cover our tattoos, and I complied with this policy. We all know nursing school is stressful enough without someone pestering you about covering your tattoos, so I just kept them covered. I would notice though, that in some of the facilities that we did our clinical, employees were working, tattoos exposed, and not reprimanded for it. Now was I skeptical at the idea that this was approved behavior and if I would be able to do the same? No doubt! But this observation did improve my optimistic outlook about the obstacles I would face coming out of school regardless of my own attitude towards the situation.
I have been in the healthcare field since 2013 and have provided care in a few different hospitals. Among these hospitals I have been at ones where covering your tattoos is a must and they even went as far as to include questioning about the ability to do so in the application. But I have also experienced the other end of the spectrum where the facility did not fret about covering tattoos. In fact, I haven’t had to cover them at all at my most recent facility. They care more about what’s important and that’s your ability to care for your patient and work with your team.
To directly address the one question I get asked most often. “Is it hard to find a job in the hospital with those tattoos?” You may have been able to gather by now that the simple answer is, no. Now I’m not trying to get you fired or hinder you from starting that job you want, so please adhere to facility policy if they require you to cover them. But more and more these day’s hospitals are leaning towards allowing free expression through your tattoos and not requiring you to cover them. Which only makes sense with the universal increased acceptance of tattoos and the number of people with them. Typically though, this allowance comes with one common stipulation. Your tattoos cannot be offensive or gang related. What this means exactly varies between employer and person but I’m sure you understand the general idea.
In the few years I have been in the healthcare field I cannot think of one time where my tattoos have caused an issue between the patients I am caring for or their family, let alone offend them. They have instead helped me to build a rapport with them serving as a catalyst to a personal connection and a conversation starter. Conversations, that often times are a distraction to the unfortunate circumstance they or their family member may be experiencing. Which we all should know, or will learn, that as a caregiver that’s bedside manner 101.
So in conclusion I would just like to ask one question. How do you feel about tattoos in healthcare? I hope this article has helped to clear up any concerns you had about that sleeve you’re rocking and your future in this field. Don’t worry, not everyone is as negatively judgmental as you may think. Those tattoos will break the ice for you one day. Stay true to you. Display your tattoos with pride. And ALWAYS provide your best practice.
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By Sean Crayton