Human beings are certainly no strangers to decorating ourselves. From jewelry to hairstyles to clothing trends, humans are always finding new ways to adorn ourselves to enhance our appearances. Tattoos have been around for hundreds of years in certain cultures, but it hasn’t been until recently that they are becoming more and more acceptable in a mainstream way.
But what does this mean for nurses? Are tattoos acceptable? Appropriate? If you are a nurse with tattoos, or you’re a nurse who’s thinking about getting tattoos, keep reading to see if your body decoration will help or hinder you in your professional goals working in healthcare.
Why Get a Tattoo?
There are a lot of reasons why people might get tattoos, and some of them are better than others. One thing that should be stressed is that tattoos are basically permanent. While it is possible to have them removed via laser, this is an expensive, time-consuming, and painful process. When done incorrectly, it can even lead to permanent scarring. It’s important to think carefully and clearly about getting a tattoo.
Some of the most common reasons for getting tattoos are as follows:
- To celebrate a relationship. Be careful with this one! Matching or couple’s tattoos are often seen as a curse on relationships, as many fail after getting a permanent reminder of it. If you want a matching tattoo, choose something that has personal meaning to both of you and can be individualized. However, celebrating permanent relationships (mother-child, siblings, other blood relatives) is a bit safer.
- Because you like the design. This could be good or bad, depending on the design! Before inking, ask yourself how often your tastes change and consider whether you’ll still like the style in 5 or 10 years.
- To fit in with friends. This is a bad reason to get a tattoo! Your friends don’t care if you have a tattoo, so don’t base your choices on them!
- Many people get tattoos that have symbolic meaning to just them, or an item/design that has a special meaning. This is usually the best type of tattoo to get since it is personal and permanent.
There are a lot of other reasons why a person might get a tattoo, but these are some of the most common. If you’re choosing to ink up as a nurse, you might want to think really hard about why you want to, since, as we’ll see in a second, being tattooed could affect your job prospects.
What Do Tattoos Say About You (According to Others)?
If you have a tattoo, you know what it means. You know what the symbolism is, you know why you got it in the first place, and you know how you feel about it. Unfortunately, none of that means anything to the people who don’t know you, namely, your patients. Instead of seeing the yellow rose that symbolizes your relationship with your adoptive mom and how she was always there for you despite the hard times, your patients may see a garish, unprofessional piece of art on a canvas that shouldn’t really be a canvas. Instead, here’s how they might interpret your tattoos:
- Patients, especially ones that belong to the older generations, might still view tattoos as unprofessional and therefore see you as someone who is less capable at their job. While we understand now that tattoos don’t really indicate your capabilities as a nurse, it could encourage patients to lose trust in you if they assume you are more interested in your personal appearance than your work.
- Along similar lines, many people assume that people who have tattoos do so out of a desire to get attention, which is a trait often associated with insecurity. For many patients, the last thing they want is to be tended to by a nurse that is unsure of herself!
- Again, for many of the older generation, getting tattoos is seen as a move by rebellious young people who make rash decisions to annoy their parents. While this attitude towards tattoos is a little bit outdated, it won’t change the fact that they might see tattooed nurses as immature and therefore unqualified to do their work correctly.
It is unfortunate, but taking into account how patients might view you is important in making sure you’re able to do your job well. Having the trust of your patients will ensure that you can offer the best care and experience a good patient-nurse relationship.
Things to Consider
Whether you have tattoos, want tattoos, or would never in a million years get a tattoo yourself, here are some things to consider as a nurse:
- Don’t judge. If you think tattoos are horrible and ugly and unprofessional (but are not in an administrative position), keep your judgments to yourself. Whether or not the person regrets their tattoo doesn’t matter – and you shouldn’t try to make them regret it. After all, opinions about things which cannot be changed are best kept to yourself.
- Consider size and placement. If you want to get a tattoo but are worried about how it may affect your job prospects, proper size and placing can help. For instance, a full sleeve may not be the way to go, but a subtle minimalist design on your foot or your upper arm allows you to show it off on the weekends while keeping it hidden at work.
- Know what you want. Don’t forget that tattoos are basically permanent. Take your time to choose what you want, who your artist is, and where you want it. None of that can be changed once the deed is done!