a nurse with a tattoo
Nurse Life

Can Nurses Have Tattoos?

From pressed skirts and white hats to fun scrubs and tattoos, the nursing profession has changed in a big way.

If you’re part of the nearly 30% of Americans (or almost 50% for millennials)with a tattoo and are considering bringing fresh artwork to the bedside, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

Can nurses have tattoos? Yes, but you will want to take a few things into consideration. From coverup methods to finding the right job, here is everything you need to know about bringing your ink into the workplace.

*Disclosure: This article on can nurses have tattoos may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

Pros and Cons of Having a Tatoo as a Nurse

What Are the Advantages of Having Tattoos at Work?

Let’s start with the positives:

Having a tattoo with a patient who is receptive to them can be a great way to make that crucial connection and build rapport.

As an icebreaker, talk to your curious patients about your artwork:

  • What does your tattoo mean?
  • Why did you get it?
  • Did it hurt?

These are great conversation starters!

Furthermore, a tattooed nurse can be a welcome break and provide a sense of normalcy for those patients who suffer from White Coat Syndrome.

What Are the Disadvantages of Having Tattoos at Work?

While tides are changing in regards to tattoos, it’s important to remember that some (especially the elderly) will likely always have their preconceived notions on the subject.

In their day, tattoos were a sign of crime, unsavory behavior, and poor hygiene so there is a possibility of them making a snap judgment when they see you inked up.

Another common issue is finding work and, while some employers may welcome your tattoos graciously, others may not which makes finding the right job that much more important.

I Already Have Tattoos! How Do I Find Work?

If you already have tattoos and are looking for work, make sure to do your due diligence.

Since the nursing community is tight-knit, it can help to ask your previous classmates or friends about positions they are certain will allow tattoos.

If this isn’t working, you always have the option to cover up your artwork with a variety of methods.

My Employer Isn’t Having It- How Do I Cover Them Up?

Don’t fret! There are a few different methods you can utilize to cover your tattoos temporarily and still maintain your originality outside of work.

For those with tattoos on the arms, a long-sleeved shirt under your scrub top (like this one from Amazon) can provide the cover you need to keep your job and your tattoos.

WonderWink Women’s Scrubs Silky Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

This is an example of a good long-sleeved shirt you could wear under your scrub top.

Stage makeup and temporary skin-colored tattoos are great options to cover up any tattoos that can’t be concealed with clothing.

I’m a Navy Nurse, Can I Have a Tattoo?

Like any employer, the navy will also have a few requirements for those with tattoos which include the following

  • Location: Your tattoo should not be wider than an inch if it is on your neck or ear and is limited to one tattoo.
  • Content: As always, keep your tattoo tasteful and free from vulgar, racist, drug-related, or gang-related content.
  • Size: As long as your tattoo isn’t on your neck or ear (which requires the one-inch guideline) you can have your tattoo any size you wish.
  • Cosmetic: If your tattoo is used to correct a medical condition, you’re in the clear as long as the tattoo came from a medical professional.

The Armed Forces have long been supporters of tattoos (to an extent), in fact tattooing in the United States actually has origins in the Navy!

What About Nursing Students?

Things get a little hairy when it comes to being a student nurse, as many programs do not allow students to have visible tattoos (even if the clinical site does).

If you’re in nursing school or considering enrollment in a program, it might be best to hold off on the tattoo until after you’re finished and have secured a job.

For those who already have tattoos prior to entering nursing school, make sure you use one of the cover-up methods listed above to conceal your tattoos and finish your program successfully.

How Do I Get a Work-Friendly Tattoo?

The right placement can save you a lot of cover-up time before your shift, so aim for places that can easily be concealed by your scrubs.

And, while your employer may be fine with a visible tattoo (or two), chances are they won’t appreciate the naked lady special your local tattoo parlor is running.

Keep your tattoos tasteful, if it would make granny blush then it probably isn’t suitable for work.

Tattoo Removal

At some point in our lives, we all make a decision we regret and tattoos are, unfortunately, one of them (especially if they have ties to a questionable history).

Luckily the options for tattoo removals are becoming more prevalent with some manufacturers even offering at-home tattoo removal kits.

Make sure you take into consideration the time that it will take to get your tattoo removed, which can take six to eight sessions at least six weeks apart.

Final Thoughts

Are you in nursing school or currently working on the floor as a nurse?

If you have tattoos, we would love to hear how you keep them covered at work or what you’re allowed to display.

Let us know in the comments below!


Frequently Asked Questions

Can nurses have tattoos on their wrist?

Yes, nurses can have tattoos on their wrist depending on their employer’s policy. As we stated above it will depend on the individual employer’s policy and will also depend on what your tattoo is and whether or not it would be offensive to others.

Can nurses have sleeve tattoos?

Yes, nurses can have sleeve tattoos depending on their facility policy. If it is against your facility policy you might have to try concealing the tattoo with a long sleeve shirt.

Can pediatric nurses have tattoos?

Yes, depending on your hospital policy pediatric nurses can have tattoos. Some nurses even find that it helps with pediatric patients in the sense that it could be used as a distraction for peds who are about to get a procedure or check up done.

Can neonatal nurses have tattoos?

Yes, neonatal nurses similar to pediatric nurses can have tattoos if there is no policy against them having a tattoo. If there is the pediatric nurse can conceal the tattoo using either make-up or a long sleeve shirt under the scrub top.

Do nurses have to cover up tattoos?

Yes, they do if their employer has a policy against tattoos. If so the nurse can try wearing long sleeve shirts under their scrub tops or putting on concealing makeup on the tattoo to help hide it.

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