Purrrfectly I n k e d

Does having tattoo(s) as a healthcare professional decrease the perception of professionalism? An interesting topic that hadn’t crossed my mind until recently. Sometime ago, I accidentally stumbled across the Instagram hashtag #nurseswithtattoos! There is over 10K post with this hashtag (granted not all of the photos with this hashtag contain nurses with tattoos), regardless there is a large community of healthcare professionals with invisible tattoos – this is largely related to organizational policies expecting teammates conceal their tattoos. In fact, Caplan (2002) says DeMello, argues since the 1980’s a new middle-class “tattoo community” has constructed itself largely through print and Internet media. As we expand our understanding, knowledge of acceptance and inclusivity we’re seeing societal norms shift over the years. Gone are the days of tattoos being associated to gang members, military personnel, or eccentric people (Armstrong, 1994). The question is will there be a shift in the perception of professionalism of healthcare professionals with tattoos?

In all honesty the deeper perception of tattoos boils down to passing judgment – prejudices, stigmas, etc. which can lead to various types of discrimination i.e. employment, promotion, residency, etc.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”

Two brief history lessons:

  • Not surprising to me, but the genesis of the above quote stemmed from the 1944 edition of the African Journal American Speech: ‘you can’t judge a book by its binding’
  • The initiation of tattoos dates back many years. However, its history in America dates to the mid-18th century when Native American women tattooed themselves to alleviate pain thus mimicking acupuncture (TIME, 2017)
    • New York is considered the birthplace of modern tattoos (TIME, 2017)

Tattoos are a form of expression & communication. And has especially become more prevalent for patients providing a glimpse of their medical condition i.e. DM Type I or stating their intentions i.e. being a DNR. As shared by Chadwick & Shah (2013) parents of a 15 year old consented for a tattoo across their child’s forearm to indicate being diabetic; as failure to immediately recognize hypoglycemia and treat verses suspicion of a drug overdose or alcohol intoxication can be life-threatening.

Thank you for visiting…. What are your thoughts? Do you think there will be a more accepting shift of tattoo visibility among healthcare professionals or any other profession? Have a tattoo – share a photo below #inkedRN #inkedprofessional


Armstrong ML. (1994). Tattoos: a risk taking art. Texas Nursing68(2), 8–9. Retrieved from

Caplan, J. (2002). Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community (Book). Historian64(2), 406. Retrieved from

Chadwick, S., & Shah, M. (2013). Tattoos: ancient body art may assist in medical emergencies. European Journal of Pediatrics172(7), 995.

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