Saturday, 6 December 2008

Do Tattoos Reflect Professionalism?

So there we were sitting around on Twitter shooting the breeze with 140 characters of less when Nurse Connect released this article into the world.
This is somewhat a bug bear for me. I do have a tattoo but even now it's covered by my clothes and is never seen when I'm in placement. You also have to remember that this is the UK and we are governed by the almighty NHS and a simple search of google for 'nhs uniform policy' yields loads of documents from multiple NHS trusts on their specific uniform policies.

Basically it boils down to this.... (only taking into account nursing / other clinical staff)
You get a uniform. Normally navy blue is reserved for Ward Sisters (manager), Deputy Sisters, Specialist Nurses (they are in the same band as the management). White with blue binding is for are the general plebs. Theatres, cath labs, ITU, paeds, etc. will have different uniforms / scrubs. OTs, Physios, Speech and Language Therapists (SaLT), etc. have similar uniforms but different colours for the bands (e.g. our SaLTs have gray, OTs have green). Our student uniforms have the uni's name embroidered on to it (this is quite common though so it's not just us), however it is similar to the Healthcare Assistants (HCA) / Clinical Support Workers (CSW) with plain white tunics, so we get easily confused.

  • Ladies' Tunic with trousers
  • Men's Tunic with trousers
  • Or the rather rare dress usually worn with a belt.

So right beyond the uniform that you may or may not have to launder yourself.... you are expected to....
  • keep long hair tied back (and off collar)
  • keep nails short and clean (no nail varnish)
  • wear no (visible) make up
  • no jewellery (except a plain wedding band)
They have all but told us when to breathe. This is all in the production of a professional appearance.
Some of the policies I have come across cover tattoos as well.
Inappropriate tattoos must be covered at all times. The head of service/department will be responsible for determining whether a tattoo is inappropriate or not i.e. any tattoo with offensive language is deemed offensive. It is acknowledged that some religions/cultures use henna to decorate their bodies at certain times and this is acceptable.
Visible tattoos are to be discouraged....
Considering what we have to put up with this all seems acceptable. I wouldn't want to be looked after by someone with swear words scrawled all over their arms (I would assume that back, chest, legs, etc. would be covered by our uniforms). In this area would a Celtic or Rangers FC tattoo be considered offensive? There is a massive rivalry between these 2 teams in Glasgow, this offers a background. But I guess it would be up to the nursing management. However a Celtic tattoo would be offensive to a Rangers fan and vice versa. So I guess it would be.

As a side note there is a policy of non discrimination when it comes to union affiliation / orientations / etc. So when I came back with the mention of my gay pride badge on my uniform I know that nothing can be said to me about it. We are allowed to wear a certain number of badges proclaiming our union or the school of nursing we graduated from.

My point was that as much as that little proclamation of my pride in who I am on a uniform the same as everyone else's is a reflection of my personality, a tattoo is a reflection of someone else's choice in life. (No I'm not saying my orientation is a choice by the way) So why shouldn't people be able to show off a little bit of their personality by way of body art so long as it isn't offensive?


Kim said...

Very nice post. Don't take this the wrong way, but I am glad I don't have to wear that uniform, although if the US does every get nationalized healthcare, I might be asking you for tunic advice.

Anonymous said...

That article mostly disturbed me with its mention of "fitted white uniforms" being considered. No! I want to wear damn scrubs! I have a few friends who are heavily pierced, although not tattooed, and they say that often it's the elderly folks who are interested in their piercings or say they look neat. So I wonder if policy makers are just assuming the generational thing.

Anonymous said...

You know what happens when you assume things.
This also hit 'close to home' for me. I've been a professional for over 15yrs.. and I possess 3 tattoos myself.
Who has the right to determine what is 'offensive' or inappropriate. I agree there must be a line drawn, but it must be diplomatic and fair.
Besides some of the best health care providers I have worked with and have cared for me had tattoos.
How does one's skin predict one's skills?
BTW.. you beat me to the punch. I'm intent on blogging about this too!

cellar_door said...

I don't have a problem with tattoo'd nurses. However, I think it could make you have to work a bit harder sometimes; some (usually elderly) patients are a bit intimidated by a certain amount of tattooage and you may find you have to be extra friendly to them to convince them you're not a gangland yoof...on the other hand, lots of people will be intrigued and it can be a good conversation starter :0)

WardBunny said...

Aren't those uniforms attractive. And fitted. In reality we know no different. It hasn't been that long since we got rid of little white hats...
We're going over to all scrubs soon, so I think the death of tunics is coming.
The thing is I don't know anyone with really very visible tattoos. My current mentor has 2 small stars on her wrist but you can't totally see them.
I guess it all hangs on what, where and who....
What is inked....
Where it's inked....
Who it's inked on to....

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