By Diane M. Goodman, APRN, BC, MSN-C, CCRN, CNRN
Although I have written about this topic before, times and attitudes change, and our professional "appearance" requires a revisit. What, exactly, does our external appearance have to do with our ability to provide safe, competent care? According to surveys asking patients to rate nurses on specific aspects of appearance, the details matter a lot.
Patients were asked to score nurses regarding skills and competency based on the presence (or absence) of visible tattoos and body piercings (Medscape, 2013). Needless to say, the more piercings and tattoos the patients could see, the lower the scores for the nurses. Those without visible piercings or tattoos scored higher. Not surprisingly, this premature "judgment call" occurred at increased rates as the age of the patients increased as well.
What does this mean for the profession of nursing in 2013? To me, it bears a slight similitude to the days of nursing caps, no earrings and short nails with clear polish (no chips please!). Peers report policies at various institutions that require tattoos to be covered (when possible), and multiple piercings to be removed before entering the workplace. Is this appropriate to an era when 40 million Americans have tattoos, and typically, more than one?
Are we still working against stereotype? While I am not professing that nurses come to work with pastel hair and dreadlocks, I hope we reach a point where nurses can be considered competent, effective and have double-piercings in their ears. We are sisters, parents, grandparents and husbands. We are many generations of effectual humanitarians. As a profession, I believe it is time for us to be "human" as well.
What are your thoughts? Do you work for an institution that provides a policy on tattoos and body piercings? What about a dress code? Do tell.