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Nurses with visible tattoos and the issue of stigmatisation by the public

09 November 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 20

Tattoos can hold a significant cultural connection for different people around the world including, but not limited to, indigenous peoples such as the Māori population. However, in the UK, there can be an associated societal stigma with having tattoos, especially for people whose tattoos are visible to others.

When surveyed, 34% of people in the UK indicated that visible tattoos for doctors or nurses were not acceptable, with this reducing to 25% for paramedics. However, the acceptability rate increased to 38% and 42% respectively if tattoos were visible, but not on a person's face or neck (YouGov, 2022).

Elements such as the location, number and design of tattoos, along with the perception of tattoos, could intersect with a person's sex, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. This could possibly lead to differing levels of stigma being experienced by the person who is tattooed. Looking at this through the lens of health care, and more specifically nursing, provides a different consideration: how others, including people accessing healthcare provision, may stigmatise the nurse treating them if the nurse has visible tattoos. This could include questioning their skill and proficiency levels, empathy or their professionalism.

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