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Patients’ Perceptions of Patient Care Providers With Tattoos and/or Body Piercings

Westerfield, Heather V. MSN, RN, CMSRN; Stafford, Amy B. MSN, RN, CMSRN; Speroni, Karen Gabel PhD, RN; Daniel, Marlon G. MHA, MPH

JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration: March 2012 - Volume 42 - Issue 3 - p 160–164
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0b013e31824809d6

Objective: This study evaluated patients’ perceptions of patient care providers with visible tattoos and/or body piercings.

Background: As tattooing and body piercing are increasingly popular, research that informs nursing administrators regarding policies on patient care providers having visible tattoos and body piercings is warranted.

Methods: A total of 150 hospitalized adult patients compared pictures of male and female patient care providers in uniform with and without tattoos and/or nonearlobe body piercings.

Results: Patient care providers with visible tattoos and/or body piercings were not perceived by patients in this study as more caring, confident, reliable, attentive, cooperative, professional, efficient, or approachable than nontattooed or nonpierced providers. Tattooed female providers were perceived as less professional than male providers with similar tattoos. Female providers with piercings were perceived as less confident, professional, efficient, and approachable than nonpierced female providers.

Conclusions: Nursing administrators should develop and/or evaluate policies regarding patient care providers with visible tattoos and/or body piercings.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

Author Affiliations: Staff Nurse (Ms Westerfield), Educator–Professional Nursing Practice (Ms Stafford), Chair of Nursing Research Council (Dr Speroni), and Biostatistician (Mr Daniel), Shore Health System, Easton, Maryland.

No funding was received for this research.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Mrs Westerfield, 219 South Washington St, Easton, MD 21601 (

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.