We Need To Talk About Nurses Who Have Tattoos

Jordan Miller's mom, Misti Johnson, is a registered nurse at a hospital in Ohio. She also has a lot of visible tattoos. One does not impact the other. Yet, plenty of people still seem to think that having tattoos somehow makes someone less fit for professional jobs like being a nurse.
When Johnson was telling Miller one night that nurses who have visible tattoos have a tougher time finding work due to strict hospital policies, he was understandably confused.
"I've seen my mom pull a lady out of a car before it fills with smoke and she suffocates," he wrote in a Facebook post. "I've seen her do stitches on an injured person on the side of the road following a car accident. I've seen her come home after a 12-hour shift, dead tired after dealing with an abusive patient all day, and get back up and do it again the next day. She's come home after holding a baby in her hands and watching it take their last breath. She's saved a drug addict's life after overdosing in the hospital bed."
He then says something more employers could still stand to hear: "Tattoos don't define the person."
A 2010 study from the Pew Research Center found that 40% of millennials have at least one tattoo, yet they still face discrimination in a job search based purely on their ink.
So why, when such a large portion of the U.S. has some sort of body art, do we still believe that tattoos lower someone's ability to do a job well or make them a more reckless or unclean person? One manager who participated in a 2013 study published in SAGE actually said that she believed tattoos "make a person look dirty." And others worried that customers would think of a tattooed employee as "abhorrent, repugnant, unsavoury, and untidy."
But Miller is quick to point out the double-standard that's clear when tattoos are easy to cover up. "What if an employer or patient first met my mom or another tattooed professional and they had long sleeves on and thought they were a great person/employee," he tells Refinery29. "Would they think less of them the next time they see my mom with her tattoos showing?"
If anything, he says, his mom's tattoos have helped her connect with patients, who often ask her about them.
"Tattoos don't make you a bad employee," he says. And while we often talk about tattoo bias in the workplace, the bias follows people like Johnson who have multiple tattoos around in daily life, too. But Miller wanted to share his mom's story to prove that having a little (or even a lot) of ink doesn't impair someone's character.
"She had me at 16 and has fought through adversity to make it to where she is today," he says. "Overcoming a 12-year abusive relationship and a motorcycle accident that nearly took her life two years ago, keeping her off work for more than six months. She is a remarkable woman. I don't know how she does it."
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