Dear Nurse Marge
I have a question, although I’m not really sure what can be done about this situation. I’m a RN at a hospital in a very conservative corner of the country. Although the region is conservative, I am not: I’ve got some tattoos and piercings. Nothing that shows during work hours…it all fits under my scrubs, and I don’t have any facial piercings. My boyfriend, on the other hand, isn’t at all conservative. He’s tattooed within an inch of his life, and there’s enough metal in him to build a small airplane.
We were at a weekend community art festival, where the director of nursing saw the pair of us. She visibly flinched, and I saw her checking out my tattoos.
Now the atmosphere at work has changed dramatically. Suddenly, despite the fact that I’ve been a great nurse there for several years, now I’m getting written up left and right. My hours have been cut, and although there’s still overtime available, there’s no overtime available for me.
I’m sure it has to do with my appearance. My friends tell me I’m reading too much into it and it’s just the economy. I’m not sure about that — if it was just the hours, I’d say sure, but the write ups? I don’t think so.
What should I do?
Inked Up and Irate
You’re in a tough spot. You know and I know that it’s your image that’s at the root of the problem here: knowing that and proving that are two different things entirely. Meanwhile, your career is on the line. Not a comfortable position.
Here’s what I would do. Find a theater supply company and stock up on pancake make up. The type that matches your natural skin tone. Cover yourself completely, put on a short sleeved scrub top, and make sure that director of nursing sees you.
Sees you, with no visible tattoos.
Then, the next day, don’t wear any makeup.
Don and remove the makeup at random, making a point to only wear short sleeved scrubs when you’re covered. Before long, your DON will be convinced she hallucinated the whole thing.
It’s always preferable to make them think they’re losing it…
Barring that, document, document, document everything, and get a move on with finding another place to work. You want to make the change from a good position; repeated write ups are not going to help you with this. It’s not the ideal situation, but sadly, sometimes necessary.
Unless, of course, you can find out that your director of nursing really has a few secret tattoos of her own…