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IU Health allows tattoos in new dress code policy

August 27, 2018

Indiana's largest health system has decided to revise its dress code policy to reflect the desires of the many millennials on staff.

Indiana University Health has updated its dress code to allow nurses and other staff to show their tattoos and to have non-natural hair colors for the first time. The changes also include allowing employees to choose their socks and display logos on their shoes, The Indianapolis Star reported .

The move reflects the organization's value of "messaging authenticity" and trusting employees to make their own decisions about their demeanor, according to health system officials.

"We want you to bring your whole self to work while maintaining a professional image," said Michelle Janney, chief nurse executive of IU Health. "We knew that many of our caregivers had tattoos that they were hiding and that just didn't feel genuine to us. Actually what we're saying is use good judgment and we trust you."

About a third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 have at least one tattoo, and that number is growing, said Rue Dooley, adviser with the Society for Human Resource Management. Companies in areas where quality employees can be difficult to find tend to be more inclined now to accept a tattoo than in the past, Dooley said.

"More and more people are getting tattoos and they're becoming less and less able to hide," Dooley said.

IU Health West emergency room nurse Sarah Love has visible tattoos that prevented her from working in certain areas of the hospital where employees have to show their arms to scrub in. She said her tattoos have positively impacted her relationship with patients, many of whom have tattoos of their own.

Love said she's not sure whether she will get more tattoos in light of the new dress code, but she said it could dissuade her from leaving for another hospital.

"If I was to go somewhere else, that would be my first question," she said. "Can I show my tattoos, and if not, then I'm not going anywhere."

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