Honors Program

Midway Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Katherine C. Hall

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Vallire Hooper


Background: Many health care facilities enforce strict dress code policies prohibiting visible body modifications, including tattoos, piercings, and vibrant hair colors. As popularity of body modifications among young adults surges, facilities may be forced to adapt policies as these workers enter the workforce. While some evidence exists related to patient perceptions of health care workers with body modifications, there is little about how nursing students perceive them. This study aimed to describe undergraduate, pre-licensure nursing students’ perceptions of health care worker appearance on compassion, skill, knowledge, and trustworthiness.

Methods: Using cross-sectional design, an on-line Likert-type survey was used to collect data from 137 undergraduate, pre-licensure nursing students in Northeast Tennessee. Participants viewed photos of male and female workers with various body modifications. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.

Results: There were statistically significant differences between groups across all four variables. Male and female health care workers without body modifications were rated highest on all four variables. Male and female with tattoos were rated the second highest. Male and female with facial piercings were rated lowest. The female health care worker color, irrespective of body modification type, was rated higher than the male counterpart across all variables.

Conclusion: Results suggest that nursing students may perceive health care workers without body modifications to be the most compassionate, skilled, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Students may perceive tattoos as more acceptable in the workplace than facial piercings or vibrant hair colors. Students may perceive body modifications as more acceptable for females than males.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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