Can Doctors Have Piercings? (Explained!)

Piercings can be pretty varied. From small ear piercings to nose rings and studs, how “professional” each looks can be something that divides opinion!

So, can doctors have piercings?

Doctors that have heavy patient contact are generally advised not to have piercings. But that’s mainly because of the conservative nature of the job. Not legal precedent. Most patients are impartial to the idea!

As that answers a little complicated, we’ll go into further in this article.

We’ll cover:

  • If medical professionals should have piercings
  • The opinion on nose (and other discreet) piercings
  • What’s allowed in med school
  • If piercings impact healthcare job opportunities

Ready to learn more? Let’s go.

Are patients really impartial to piercings?

According to a 2015 study published in the BMJ that looked at over 900 patient interactions, exposed body art (including piercings) was said to “not significantly change a patient’s perception of a physician.”

Speak to many medical professionals on the other hand, and they’ll tell you there are unwritten rules in many hospitals relating to a doctor’s personal appearance.

It’s not uncommon for some to ask their employees to remove certain piercings!

Anecdotally, as a med student, I don’t see that many doctors with obvious piercings (besides female doctors wearing earrings or studs). But that’s not to say there aren’t any out there.

Unlike tattoos, another form of body modification that has a controversial reception in healthcare, they’re easier to remove.

Related: Can Medical Students Have Tattoos?

Policy, and how it differs across states, countries and continents, is what ultimately decides!

Can anyone have piercings in healthcare?

Piercings, as long as they’re not deemed “offensive”, are generally accepted in the medical field.

Sometimes, in certain institutions, the rules are more relaxed the further you go down the chain of command.

The dress code and personal appearance rules for a doctor, for example, might be very different to that of a lab operator with little to no patient interaction.

What about safety and hygiene?

Perhaps the biggest thing against some piercings is when they are deemed unhygienic or a safety risk.

To determine which types pose a risk, you’d need to examine the type of piercing. Modest piercings, like simple ear studs, would likely be safe. It’s hard for them to catch on any machinery or instruments!

What other factors determine if piercings are OK

  • Cultural Climate: Hospitals are diverse settings and differ massively from place to place. What’s deemed appropriate, appearance-wise of U.S. healthcare workers, might be very different to those in a different country.
  • Patient Attitudes: Geriatric wards or other areas of a hospital that deal with multi-generations of people might not be the best environments for visible piercings. Prejudice or the opinions of particular patients could make it difficult.
  • Type of Piercing: Not all piercings are equal. Ear piercing, especially in women, is arguably more acceptable than tongue, facial or other bodily piercings. It’s up to protocol and managing teams to decide!

Can doctors have nose piercings?

The more discreet a nose piercing, the more acceptable it will generally be.

Nose rings are typically more visible. Certain hospitals might ask rings to be removed or switched out for a less visible stud.

Again this depends on individual institutions. As well as what type of doctor you are and the patients you deal with.

What about med school?

Pre-clinical years of med school, where there’s little to no patient interaction, are very compatible with piercings and other forms of body modification.

Where it becomes more complicated is when you get to clinical-based learning, where students are expected to present themselves to patients.

Here a hospital may request you to cover up or remove a piercing.

Usually med schools have some form of guide for med students to check with before these situations arise.

If in doubt, ask student affairs.

Can piercings impact the chance of landing a healthcare job?

Piercings (similar to tattoos), although it’s difficult to prove, might impact your healthcare employment chances.

Where there’s doubt; it’s probably safe to say it’s not going to help or improve your luck!

Usually it will come down to the attitudes or prejudices of the people involved in the hiring process.

The older they are, the more conservative or ‘traditional’ they might be. As a result, they might have their own attitudes over how “professional” they feel piercings look.

But this is a stereotype and not necessarily true.

Also the landscape has already shifted a lot.

As tattoos and piercings have become more common among attendings, nurses and other key staff, it no longer seems a big deal.

The best way to approach the situation is to probably lean on the side of caution however.

If you have a piercing and are unsure about how it might be perceived, remove it or cover it up initially.

Once you’ve secured the job or got to know the hiring team a little more you can then revisit the issue!


Doctors can have piercings so long as the hospital allows it.

The factors that typically go into the decision include:

  • The type, location and number of piercings
  • The patient demographic
  • The institutions’ dress-code or protocol
  • Unconscious bias in hiring practices
  • The “image” a particular hospital or clinic is attempting to portray

Check with wherever you’re keen on working (or already work) to see what they say on the subject. That’s the only way to know for sure!

Personally speaking, I don’t think piercings should be considered a “bad thing”.

So long as a doctor (or whoever else) is competent, does it really matter how they look?

Image Credit: Kimia Zarifi at Unsplash