Nursing under the skin: A netnographic study of metaphors and meanings in nursing tattoos

Henrik Eriksson*, Mats Christiansen, Jessica Holmgren, Annica Engström, Martin Salzmann-Erikson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The aims of this study were to present themes in nursing motifs as depicted in tattoos and to describe how it reflects upon nursing in popular culture as well as within professional nursing culture. An archival and cross-sectional observational study was conducted online to search for images of nursing tattoos that were freely available, by utilizing the netnographic methodology. The 400 images were analyzed in a process that consisted of four analytical steps focusing on metaphors and meanings in the tattoos. The findings present four themes: angels of mercy and domination; hegemonic nursing technology; embodying the corps; and nurses within the belly of the monster. The tattoos serve as a mirror of popular culture and the professional culture of nurses and nursing practice within the context of body art. Body art policy statements have been included in nursing personnel dress code policies. Usually these policies prohibit tattoos that are sexist, symbolize sex or could contribute and reproduce racial oppression. The results show that the tattoos can be interpreted according to several layers of meanings in relation to such policies. We therefore stress that this is an area highly relevant for further analyses in nursing research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalNursing Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Body
  • Nursing
  • Postmodernism
  • Qualitative research
  • Tattoo


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