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Many Mayo Clinic doctors, nurses and other employees will be free to roll up their sleeves and show their ink in 2018 with a new policy allowing tattoos to be visible.

Mayo Clinic is loosening up its "Dress and Decorum Policy." Currently, employees with tattoos are supposed to keep them covered at work or face discipline.

That will change on Jan. 1.

"Tattoos may be visible if the images or words do not convey violence, discrimination, profanity or sexually explicit content. Tattoos containing such messages must be covered with bandages, clothing, or cosmetics. Mayo Clinic reserves the right to judge the appearance of visible tattoos," according to the new version of the policy.

Mayo Clinic has long held strict rules about employee appearance and clothing. In 2015, it changed a long-standing rule requiring female employees to wear pantyhose. That change was widely welcomed by women working during hot summer days at Mayo Clinic.

While no Mayo Clinic employees with tattoos felt comfortable speaking on the record about the change, Rochester tattoo artists say it is a good thing for their many customers who work at the clinic.

"I guarantee that there's a lot of Mayo Clinic employees that are going to be happy about this," said tattoo artist Matt Holt, who owns Sacred Heart Studio. "It's really nice that they are finally loosening the reins and letting people do what they want to do."

However, this change doesn't mean Mayo Clinic employees will be wearing flip-flops, dying their hair or getting multiple piercings. And don't expect any "casual Fridays."

From Mayo Clinic's perspective, the basis of the policy remains as it always has been.

"While aspects of the policy are changing, employees are still expected to project a professional appearance and demeanor," Mayo spokeswoman Kelley Luckstein said by email this week.

She added that, "The professional appearance and conduct of our employees are important parts of the Mayo Clinic experience for patients, their families and visitors in clinical and nonclinical areas. Dress and decorum guidelines help Mayo Clinic employees understand expectations concerning appearance and conduct, to ensure that our patients feel welcome, respected, comfortable and safe."

Tattoos have become much more common and accepted in professional settings in recent years. This new standard will make life easier for a lot of people, said tattoo artist Holland Van Lin of Skinlab Piercing and Tattoo.

Some clients who wanted to honor a dead loved one have their names tattooed on their wrists. However, when working at Mayo Clinic they cover it up with a bracelet or watch.

Others who wash their hands a lot for work have had Van Lin tattoo "wedding rings" on their finger. Of course, the rules have forced them to wear their actual ring to cover the tattoo.

"That just defeats the purpose of those tattoos," she said.

In January, those and many other tattoos will probably be uncovered. Plus employees getting new tattoos will be able to get larger ones that would be difficult to cover under the current rules..

"You'd be surprised that how many doctors and nurses you see, that you'd never imagine have a tattoo… have tons hidden underneath, just tons,"

Holt says he knows of a brain surgeon with a "half sleeve" of tattoos on their arm that most would never know are there.

"We have customers who have to wear long-sleeved scrubs every day," he said.

The big difference today, according to both Van Lin and Holt, is that modern tattoos are more about art versus being symbols of rebellion as they were in the past.

"Today they are looking more at tattoos as 'pieces of art' that they are collecting from different artists rather than commissioning a painting or something," Van Lin said.

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Business Reporter

Jeff has worked at newspapers as a reporter, columnist, editor, photographer and copy editor since 1992. He started at the Post Bulletin in 1999. Kiger is the PB's business reporter and writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street."