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Social media comic Blake Lynch, BSN, RN, known to his millions of followers as “Nurse Blake,” took to his online platforms recently to voice outrage over a Nebraska healthcare system’s personal appearance policy.

His posts included a screenshot explanation that was presented at a Bryan Health clinical manager meeting featuring an image of women’s hair in buns and the statement: “There is emphasis on hair being clean, neatly managed, walgreens rogaine foam coupon therefore ‘no messy buns.’ “

“If you really want to make a difference, don’t worry about hair,” Lynch said in his social media posts. “Let’s talk safe staffing. Let’s talk mandatory breaks, uninterrupted breaks. Since when is hair an indication if a nurse is a good nurse or a bad nurse?…. Nurses are running around over 12 hours, sweating in patient rooms, putting on PPE, taking off PPE, saving lives, doing CPR. They don’t even have time for beaks, so what nurse is going to be worrying about what their hair looks like?”

Lynch’s video response to the statement and image attracted more than 560,000 views on Facebook. He subsequently encouraged followers to post photos of their messy buns under the hashtags #showmeyourbuns and #messybunhairday.

Lynch, who tours the country as a comedian and leads continuing nurse education programs, told Medscape Medical News he was not surprised by the reaction to his “messy buns” video. “I think this particular post got so much attention because it resonated with so many nurses,” he said.

He reiterated that with a nursing shortage and understaffing, hospital administrators should focus on patient outcomes rather than nurses’ hair or risk losing more nurses to employers who are less concerned with hair.

Bryan Health, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, responded on Twitter and in a more extensive statement to Medscape that in his “messy bun” post, Lynch misrepresented a long-standing health system policy on personal appearance and cleanliness.

The health system’s dress code policy does not mention “messy buns,” the health system stated. The policy mirrors those of other health systems and industries that try to maintain safety and sanitation, the statement continued.

The portion of the policy that sparked interest was not about securing hair but eliminating previous language pertaining to unnatural hair colors, Bryan Health stated.

The relaxed language reads: “Haircuts and colors will not be restricted, but all hair is to be clean, neatly managed, and appropriately secured out of the face. Headbands worn should be simple and professional in color or pattern.”

The health system’s statement continued: “The policy does and will continue to reference clean, neatly managed hair, appropriately secured out of the face. Appropriately secured hair is important for a number of safety reasons.”

A pediatric nurse who goes by “CB” on Twitter responded to Lynch’s post by indicating that she worked at the Nebraska hospital. “What a joke!!!” Earlier in her response, she said, “You realize most hospitals are dealing with severely understaffed units and nurse burn out. How about you worry about your staff ratios, not your nurses’ hair.”

Lynch said a nurse sent him a screenshot of “messy buns,” like other followers who send him items for discussion on his social media page. Since the post went viral, Lynch said he’s had followers inform him of how hair policies such as Bryan Health’s have targeted people of color for more than a decade. And a Nebraska health system told him they’d welcome any nurses with messy hair to offset their nursing shortage.

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