You’ve experienced a horrible trauma. You’ve been in a car wreck and you’ve been transported to the hospital. As they roll you in on the stretcher, the doctor who will be treating you comes to the bedside to get the details of your case. You glance over and see a colorful design peeking out from under the white lab coat.
A full sleeve of intricately colored tattoos.
Do you panic? Does your mind wander away from your injuries and begin to focus on this inked-up doctor? Is he/she less of a doctor because they wear ink on their skin?
Over the many years of the legalized practice of tattooing, the art form has worked its way up to a socially acceptable standard. No longer the expression form of criminals, gang members, and prostitutes—tattoos can be seen on all manner of people, from soccer moms to lawyers. In fact, it has grown into a billion-dollar industry. But, while this art form is gaining popularity across all walks of life, those in the medical field still seem to face a flurry of backlash when getting inked.
Between viral Facebook posts and articles, it’s apparent that nurses, doctors, pharmacy techs, and similar industry experts, are highly criticized for their decision to alter their appearance. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Facebook post which began circulating earlier this year about the nurse with the tattoos and colored hair who was called out quite rudely at a grocery store by an elderly woman. The woman wanted to know why the hospital allowed her to work there with her appearance and how must her patients feel. The nurse responded with a heated Facebook rant (albeit warranted) about how her colored hair and tattoos never affected her ability to do her job and how her patients didn’t care about her appearance while she was saving their lives. The post gained so much traction that it became viral quite quickly—of course, it garnered all sorts of responses from nasty to supportive.
But, why is this? Why does society look at these individuals differently than the mother in the grocery store with the full sleeve or the Wall Street wonder with the back piece hiding beneath his dress shirt? Do tattoos actually help, hinder, or just don’t apply when it comes to saving lives?
By setting doctors and medical professionals apart in this manner, are we—as a society—saying that they are not allowed to have their own personalities? Are they not able to live their own lives and do with their bodies as they wish? They already sacrifice so much for their career; do they have to give up their own independence as well?
As a culture, we have become more accepting of body modifications. Whether it be piercings, tattoos, or brightly colored hair, these alterations have become a regular part of our everyday lives. Television shows, movies, literature, and musicians all celebrate and encourage the practice. You can’t flip on the TV without seeing a tattooed person in some shape or form. Hell, even radio shows and podcasts discuss tattoos on a regular basis. So, again, we have to ask ourselves—why is it so frowned upon for a medical professional to display a little individuality?
This is not to say that there is an indefinite rule against medical professionals having ink. No, on the contrary. In most cases, there are no stipulations. Sure, some facilities refuse to allow doctors and other employees to prominently display their body art where patients will be able to see it, but as an industry, there is no solid rule for or against tattoos. Rules on piercings have been seen to be a little stricter, however, due to sanitary reasons.
It is essentially believed that physicians and other medical professionals should put forth an appearance that makes their patients feel comfortable. It is a profession which requires great trust and authority, and in many cases, the simple appearance of ink or body piercings can break down this trust. Does this happen with all patients? Certainly not. As tattoos have become more commonplace, many patients revel in the fact that their doctor is more like them. But, there is still that remaining stigma which these body alterations hold for many people across the world. Whether it is an older mindset or a religious background, there is a definite segregated population which retains a negative opinion of these additions.
Perhaps, in the near future, the medical profession will be able to flaunt their body mods with pride. Perhaps they won’t. There is no way to tell for sure. There is definitely a wider acceptance in certain parts of the world, with a stronger distaste for the practice in other areas. For those who are fortunate enough to live in these tolerant areas, displaying their ink is already an option. For those living in more intolerant regions, their decision to forego their desired body art to help others in this career path shows a true moral compass and a passion for the industry.
Regardless of whether they’re inked or not, the medical professionals of the world are an important part of our modern society. And for that, we appreciate them.