Physicians & Flesh: Should Doctors Have Tattoos?

1 in 5 adults were  found to have tattoos in a Harris poll that was conducted in 2012. Years later, it’s a trend that’s growing faster than ever. Even Fox News, the ultra Conservative news network, reported “tattoos aren’t just for rebels anymore.”

However, as opinions are becoming less negative about the tattoo traditions we are adopting as a society, does that mean that we have thoroughly accepted it exposed to us in the workplace? These days, we see everyone from grandmothers to college professors adorning artwork on their flesh. And even if we do accept tattoos on more than just musicians and bikers, are we progressive enough to allow our physicians and nurses to be covered in ink as well?

Some find it artful. Others find it distasteful. Even people who have inked skin themselves admit they can discriminate with other people who have tattoos they personally find atrocious. So how do we find a balance that is open enough to accept the style choices of others while respecting the professionalism of certain industries?

tattooed-doctorFinding a balance suitable for both opinions is not so black and white. Saint Louis University Hospital, for example, used to have a regulation that all tattoos or other types of body art must be covered and hidden as it is offensive or could be frightening to children. However, they altered their rules to now allow tattoos in go uncovered at the discretion of the managers. They have freedom to draw the line depending on how their consider the particular image fit.

Unfortunately, physicians are dealing with an older generation on a quite frequent basis. And this is that generation that just grew up thinking (falsely) that tattoos were essentially reserved for gang members, criminals, and people in the military. So, if you weren’t a veteran, you probably were considered a delinquent. However, that’s absolutely not the case at all. People with tattoos are regular people, just like people without tattoos are regular people.

Not to say that doctors shouldn’t be granted equal freedom when it comes to being able to share their individuality and prevailing over social norms. However, others argue that the patient’s comfort should be the main concern. Even patients in lower socioeconomical stance prefer to be treated by professionals who are dressing the part.

But–let’s remember that not all tattoos are intended to be lewd, scary, vulgar, hateful, or morbid. In fact, I would stake money that most do not bare any of those meanings at all. The vast majority of tattoos are symbols of love, overcoming struggles, and remembering. Essentially for many, the artwork that lay beneath their covered long sleeves are positive messages and for us to think that having those poetic words and images means that our physicians are not professional, capable, or caring is quite foolish, in my opinion.


What do you think about ink?


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