The days of tattoos being taboo are fading quickly. More and more professions are caring less about whether or not their employees sport body ink. And now a new study shows that this includes doctors.
The medical community has long had a rule, sometimes spoken sometimes unspoken, that doctors and nurses shouldn’t have visible tattoos. It was believed that patients wouldn’t trust medical professionals that did. These days though, people with tattoos aren’t viewed as the stereotypical tatted up criminal.
A recent study published found that there were “no differences in perception of patient care by patients who were treated by physicians with visible body art” compared to doctors with no or non-visible tattoos and piercings. In other words, patients don’t care.
Many hospitals and clinics have rules and policies surrounding what physicians can do as far as having tattoos and piercings. These policies often change between hospitals making it difficult for medical professionals to determine whether they can, or should, get a tattoo or piercing. Many physicians have gotten in trouble for having a visible tattoo or piercing. But now this new study shows that while the medical industry might still have some prejudice around these, patients certainly don’t.
For the study, 924 patients over the age of 18 were surveyed over a 9-month period. Patients saw physicians with a range of exposed body art- from doctors with none, doctors with either a tattoo or piercing or doctors that had a few of both. To make sure there was consistency, the doctors wore standardized fake tattoos and earrings.
Afterward, patients answered a range of questions about their perception of “the physician’s competence, professionalism, caring, approachability, trustworthiness, and reliability in the setting of visible body art.”
The results showed that patients did not hold negative perceptions towards doctors with exposed tattoos and piercings. Factors like visible nametags, smiling, and a neat appearance mattered more. Surprisingly, the indifference towards tattoos on doctors was across different age groups, meaning both older and younger people shared the same views.
Researchers discovered that patients actually feel more comfortable with physicians with body art because it humanizes them, and makes them feel like they have more in common.
This study supports what most people in society already know- that people don’t really care how many tattoos or how visible tattoos are on people that are helping them or that they work with.
The study didn’t cover everything regarding visible tattoos though. Facial tattoos still remain extremely taboo. Tattoos that have graphic images, hate speech, or negative symbols are likely to still be frowned upon. Still, this is a positive step in the right direction. As long as doctors aren’t sporting swastikas they should be able to show off their ink. There is nothing unprofessional about having tattoos. Hopefully, the medical community takes this study to heart and begins changing their policies surrounding visible piercings and tattoos.