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Can Surgeons Have Tattoos?

Surgeons do not only cut open and stitch back people to treat them. They must also make good relationships with their colleagues and patients. Such an interaction is also vital in providing quality health care.

But what if surgeons break the looks expected of them by having tattoos and skin art? Can surgeons have tattoos?

The controversy on tattoos among medical practitioners

The issue of tattoos reverberates in the hospital industry. Even doctors and nurses face the same dilemma too.

Medical practitioners and administrators ponder on this issue out of fear that tattoos might disturb or frighten patients. As skin art become more mainstream in our culture, should surgeons still hide their tattoos?

The expected looks of a surgeon

In a 2018 study released in the British Medical Journal, patients typically choose physicians who follow doctors’ traditional image. In other words, patients prefer surgeons who dress and behave like decent doctors.

This expectation also entails professionalism, friendliness, and approachability, so patients trust traditional surgeons more. Because of this, many patients do not favour physicians having tattoos.

There are cases where patients choose to have another surgeon because of visible tattoos.

But even doctors themselves have qualms about skin art. According to the same research, around half of doctors dislike tattoos among medical professionals.

Meanwhile, most of those who have skin art cover their tattoos while they work at the hospital. 

Hospital policies on tattoos

It is not surprising, then, that hospitals and clinics impose dress codes about tattoo visibility. Their administrators command practitioners to hide their tattoos, while some allow them to remain visible.

Evolving perception on tattooed surgeons

The current trend in skin art challenges this tradition of decency. As of 2020, around 40% of adults in the United States and the United Kingdom have a tattoo.

As tattoos become a popular form of expression, younger physicians and aspiring surgeons assert the right to have tattoos. They want to end the generalizations and false beliefs about surgeons wearing skin art.

Tattooed physicians are mostly accepted now.

A study in the Emergency Medical Journal tests how American patients react to surgeons with tattoos.

Here, patients responded about the tattooed surgeons’ professionalism, excellence, friendliness, compassion, and trustworthiness. (They did not know the purpose of the research.)

Its results reveal so much about the current patient attitude about tattoed surgeons:

  • Patients perceive physicians with tattoos as those without tattoos.
  • None of the respondents said negative comments about the physicians because of their tattoos.
  • The patients’ age does not impact how they see the tattooed surgeons.
  • Most patients noticed the surgeons’ tattoos, but those who did respond positively.

Back to our original question—can surgeons have tattoos? Yes, they can, but they should be considerate to the patients. They can either hide or show their tattoos depending on the culture and dress code of the hospital.

We must not discriminate against surgeons and physicians based on their skin art and self-expression. Instead, we must respond to them with the respect that they deserve.

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