OT Practitioners: Are you Thinking about Getting a Tattoo?
A magazine that I read has a cover story about tattoos in its recent issue. It gives a statistic from the Pew Research Center stating that four in ten Americans between ages twenty-two and thirty-seven have tattoos. Ironically, I had just sent a proposal to write an article on that exact topic specifically to that particular magazine. But, it's best that another writer got to it before I did, because frankly, when it comes to tattoos, I have very strong opinions.
Let me start with my own experience. Being in my sixties, my exposure to tattoos was that only sailors and guys, who had gotten really drunk and didn't know what they were doing at the time, were the only people who had tattoos; usually it was in one color and on an arm, either a picture of a large bird or the name of a girlfriend. I have no tattoos. If fact, I don't even pierced ears or anything else pierced, for that matter. I guess I am comfortable in my own skin, plus I am not a big fan of pain!
When I was riding the city bus the other day, I looked around at the other passengers and it appears that I might have been the only rider without a tattoo. The majority of these tattoos were very visible, large and colorful. When did the human body get transformed into some sort of art gallery or three-dimensional murals?
I am a big fan of decorum. If I went to consult with a new doctor or dentist, I'd be a little freaked out if they sported big and bold colorful tattoos all over their neck or arms. Frankly, it might be difficult for me to take them seriously and to grant them the same respect as I might if they were not tattooed.
These days, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants do not wear uniforms in many of the settings where they work, such as schools. When I was a new OT, nearly four decades ago, having my patients feel confident in me was very important in gaining confidence as a novice.
So, new OTs and OTAs, listen up! Many of your patients are likely to be people of my generation, people who are considered to be baby boomers, who share my sentiments about things like tattoos. Granted, my generation certainly was not perfect; many boomers didn't mess up their bodies with tattoos and piercings, but really did a number on their brains with illegal and frequent drug use. These folks may become your patients, too, and the subtle mental deficit that you might identify might not be from their recent stroke, but rather from years of habitual marijuana smoking or likely something much stronger and more dangerous.
Healthcare professionals, take Grandma Debbie's advice here, before heading to the tattoo parlor and pulling up your sleeve. Imagine yourself as a patient or potential employer. How might the tattoo that you are considering cause people to view you?