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PTA Blog Talk

Tattoos, Piercings and Style

Published June 23, 2011 6:01 PM by Jason Marketti

I have a tattoo on my upper right arm. Very few people have seen it since it is hidden by the shirts I wear to work and I do not openly tell everyone I am a marked man. The three holes in my ear where hoop and cross rings once dangled (a protégé of George Michael), never closed completely. They have sparked enough conversations to last a lifetime and I do not like to explain my "wild side."

I have seen amazing body art on both men and women and even worked on a guy who had an infection due to a body modification procedure. I have seen staff openly share where their tattoos and piercings were while in the therapy gym with patients around. I have no problem with body art but not in front of the clients we serve. Some things need to be left at the therapy gym door and picked up when going home at the end of the day.

Those therapists and assistants new to the field who already have piercings and tattoos, may consider covering the tattoos and removing some of the piercings until their clients get to know them better. I once met an ER Doogie Howser-looking doctor who had large gauge earrings in. You think I took him seriously when he talked to me?

If you are like me, you leave your individualistic styles at the door and conform to the dress code standards at work. I'm sure my patients would not want me treating them while I have my baseball hat on backward, a spaghetti stained white tank top and greasy, dirty jeans with frayed ends. Maybe I could pull out my denim jean jacket with the back patch and wear that to work sometime too. It has a Ramones button on it for true individualistic action.

I knew a very intelligent and experienced RT who wore a death metal shirt and jeans to work for several weeks before he was let go. I told him he should dress differently while at work but he said he was not going to dress like everyone else; he was an individual. Hopefully he can find work that allows it.


I have tattoos, one of which is on my wrist and quite prominent. Upon being hired and even in the interview process, never once did or has my employer said anything about covering it up. I agree that we need to be professional in our apperance and demeanor, however, I don't think that we need to go to the extent of covering or removing everything. I have found that many patients like to talk about my tattoos and ask about them, sure I got them when I was involved in a much different lifestyle than I currently am, but I'm not ashamed of them and embrace them as my personality. I think pt's see that as well, and enjoy that it brings something different to their time in therapy. I also only talk about it if the pt brings it up. All in all, I think that yes we definately need to stay professional and not let ourselves get out of hand, especially in the way we dress and act, (ie. don't wear death metal shirts or hats and spaghetti strewn tank tops with greasy jeans, and honestly what professional would) but also need to allow our personality to be shown, more via our actions rather than what we wear, or else therapy can become very monotonous to the pt's.

Jonny, PTA August 19, 2011 12:59 PM
Orem UT

ok i agree a little but at the same time we are not forcing them to accept it the tattoos and piercings shouldnt matter if we know what we are talking about and if we have the skills to do the job right. people like me and this guy should not be looked down on because we dont fallow the same set of rules as another. as long as we come to work get the job done and rite the first time being skilled at the job and all the other things a employer looks for why should tattoos and peircings matter im 17 and have to worrie if im goin to be able to get a job because i have tattoos and large gauges and im goin to study for nurcing but have to worry bout bein judged on apperance insted of work ethic and skilled training and all those other aspects of a good emplyee witch all i have i work hard at the job i have now and im still looked down on because i have tatts and peircings.

HDB July 7, 2011 1:00 AM

From a manager's point of view, this can be a very difficult area if no clear policy exists. One can only enforce a written policy. Employees should be aware of policies upon hire and be informed that they must follow them all.

As you say, I've no problem with individuality and style, but won't hire someone because of, or in spite of, it. I expect employees to come with a skill set, put that skill set to use, and make happy and well patients in the end. Piercings, tatoos, and other modes of expression do not further those goals and could be distractions or barriers to achieving them.

It is a bit like cultural competence, we don't expect patients to bend to our cultural norms, we do our best to accommodate theirs. If we impose our 'style' in the workplace, aren't we forcing patients to accept a generational/cultural norm that may not be their own?

Dean Metz June 24, 2011 12:06 PM

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About this Blog

    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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