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As tattoos have gone from subculture to mainstream over the years more and more medical students have them as well.
There is nothing wrong with medical students having tattoos. The decision to get one’s personal. Still, having them can be frowned upon as a future doctor. This is especially true among older, conservative people. Also, the acceptance of tattoos can vary between cultures and countries.
With this in mind, let’s explore if it is acceptable to have tattoos as a medical student and some of the reasons why it might not be a good idea.
Is it OK to have a tattoo as a medical student?
At the end of the day, the decision to get a tattoo is a personal one. If you want to get one there is nothing wrong with it.
That being said, there are some who won’t find it professional or fitting as a future medical doctor. This can include patients, senior doctors, and fellow students.
Personally, I would not get a tattoo, it’s just not something I am attracted to or find appealing. That being said, My perception as a current resident in Norway is that it is OK to have a tattoo as a doctor.
I know and have several colleagues that have tattoos. In fact, I once came across a colleague who had a tattoo of the serotonin molecule on his wrist.
Also, tattoos are not something foreign in a hospital as they are very common among nurses.
Negative effects of having a tattoo as a medical student
If you have a tattoo or are considering getting one, you should be aware of the potential negative effects of having one.
While the majority of people won’t judge you if you have a tattoo, some will, and you can’t control how other people react to your ink.
Some colleagues might find it unprofessional. If this is your peers, it does not matter. However, it can be your teacher, professor, senior doctors, and potential future employers.
In this case, it is less than ideal to have to start out with a bad impression, just because of your tattoo.
Whether this is true or not will depend on your tattoo, the place you study, and/or work. In fact, it is not uncommon for there to be large differences between wards.
To put it into perspective, it might not be considered inappropriate to have larger visible tattoos when working with children. Especially tattoos that are on or near the face.
You should also be aware that some patients will have the same prejudice as some colleagues and teachers might have.
This might not be the most beneficial when trying to establish a healthy patient-doctor relationship. Especially when dealing with patients who might take some convincing to agree to a specific treatment.
Finally, it is important to take into consideration that these potential negative attitudes will be more prominent in some areas of the world.
While tattoos are becoming more common for doctors in Europe and North America. Some countries and regions are more conservative when it comes to tattoos than others.
For example, several countries in the middle east and south-east Asia are flagged as being some of the least tattoo-friendly countries in the world.
Here you might experience the negative effects of having tattoos to a larger extent, compared to other countries.
Should you get a tattoo as a medical student?
There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to this sort of question. If you really want a tattoo, no one is stopping you.
As for myself, I have never been into tattoos. Also when considering the potential negative effects of having a tattoo, I would not risk it.
Given that it is becoming more popular and accepted, the prospects of getting one can be intriguing for some. If you are one of these, it’s a good thing to address a few questions;
- Do I want my tattoo to be visible?
- Are the countries that you will live and work in less tattoo-friendly?
- How will you handle someone reacting negatively to you having a tattoo?
Not every tattoo is the same, many are placed where it would normally be covered by clothing. In fact, this is true for over 70% of adults with tattoos.
If this includes your idea for a tattoo, you don’t have to worry about the negative consequences that much as it will be covered by your scrubs or coat.
Visible tattoos make you more likely to get a reaction, so make sure to consider it before getting a tattoo.
We also mentioned how some countries and cultures are less tattoo-friendly. This includes Japan, Korea, and several countries in the middle east.
If you live and/or plan to work in one, you might want to reconsider your decision to have a tattoo, or at least make it very discrete.
Finally, you can’t control how other people will react to your tattoos. Therefore you should think about how you would react if you were to receive negative comments on your tattoos before getting one.
What to do if you already have a tattoo as a medical student?
If you already have a tattoo it will depend on what kind of tattoo it is and where it is located.
If you have a tattoo that you like that will be covered by lab coats and scrubs, I wouldn’t worry about it.
If you have tattoos that are visible and you are unsure about how they will be perceived, you can use makeup to cover them up.
There are special types of makeup available in different skin tones that do an excellent job to hide your ink.