So Your Veterinarian's Got a Tattoo? Who Cares?
I don't have any tattoos. Not a one. Though I've been told it's surprising that a "free-thinking" woman such as myself might eschew ink in this day and age, I have only this observation to offer in my defense: What image could I possibly contrive that I'd be willing to succumb to the inevitable degradations of the skin?
It's not that tattoos are tacky, déclassé or unprofessional. Rather, for me, it's more about how they might not evolve as gracefully as the rest of me does. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's my view that tattoos just don't age well on most people. And let's be honest: I'm just not willing to experience the abominable de-inking process I've seen some of my friends suffer through. (Not fun.)
Yet that's not the issue that's on most in-the-vet-biz folks’ minds when they talk about "tatts." Professionalism is the buzz-word, client perception is the excuse … but personnel control is the real issue. Practice owners just don't like the idea of their veterinarians' (and staff’s) inked individuality being on display for all their clients to potentially gawk at; as if it might reflect badly on him/her …or perhaps on the practice's bottom line?
Not that most veterinary clients really care. After all, if a veterinarian or staff member does a great job, who gives a whit what's written on the inside of her wrist?
Still, it's undeniably the case that it does matter to a large percentage of employers. Otherwise, why would people like this pre-vet undergrad (writing on a blog called, Veterinarians to Be) have so many qualms about getting a subdued — albeit still visible — tattoo?
My question is not entirely vet related, but enough that I figured it would be okay to post.
So I have been thinking about getting a small tattoo on the inside of my wrist. It would be the shape of Alaska (my home!) with a heart where my hometown is. It's my "home is where the heart is" tattoo and it would be my only one.
I am only an undergraduate studying animal sciences but would like to apply to vet school in a few years.
So do any working vets or vet school students have visible tattoos/piercings and have you ever had problems with it work wise?
Great question, right?
Here was the best response:
At my clinic almost all of the techs have at least 1 tattoo. One or two vets have 'em, but they are seriously under-cover.
I will say one thing. Some places are going to discriminate against you for having a tattoo (or purple hair or being too butch or black or whatever). In those instances, you have to remind yourself that even if it seems like a perfect job opportunity, it obviously can't be if the management blatantly discriminates based on things that don't relate to how well you do your job.
I think in this field, where the demographic will be shifting a lot in the next 20 years, it's reasonable to think that a tattoo won't really hold you back if you're excellent at your job. Many of the "good ole boys" will be retiring and will be replaced (with younger women), more practices will be consolidating and becoming incorporated, and those things together to me seem to support diversity.
Even in the late nineties, when I graduated from vet school, a significant percentage of my fellow students sported tattoos. In one notable case, ascending tendrils of Medusa tentacles graced a neckline, meeting up with fire-engine red dreads in a spectacular example of inked extremes. (A full-on Gorgon head consumed nearly the entirety of her back.) And guess what? She might be your pet's veterinarian. Yes, in spite of her tattoos, I'm sure she's got a job.
And why not? Because with the exception of the perversely offensive or politically subversive body art, there is almost no tattoo I can think of that I would consider a personal feature worthy of interfering with one's professional life.
Sure, you're always free to disagree. But if you do, I'll bet that ten years from now you'll be singing a different tune. Because by then, you'll probably find it hard to enter an animal hospital and not be met with the smiling face of a veterinarian whose oddball piercings and visible tattoos you'll have long learned to either love or ignore.
Dr. Patty Khuly