Home CommentaryOpinions Freedom of expression in the operating room

Freedom of expression in the operating room

by Robin Della Corte January 29, 2013
Freedom of expression in the operating room

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Tattoos and piercings can say a lot about a person — they can represent people’s personalities or be dedicated to a moment that has affected that person’s life. They’re a form of expression and a choice for one’s body.

Neither, however, convey a person’s work performance or portray one’s respect for another person. Although they can say a lot about a someone, tattoos or piercings are unable to classify us, and it’s unfair to judge someone solely based on their physical appearance.

Last week, arbitrator Lorne Slotnick decided against imposing a dress code on staff at the Ottawa Hospital, explaining that there was no justification for forcing workers to cover up tattoos and to remove their piercings at work.

According to The National Post, Slotnick concluded that although some older patients might have a negative first impression of a nurse who has a tattoo or piercing, there is no evidence that these factors will affect patient health.

Allison Neil, the hospital’s senior VP of communications, told the Ottawa Sun that they’re concerned for their elderly patients and that they are “just looking to have that professional look and feel to the organization.”

National Post columnist Kelly McParland points out that although getting a tattoo is a right, should the content of the tattoo be challenged? My answer to that is no.

McParland does bring up some good points: that a gentleman displaying a large tattoo of a naked or semi-naked woman on his body can be sexist or having religious symbols displayed on one’s body is somewhat inappropriate. However, no one has the right to limit what is inked on someone’ body.

We all have beliefs and opinions, and different things are offensive to different people. Still, no one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t display on your body.

A code that was implemented at the Ottawa Hospital in 2011 was designed to stop the spread of infection or harming of patients prohibited workers from wearing shorts and jeans. At the same time it had them cover up large, visible tattoos, and piercings had to be “minimal and conservative,” according to the Ottawa Citizen. The hospital claimed that the rules “would boost patients’ confidence in their healers.”

Slotnick makes it very evident that in this day and age, tattoos and piercing are becoming more popular and are “no longer confined to sailors, stevedores and strippers,” he told the Ottawa Citizen.

Think of it this way: how can a piercing or a tattoo affect you and your day in any way? If I’m going to a hospital for a check-up or an operation, I really don’t care what the person looks like or believes in. I just care that they will give me the respect I deserve and perform their job well.

You can’t expect to go through life only seeing people who look a certain way. People have different values and opinions and honestly, if they are saving a life, they can dress however they want – tattoos, piercings and all.

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