Patients don't care if doctors have tattoos, piercings

Patients don't care if emergency physicians have tattoos or piercings, according to a new study published online on 2 July in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Previous research on patient attitudes toward doctors' appearance has shown a preference for traditional attire, wrote a team led by Dr. Rebecca Jeanmonod of St. Luke's University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S. But tattoos and piercings have become increasingly common, the authors noted: In 2016, 4 out of 10 people between the ages of 26 and 40 said they had at least one tattoo.

"Given these statistics, those who enter the medical field today are more likely to have body art than medical professionals did previously," Jeanmonod and colleagues wrote.

To investigate whether a physician having tattoos or piercings undermines a patient's perception of the doctor's competence, the researchers surveyed 1,000 adult emergency care patients about their doctor's appearance. After a consultation with one of five doctors who wore fake body piercings, tattoos, both, or no body art, patients were asked to rate the physician's professionalism, caring attitude, approachability, trustworthiness, and reliability on a five-point scale.

The researchers found that patients rated all of these qualities highly more than 75% of the time, whether or not they were treated by a doctor with visible body art.

"Physician tattoos and facial piercings were not factors in patients' evaluations of physician competence, professionalism or approachability," the authors concluded.

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