I’ve been asked to respond to the question: what would you do if a staff member came to work with a tattoo or tongue ring? Well, this happened to us a while back, so we developed a policy statement which is now incorporated into our employee handbook.
Basically, it covers jewelry and personal appearance. It states that staff may only wear a certain number
of earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets. It also says that there shall be no jewelry that is visible to a patient which involves a piercing of any kind, which would include a tongue ring. For someone with a visible tattoo, they are told that it must be covered at all times while at work. We’ve seen tattoos covered with flesh colored band aids, or long-sleeved shirts or turtle necks under their scrubs, and that is fine with us as long as the tattoo is covered.
It is important to have these policies written before the problem presents itself for a couple of reasons:
First, it may prevent the problem from showing up in the first place.
Second, no one can say or feel like you are singling them out since you have made your wishes known in advance. It puts management in a stronger position to be able to enforce the policies you want for your practice.
If you do not have a jewelry or personal appearance policy in effect when you are presented with the problem, do not hesitate to confront the staff member. First, make sure no one else has any tongue rings or visible tattoos; otherwise you will need to speak to each of these staff members individually. Simply call that employee into your office and educate him or her about the policy and give a day or two to comply. If they do not comply, then you will need to take appropriate action. If you have given them a direct order – remove the tongue ring or cover the tattoo – and they do not comply, that is insubordination, and they should be terminated.
In order to avoid this problem, I’d suggest that when interviewing a potential new hire, you review your jewelry and personal appearance policies during the interview so there are no surprises later on. Generally, it has been my experience that staff will conform to policies when they understand your reason(s) for implementing those policies, and also that they know what the rules are in advance whenever possible.