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Your patient, who's scheduled for surgery, has a pierced navel. He's wants to know if he must remove the navel ring before the procedure. What do you tell him?
You may remember a time, not so long ago, when you'd have been surprised to see a guy with a pierced ear, let alone a pierced navel. Things are different now. Male or female, young or not-so-young, many of our patients proudly display body jewelry or tattoos, collectively known as body art.
In nursing school, we all learned about myocardial infarctions and other emergencies, but the subject of piercings and tattoos rarely, if ever, came up. That's an educational lapse we want to correct in our article Puncturing myths about body piercing and tattooing on page 50 of this issue. For example, we'd like to put to rest the "when in doubt, take it out" mentality. You may be surprised to learn that body jewelry, designed to stay firmly in place, need not be routinely removed for many surgical procedures and diagnostic tests.
Far from a passing fad, body art has been around for thousands of years in many cultures. If contemporary trends are any indication, you're likely to see more patients with tattoos and piercings in the future-and not just the punk rocker or the "goth chick." In our practices, we see plenty of older adults who've decided to get a tattoo or piercing to celebrate a special anniversary.
Body art isn't just for patients either. When giving presentations on the medical issues associated with body art across the world, we've yet to come across an audience without at least one attendee sporting a piercing or tattoo.
In today's world, all healthcare professionals should be aware of the growing prevalence of patients with body art in order to give competent, professional, and culturally sensitive nursing care to patients across the life span. As nurses, we need to replace the myths and mistaken assumptions about body art with evidence-based realities.
We practice nursing with the attitude that we care for our patients as we'd care for our family. This applies to all patients, pierced, tattooed, or otherwise; they deserve nothing less.
Care for the patient, not the piercing; it's just good nursing!!
Scott DeBoer, RN, CCRN, CEN, CFRN, EMT-P, MSN
Michael Seaver, RN, BA
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